DPhil in Mathematics | University of Oxford
A student writing formula on a white board
Studying calculations on a white board
(Image Credit: Joseph Caruana / Graduate Photography Competition)

DPhil in Mathematics

About the course

The DPhil in Mathematics is an advanced research degree which provides the opportunity to investigate a project in depth and write a thesis which makes a significant contribution in the field.  You will gain a wide range of research and other skills as well as in-depth knowledge and expertise in your chosen field, whilst studying in a beautiful, modern setting. 

During your study at Oxford, you can share in the excitement of contributing to research in one or more of the many topics studied by Oxford mathematicians. Subject areas cover the entire spectrum of mathematics and the department’s research is conducted in many fields, with subject areas including:

  • algebra (primarily group theory and representation theory)
  • number theory
  • algebraic geometry
  • differential geometry
  • topology
  • complex manifolds
  • global analysis
  • partial differential equations
  • functional analysis
  • stochastic analysis
  • dynamical systems
  • mathematical logic
  • optimisation
  • combinatorial theory
  • quantum theory
  • string theory
  • relativity
  • mathematical biology and ecology
  • mathematical modelling
  • fluid and continuum mechanics
  • mathematical and computational finance
  • numerical analysis
  • history of mathematics
  • mathematics applied to problems in earth sciences, materials science and finance.

You will be asked to outline your research interests when you apply by listing one or more of the fields of research listed above on your application form under “proposed field and title of research project", and you will be matched to the most appropriate research group.

You will be expected to acquire transferable skills as part of your training, which will require you to attend courses, lectures, workshops and colloquia. You will have the opportunity to develop other valuable skills and to contribute to the work of the department by teaching, both by marking students’ work and later by leading classes of around 8 to 12 students.

Undertaking the course is regarded as equivalent to working full-time hours and may also sometimes require some additional hours. The minimum period of registration for the DPhil is six terms but in practice you may need nine terms at least.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Mathematical Institute 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 Mathematical Institute.  You will be invited to suggest a specific supervisor or supervisors in your application and your preferences will be taken into account in allocating you a supervisor (which will be done before your arrival).

Students are expected to meet with their supervisors at least four times per term. A more typical pattern is weekly, at least until you reach the stage of writing up your thesis.

Assessment

There are formal assessments of progress on the research project; transfer of status at around 12 to 15 months and confirmation of status at around 30 to 36 months. These assessments involve the submission of written work and an oral examination.

You will be expected to teach at least one set of classes before transfer of status and a further two additional sets before confirmation of status.

You will be expected to acquire transferable skills as part of your training and to undertake 68 hours of broadening courses outside your specialist area. This normally involves the submission of written work for three 16-hour lecture courses and attendance at workshops and colloquia.

Graduate destinations

The department, working alongside the university’s Careers Service, supports graduate students as they move from the DPhil to the next stage of their career. Many graduate students stay in academia, by taking up a postdoctoral position, and many move into employment in a range of industries and sectors where the expertise and skills developed during the DPhil are highly valued.

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.

Entry requirements for entry in 2021-22

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 undergraduate degree with honours in mathematics or a related discipline.

A previous master's degree is not required, though the requirement for a first-class undergraduate degree with honours can be alternatively demonstrated by strong performance in a master's degree.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 out of 4.0.

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 sought.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

  • Research or working experience in the proposed research may be an advantage.
  • Publications are not expected.

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.

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. The minimum scores required to meet the University's standard level are detailed in the table below.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's standard level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.06.5

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

100Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*185176
C2 Proficiency185176

*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.

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

Technical interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.

If invited you can expect to be interviewed by at least two people and for the interview to last around 30 minutes. The interview could take place face-to-face or by telephone or Skype.

It is expected that interviews will take place around three to five weeks after an application deadline.

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

The Mathematical Institute's home is the purpose-built Andrew Wiles Building, opened in 2013. This provides ample teaching facilities for lectures, classes and seminars. Each student is allocated an office in the Andrew Wiles Building that they will share with 3 or 4 other students: each student has their own desk, with a computer. The Mathematical Institute provides IT support, and students can use the department's Whitehead Library, with an extensive range of books and journals.

In addition to the common room, where graduate students regularly gather for coffee and other social occasions, there is also a café in the Andrew Wiles Building.

The department offers extensive support to students, from regular skills training and career development sessions to a variety of social events in a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. You will have the opportunity to interact with fellow students and other members of your research groups, and more widely across the department. The department is committed to offering you the best supervision and to providing a stimulating research environment.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer up to 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2021-22. 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 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 college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages.

Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the institute's website.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2021-22

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£8,290
Overseas (including EU)£22,930

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 detailed fee status information and the Oxford and the EU webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU.

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 2021-22 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,175 and £1,710 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 2021-22, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

College preference

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 on the DPhil in Mathematics:

How to apply

You are welcome to contact academics involved in their preferred area of research, although this is not a necessary prerequisite to the application process. If you are unsure of who to contact, please use the contact details provided on this page and your email will be forwarded onto the relevant academic.

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.

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.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A maximum of 1,000 words

Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

This will be assessed for evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study and whether a suitable supervisor can be provided.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally 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.

Your references should generally be academic, though up to one professional reference will be accepted.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and your ability to work in a group.

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 the deadline information in our Application Guide. Plan your time to submit your application well in advance - we recommend two or three weeks earlier.

Step 4: Check if you're eligible for an application fee waiver. Application fee waivers are available for:

Step 5: Start your application using the relevant button below. As you complete the form, consult our Application Guide for advice at each stage. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application GuideApply

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