DPhil in International Development
About the course
The DPhil in International Development provides an opportunity for outstanding students to pursue in-depth multi- and interdisciplinary research, guided by leading scholars in the field, into processes of social, political and economic development and change in the global South.
Academics at the Oxford Department of International Development (ODID) can offer supervision in a wide range of subjects, including migration, refugees and humanitarianism; urban, agrarian and environmental development; political and social change and conflict; state-making and disciplinary regimes; public health and social policies; global governance, diplomatic studies, and security; economic growth and structural transformation; macroeconomics and public finance; firms and households; poverty and inequality; and technology. The department also has close connections with other departments and research centres across the University.
As a DPhil student you will undertake your own original research project under the guidance of your supervisor, whom you will typically meet two to three times a term. The supervisor will help develop and guide your project and, at later stages, provide feedback on chapter drafts. However, you will work to a significant extent on your own, and you will need a high level of motivation and self-discipline.
During an initial probationary period as a Probationer Research Student (PRS), you will develop and begin work on your thesis topic. You will be offered training in relevant research methods, language, computing and other skills, and you will have the opportunity to attend lectures, seminars and classes in your general topic area. Full-time students are expected to be resident in Oxford for the PRS period.
As a PRS, you will also take one taught course, either in research methods or from an Oxford master’s degree relevant to your research, which will be examined. Full-time students usually transfer to full DPhil status by the end of their first year and part-time students usually transfer by the end of their second year.
Following satisfactory progress and transfer to full DPhil status, you may leave Oxford for up to three terms (six terms for part-time students) in order to conduct fieldwork, if the project requires. You will then continue the course by carrying out your own research under the guidance of your supervisor, with whom you will continue to meet or correspond with regularly. Full-time students should return to Oxford after fieldwork for at least three terms.
Time to completion depends on the complexity of an individual student’s research programme and on the amount of fieldwork that may be required. The University considers that the normal time for completion of the DPhil should be three to four years (four to eight years for part-time), or for students who transfer to the DPhil after the MPhil in Development Studies two to three years (four to six years for part-time), although the exact time will vary depending on the complexity and ambition of the project. In exceptional circumstances there are procedures in place which allow students to apply for extensions of time or to suspend their status for fixed periods of time.
Further information about part-time study
Applicants wishing to study part-time while in employment will be asked to provide a letter from their employer confirming that they are supportive of the study and are willing to release them from the workplace for study in Oxford, independent study and any fieldwork necessary for data collection. In addition, where appropriate, students will be required to obtain the written agreement from their employer for the use of their employer’s data in their research.
As a part-time student you will be required to attend classes, seminars, supervision meetings and other obligations in Oxford for a certain number of days each year. In your first year as a probationer student, it is expected that you will need to be resident in Oxford for a minimum of 48 working days in the year in order to participate in induction activities at the start of the academic year and then classes and seminars for your Qualifying Examination. The exact days will depend on the choice of course for the Qualifying Examination and whether the classes take place in Michaelmas or Hilary term.
After the probationary period, you will be required to be resident for a minimum of 30 days of university-based work each year, normally coinciding with the full terms of the academic year. These days will be arranged with the agreement of your supervisor and will be for the period that your name remains on the Register of Graduate Students unless individually dispensed by the Departmental Graduate Studies Committee.
There will be limited flexibility in the dates and pattern of attendance, which will be determined by mutual agreement with your supervisor.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Oxford Department of International Development and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff.
In the case of students who require specific help to adjust to an academic programme or to a new range of skills, the supervisor will work with them to ensure that they have additional support.
The availability of supervision varies year on year and candidates are advised to review the list of eligible supervisors from the department’s webpage for the DPhil course to ensure their areas of interest are compatible.
Each student/supervisor relationship is different and the number of meetings varies, but generally, students are likely to meet with their supervisor two or three times per term.
You will be admitted initially as a Probationer Research Student (PRS). At the end of your first year, you will be examined on one taught course (either in research methods or from an Oxford master’s degree relevant to your research). You must pass this course with a strong performance in order to transfer from PRS status to full DPhil status. You also need departmental approval of a fully developed research plan, which you will present in your transfer paper to two assessors approved by the department’s graduate studies committee. Within a maximum of four terms as a full-time PRS student or eight terms as a part-time PRS student, you will be expected to apply for and achieve transfer of status from Probationer Research Student to DPhil status. The department’s preference is for Transfer to be completed by the end of the third term (full-time) or sixth term (part-time) in order for students to commence fieldwork during the Trinity Term summer vacation.
Assessment of progress will be made during sessions with your supervisor and also in more formal viva voce assessments – for the Transfer of Status and for Confirmation of Status (usually at the end of the third year for full-time students and end of the sixth year for part-time students). More information on these two assessments can be found in the course handbook on the ODID website's course page.
DPhil students submit their thesis for examination three to four years (or six to eight years for part-time) from the date of admissions and defend their thesis in a viva voce examination which takes place between the student and their two appointed examiners.
Graduates of the DPhil in International Development have a strong track record in developing academic careers in universities and research institutions across the world. The department’s alumni now hold positions at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Leicester, London (LSE and SOAS) and Sussex in the UK, and at the Australian National University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Dartmouth College, the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, and the Universities of Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Leiden, Leuven, Melbourne, Peru, Port Harcourt, Rome, Roskilde, York (Canada), the Western Cape (South Africa) and the Witwatersrand (South Africa) overseas, among other institutions.
Other former students have taken up influential positions in governments and major international institutions, including the World Bank and UN organisations such as UNCTAD and UNHCR, and in NGOs.
Read more about the kinds of careers the department’s students pursue on the ODID Alumni page.
“Through the DPhil, I learned critical thinking skills that have guided me in a variety of contexts. Because of the programme’s multidisciplinary approach to research and impact, I am equally comfortable engaging with academic, policy, and media audiences.” S. Ritholz, current DPhil
Changes to this course and your supervision
The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.
Other courses you may wish to consider
If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.
Courses suggested by the faculty
Migration Studies DPhil
Area Studies DPhil
Geography and the Environment DPhil
International Relations DPhil
Public Policy DPhil
Social Policy DPhil
All graduate courses offered by the Oxford Department of International Development
Entry requirements for entry in 2023-24
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:
- a master's degree with a distinction or a very high 2:1 in a relevant social science subject; and
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in a relevant social science subject.
However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent. Most successful applicants have strong backgrounds in one or more core disciplines: history, politics, anthropology, sociology, or economics, or combinations of these disciplines (e.g., Philosophy, Politics, and Economics). It is also expected that they should already have familiarity with key literature in the proposed field of study.
It is relatively rare for applicants to be successful whose primary academic training is in fields such as management or business, and it is also rare for us to accept students who are primarily trained in engineering or the sciences. We welcome applicants with professional experience in development, but this is not generally seen as a substitute for previous social science study.
The master's degree must be completed and a final transcript made available to the department by the end of August prior to the start of the DPhil.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA normally sought is 3.8 out of 4.0 for those marks most relevant to the proposed DPhil programme of study.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are required.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- Research or working experience in a relevant area may be an advantage but is not essential. Evidence of training in research methods is required.
- Publications are not expected or required for admission, but any which you have should be added to your CV.
- It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.
- Part-time applicants will also be expected to show evidence of the ability to commit time to study and, if applicable, an employer's commitment to make time available to study, to complete coursework, and attend course and University events and modules. Where appropriate, evidence should also be provided of permission to use employers’ data in the proposed research project.
- It is essential that you apply as early as possible and ensure that you submit all required materials by the advertised deadlines.
English language proficiency
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
†Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.
Declaring extenuating circumstances
If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.
You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading. References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process.
An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed.
Shortlisting and selection
Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:
- socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
- country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
- protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.
Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
Other factors governing whether places can be offered
The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
- the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
- minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.
Offer conditions for successful applications
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our After you apply pages provide more information about offers and conditions.
In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
The Oxford Department of International Development (ODID) is recognised as one of the world’s leading research centres in development studies.
As a doctoral student you will become part of a vibrant research community. The department hosts some 70 outstanding academics researching in four broad themes: political change, conflict and the environment; economic development and international institutions; migration and refugees in a global context; and human development, poverty and children. We host a diverse set of research groups that are at the forefront of their specialist fields: the International Growth Centre, the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, the Refugee Studies Centre, the Technology and Management Centre for Development, Young Lives and Changing Structures of Islamic Authority. These all contribute to the doctoral programme by providing case studies, fieldwork support and specialist supervision, alongside scholars working independently.
You will have access to a wide range of seminars organised by the department as well as an enormous variety of events across the wider University. The department has its own lively and well-attended weekly DPhil work-in-progress seminar, at which you can present your ideas and receive feedback from your peers.
You will also have access to training opportunities provided by the Social Sciences Divisional Office, which offers advanced research and career development training.
The Social Sciences Library, the largest freestanding social science library in the UK with considerable print and digital strengths in development studies and a specialist librarian, is nearby. This is complemented by the world-class resources of the Bodleian Library and the satellite libraries. As alumni of the University, students can sign up for lifetime access to key online journals.
Doctoral students share a dedicated work area of the building, with full IT facilities, including computers, printers, scanners and Wi-Fi access. Technical support is available through the department, your college and the University’s IT Services, which also offers training courses. Course materials are available online via Canvas, the University’s Virtual Learning Environment.
In addition to the dedicated doctoral work area there is a common room area where students from all the department's courses can gather. Light lunches are available during term in the department’s cafeteria.
The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential.
For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.
Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:
Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the department's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2023-24
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Information about course fees
Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.
Where can I find further information about fees?
The Fees and Funding section of this website provides further information about course fees, including information about fee status and eligibility and your length of fee liability.
There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) and living costs. However, depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. Most students will choose a topic which will require them to do fieldwork for their thesis. This will usually be done after transferring status from Probationer Research Student to DPhil status. Students should note that they will have to meet all costs of fieldwork themselves and these costs are likely to include travel and related costs such as visas, accommodation, subsistence, translation and research assistant services if required. These costs will vary widely according to the location and length of the fieldwork and the department estimates that these costs may range from £2,000 to £20,000 or more. Each DPhil student is able to apply for a fieldwork grant of £700. This is awarded once only. Students who have fieldwork grants from ESRC are not able to apply. Further information will be provided in the course handbook. You may also be able to apply for small grants from your college to help you cover some of these expenses.
Please note that you are required to attend in Oxford for a minimum of 30 days each year (more in your first year), and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. Also, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur further additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses..
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.
All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs).
For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges.
The following colleges accept students for full-time study on this course:
The following colleges accept students for part-time study on this course:
Before you apply
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance.
Application fee waivers
An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:
- applicants from low-income countries;
- refugees and displaced persons;
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and
- applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.
You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.
Readmission for current Oxford graduate taught students
If you're currently studying for an Oxford graduate taught course and apply to this course with no break in your studies, you may be eligible to apply to this course as a readmission applicant. The application fee will be waived for an eligible application of this type. Check whether you're eligible to apply for readmission.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
It is advisable but not necessary for you to make contact with potential supervisors before you apply. However, as an offer of a place cannot be made if there is no suitable supervisor in the department, you are advised to check the department's website to see if your proposed research matches with research being done in the department.
Completing your application
You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents. If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.
Proposed field and title of research project
Under the 'Field and title of research project' please enter your proposed field or area of research if this is known. If the department has advertised a specific research project that you would like to be considered for, please enter the project title here instead.
You should not use this field to type out a full research proposal. You will be able to upload your research supporting materials separately if they are required (as described below).
Under 'Proposed supervisor name' enter the name of the academic (s) who you would like to supervise your research.
Three overall, academic preferred
Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, academic writing ability and motivation. Academic references are preferred. Non-academic references, for example from work colleagues, are not highly weighted.
Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.
More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.
A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.
A maximum of 3,000 words
The research proposal should be written in English only and should set out your research topic succinctly. For further assistance, please read the department's proposal writing guide.
The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for:
- originality of the project
- evidence of understanding of the proposed area of study
- engagement with the extant literature and potential for contribution to existing bodies of scholarship
- the ability to present a reasoned and analytical case
- the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course (a maximum of three to four years)
- knowledge of research methods and sources.
It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the significance of your research question and the viability of your sources and methods at this moment.
Your proposal should focus on the research project rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.
Two essays, a maximum of 4,000 words each
Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts from longer pieces of work are acceptable, but should not come from the same piece of work and should be prefaced by a note which puts them in context. Please note that multi-authored works are not acceptable. Work that is not academic, for example journalism or popular writing, is not appropriate.
The writing samples should preferably be on a development-related topic. The word count does not need to include your bibliography or footnotes.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for a comprehensive understanding of the subject area; your ability to construct and defend an argument; your powers of analysis; your powers of expression; and your familiarity with the literature on the subject.
Start or continue your application
You can start or return to an application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, please refer to the requirements above and consult our Application Guide for advice. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.