DPhil in Materials | University of Oxford
Inorganic chemistry
Laboratory work for the DPhil in Inorganic Chemistry
(Image Credit: Chenbo Wang / Graduate Photography Competition)

DPhil in Materials

About the course

The Oxford DPhil in Materials is a doctoral research degree programme, typically of three to four years in duration and known as a PhD at other universities. Doctoral research projects in this leading materials department are available in most branches of materials science, as well as some aspects of solid state physics and chemistry.

As a student on the DPhil in Materials programme you will be part of one of the top-ranked materials departments in the world. This vibrant research school consists of around 31 academic staff, 14 Senior Research Fellows, and around 220 research students and 84 postdoctoral researchers. Research students are of many nationalities and come to the department from diverse scientific backgrounds. They are graduates in the traditional subjects of materials science, physics, chemistry and engineering and also mathematics, earth sciences and biology.

The DPhil in Materials is normally carried out in three and a half to four years of full-time study under the supervision of an experienced member of staff. It is examined at the end of the programme by means of a written thesis and an oral examination. A wide range of exciting DPhil projects is available, including a number on Materials for Nuclear Fusion Reactors. In common with other UK universities, the first year is a probationary year, soon after which, subject to satisfactory progress, you will normally transfer to full DPhil status. A second formal assessment of progress takes place later in the programme, normally in the middle of the third year. Details of the DPhil programme, including training opportunities (academic courses, research-specific skills and generic transferable career skills) and progression requirements, can be found in the current version of the Materials graduate course handbook.

Research interests of the department extend over most branches of materials science, as well as some aspects of solid state physics and chemistry: they include the study of a wide range of materials of relevance in advanced technological applications, including metals and alloys, composites, semi- and super-conductors, polymers, biomaterials, ceramics and materials for quantum information processing.

Much of the research is carried out in close collaboration with industry. World-leading research takes place on:

  • characterisation of materials, where there is emphasis on electron microscopy and related techniques
  • processing and manufacturing of materials
  • modelling of materials, where there is attention to both structures and processes
  • properties of materials
  • energy materials, including those for batteries, nuclear fusion and photovoltaics
  • quantum information processing, which includes groups working on experimental studies, theory and modelling.

Each of the department's research groups works within one or more of the following broad themes and research projects available to applicants for the DPhil in Materials are listed under these themes:

  • energy materials
  • structural and nuclear materials
  • applied superconductivity
  • device materials, including semiconductors and NEMS
  • polymers and biomaterials
  • nanomaterials
  • processing and manufacturing, including metals, alloys, superconductors and polymers
  • characterisation of materials
  • computational materials modelling
  • quantum information processing (experimental studies, theory, and modelling)

Further information on current research and individual members of staff is available via the Materials Science website.

An overview of the provision for research students in the Department of Materials can be found at the Summary of Provision for Materials Research Students webpage. Also available is Guidance on Supervision Arrangements.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Department of Materials and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department of Materials.

Graduate destinations

Graduates of the DPhil and MSc by Research in Materials are highly regarded by a wide range of employers, including universities, high-tech start-up companies, engineering consultancies, industry (including aerospace, electronics, automotive, steel manufacture, medical and household products sectors), world-famous technology companies, schools and colleges, and the financial and business sectors.

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. 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 sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information, please see our page on 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 department

Materials MSc by Research
Nanotechnology PGCert

All graduate courses offered by the Department of Materials

Materials DPhil
Materials MSc by Research

Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:

  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in a suitable science subject.

The qualification above should normally be achieved in one of the following subject areas:

  • materials science
  • chemistry
  • physics
  • mathematics.

However, other subjects may be acceptable depending on the area of research chosen.

For candidates offering a UK bachelor's degree or UK integrated undergraduate master's degree normally an overall grade of at least 65% is required. 

As examples of international equivalents to this requirement: for the US system a GPA of 3.5 out of 4.0 on a four-year bachelor's programme is normally regarded as equivalent and for the Chinese system an overall degree mark of 85% on a four-year bachelor's degree programme from a Double First Class University, Project 985 or Project 211 institution is normally regarded as equivalent.

In some countries at least some of their bachelor's degrees are not acceptable for direct progression to a PhD in that country; normally such degrees are not acceptable for entry to the course unless the candidate also holds or expects to achieve a master's degree with an overall mark equivalent to at least 65% in a UK taught master's degree.

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.

Normally the required qualification(s) must be achieved by the date of commencement of the research programme for which you have applied.

GRE General Test scores

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Additional indicators considered when assessing an application against the department's criteria include performance in previous research project(s), the award of national prizes, the award of substantial scholarships (please indicate monetary value and duration), preliminary knowledge of relevant research techniques, and your suitability for the research projects in which you have expressed interest.

The criteria against which your written application and performance at interview will be assessed are:

  • appropriate indicators of proven and/or potential: academic excellence, research excellence, originality, ability to absorb new ideas, reasoning ability, creativity of thought, initiative, and capacity for sustained and intense work; 
  • sufficient evidence, in the view of the assessors, to suggest that you have the academic ability, motivation and commitment to (i) pursue the chosen research programme to a successful conclusion within the required time limits, and (ii) to pursue research in the subject of materials at a high level;
  • the programme of study, including research topic, that you wish to pursue is well suited to the academic interests and abilities to which you and/or your referees have drawn attention in your application. For some projects this may include the ability to work as part of a team; and
  • sufficient evidence of ability to (i) engage in a scientific or technical discussion in English at a satisfactory level, both verbally and in writing, (ii) understand a reasoned case presented in English and (iii) present a reasoned case in English.

Publications are not essential but will be taken into account. Please include in your CV the references and abstracts of any publications you may have in peer-reviewed international journals.

Further guidance

It should be noted that acceptance on a particular programme gives no guarantee of final success, and all research programmes require you to develop your learning and skills to new levels in order successfully to undertake all the assessment hurdles of a research programme.

English language requirement

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's standard level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. 

Detailed requirements - standard level

The minimum scores required to meet the University's standard level are:

IELTS Academic 7.0Minimum 6.5 per component
TOEFL iBT100

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced185Minimum 176 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency185Minimum 176 per component

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. For more information about the English language test requirement, visit the Application Guide

It is very important that, at the earliest possible opportunity, you take steps to meet the University’s standard minimum English language requirement. If you have yet to attain this minimum level any offer of a place that may be made to you will be conditional on your achieving the standard minimum requirement. Students who require a visa will not be able to apply for this visa until they have met this and other conditions of their offer. If you do not meet the conditions of your offer by the deadline set by the department, normally the offer will lapse.

Please note that it can take up to three months to obtain an examination date for IELTS or TOEFL, so it is strongly recommended that all applicants who need an English test apply for one at the earliest opportunity, and preferably sufficiently in advance that you would have time to obtain a date for a retake examination should this be necessary. In this respect please note also that the department requires not only a minimum overall score in the English test but also minimum scores in each individual component of the tests.

Supporting documents 

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.

Interviews normally take place after you submit your application and normally within an eight-working week period of the application deadline for which you submitted a complete application.

These interviews may be conducted face-to-face or by telephone or video-link, including Skype. Shortlisting for interview is carried out according to the criteria included in the present entry requirements as judged from your written application (including references).

Normally the applications of candidates who are short-listed for interview will be assessed by at least two members of staff with relevant experience and expertise, and in addition may be assessed by the department’s Director of Graduate Studies. All decisions to offer a place require approval by the Director of Graduate Studies or deputy.

Supervision

Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

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.

After an offer is made

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements: 

Financial Declaration

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.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

Some postgraduate research students in science, engineering and technology subjects will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate prior to applying for a Tier 4 visa. Further information can be found on our Tier 4 (General) Student visa page. For some courses, the requirement to apply for an ATAS certificate may depend on your research area.

Resources

In the UK government’s most recent assessment of research excellence in UK universities, the 2014 REF, Oxford Materials was one of the top-rated materials departments in the country. 34.1 (FTE) academic staff, including several early career researchers (Royal Society URFs, RAEng fellows and similar postdoctoral fellows), were submitted for assessment and 98% of the department's activity was judged to be in the highest categories of excellence - grades 4* (60%) and 3* (38%), respectively ‘world-leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’. 90% of the department's 'impact' was judged to be 'world-leading'.

The department has available excellent and wide-ranging research resources including:

  • a world-class suite of electron microscopy facilities including a JEOL ARM analytical TEM, a JEOL 2200FS aberration-corrected high resolution TEM, and two new Zeiss Merlin ultrahigh resolution SEMs optimised for EBSD and EDX analysis, together with a number of supporting and training instruments. Much of this equipment is installed in the David Cockayne Centre for Electron Microscopy;
  • acoustic and scanned probe microscopes together with extensive further facilities for characterising materials including, for example, nanoSIMS, XPS, and Raman microscopy;
  • advanced sample preparation and micromachining facilities including a Zeiss NVision 40 FIB/SEM and two other FIB instruments;
  • unique microhardness measurement facilities (at high temperatures and at the nm scale);
  • special processing or manufacturing facilities for ceramics, composites, carbon nanomaterials, rapidly solidified materials and devices such as novel batteries. The department also has superb facilities for 3-D atom probe analysis (including LEAP 3000XSi and 3DAP-LAR);
  • a new alloy processing and mechanical properties laboratory, for aerospace and nuclear materials; and
  • several parallel computation Linux clusters with InfiniBand interconnects, operated by the Materials Modelling Laboratory, and access to all the Oxford Supercomputing Centre facilities.

The department’s Institute for Industrial Materials and Manufacturing is housed at the University's Begbroke Science Park and has world-class facilities for advanced materials processing and characterisation. A major suite of equipment is available for the characterisation of materials used in microtechnology and nanotechnology, as detailed on the Oxford Materials Characterisation Service website.

The Begbroke site also houses a number of Materials-related spinout companies.

In addition to the excellent central and college library provision, there is a specialist Materials Science Library housed in the department.

Funding

There are over 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£7,970
Overseas£26,405

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 likely increases 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.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Additional information

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, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur 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.

Living costs

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 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 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 2020-21, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

How to apply

Having first read the guidance and project descriptions on the Department of Materials website, if you wish to learn more about a specific project please contact the relevant supervisor by e-mail.

Before applying you are strongly encouraged to contact the department's Graduate Studies Secretary for advice and assistance.

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

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.

It is very important that you include official evidence of your overall mark (%) or cumulative GPA if this is not clearly stated on your transcript.

CV/résumé

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.

In your CV/résumé, please include the references and abstracts of any publications you may have in peer-reviewed international journals. Please do not include full copies of your publications.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
400 words, accompanied by a list of preferred projects and supervisors

A detailed research proposal is not required. Instead, you should provide a single document comprising both:

  • a list of up to four research projects (and the associated supervisors) in which you are interested, in order of preference, selected from currently advertised projects; and
  • an outline of your research interests, written in English, that clearly indicates the rationale behind your choice of projects.

Please be sure to also include all of the supervisor names in the supervisors field of the application form. However, there is no need to repeat the project titles in the research project field of the application form.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, of which at least two must be academic

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.

It is desirable that one of your references is from an academic staff member who has supervised you in a research project.

If you are a current master’s student or have completed a master’s course, one of your referees should be your supervisor or course director on this course. If you do not provide a reference from your master’s supervisor or course director, the department will usually ask you to do so before completing the assessment of your application.

Normally at least two of your references should be from academic staff members who taught or supervised you during your bachelor’s and/or master’s degree programmes. The primary purpose of the three references is to provide the department with evidenced insight into your potential to excel as a research student.

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.

Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.

Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and plan your time to submit your application well in advance.

Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.

Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).

Application GuideApply

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