DPhil in Medical Sciences | University of Oxford
A student in a lab looking through a microscope
Microscope study in the laboratory
(Image Credit: Zachary Domach / Graduate Photography Competition)

DPhil in Medical Sciences

About the course

Based in the Radcliffe Department of Medicine (RDM), this DPhil research programme is aimed at basic scientists and clinicians with an interest in pursuing research in a scientific field related to medicine, particularly in cardiovascular medicine, diabetes, endocrinology and metabolism, epidemiology and clinical trials, haematology and pathology, immunology, regenerative medicine and stem cells, and acute stroke.

You will be admitted directly onto a research project with one of RDM’s world-leading scientists, who will act as your supervisor. In most cases, students choose a project from our advertised project list, but in some cases students design their own project in collaboration with their proposed supervisor. In either case, you will be expected to play an active role in shaping your project over the course of the DPhil. Graduate students are a valuable part of the department and they are encouraged to be involved with the scientific and social life of the department at all levels.

Your project and development during your DPhil studies will be guided by a specialised team led by your academic supervisor.

Your training will be tailored to your particular needs, drawing from the vast range of training available at Oxford and covering both specialist scientific methods and techniques and transferable skills. Please note that there is no formal taught component of the DPhil in Medical Sciences.

Much of your training will take place in the lab, where you will be trained by your supervisor or members of the lab team in the variety of techniques and protocols used. A brief statement of the training you will receive in the lab is included in the training description of your chosen project.

As a member of the Medical Sciences Graduate School you will be entitled to enrol on courses run by the Medical Sciences Skills Training programme. You will be able to attend the wide variety of sessions covered through the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM) Methods and Techniques course, and if your research is on a topic related to cardiovascular medicine you will be able to benefit from the British Heart Foundation Centre of Research Excellence hosted by the University. RDM also runs a successful mentoring scheme, which all students are encouraged to join.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Radcliffe Department of Medicine 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 Radcliffe Department of Medicine.

As well as your academic supervisor, students also have one or more formal co-supervisors, who can provide additional scientific and/or practical advice in their specialist areas and offer another viewpoint on the student’s project. Together, they form the specialised team that will advise you on your academic progress.

You will also have the support of a Graduate Advisor, the Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Studies Manager. All activity relating to graduate students within the department is overseen by the Graduate Studies Committee.

Assessment

Students begin the DPhil in Medical Sciences programme as a probationary research student (PRS). Before the end of their fourth term students are required to apply for Transfer to DPhil Status. For this they write a report outlining their project plans and data obtained so far. This is evaluated by two academic assessors, who are not directly involved in the student’s supervision. Continuation on the DPhil programme is subject to passing the Transfer of Status assessment. By the end of their ninth term students must apply for Confirmation of Status. This requires a presentation in which they give an overview of their thesis work and a clear outline of their plans to completion. Progress and plans are discussed in an interview with two independent assessors, who will assess whether their doctoral work is of the expected quality to culminate in a thesis. Students are expected to submit their thesis between the ninth and twelfth terms from being admitted as a PRS. Deadlines will vary slightly depending on whether the DPhil course is for three or four years. Theses are defended in an oral examination (viva voce).

Graduate destinations

Recent graduates from the DPhil in Medical Sciences have gone on to take up postdoctoral research opportunities within universities and in the pharmaceutical industry. Graduates with previous medical training have continued their clinician- scientist careers both within the University of Oxford and elsewhere. You can ready more about the career paths of former students on the RDM website.

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

Applicants are strongly advised to visit the Medical Sciences Graduate School website to help them identify the most suitable course and supervisors.

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.

All graduate courses offered by the Radcliffe Department of Medicine

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 or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in a biomedical or related science subject.

However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0, but most successful applicants have a GPA of 3.7 or the equivalent.

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

  • Applicants are normally expected to have research experience in a a biomedical or scientific field. Examples of suitable research experience include, but are not limited to, research projects carried out during previous degree-level study, research internships or work experience as a research assistant.
  • Evidence of a prior interest in the specific area of research proposed is likely to advantage a candidate’s application. 
  • You are expected be familiar with the recent published work of your proposed supervisor.
  • Applicants are not required to have publications, but it will strengthen your application if you have already published your work in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Please include details of any publications on your CV/résumé.

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 (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.

For specific projects the higher level of the University's English language requirement may be required - for example, if you will be working on a clinical project involving patient contact.

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 for shortlisted candidates are normally held as part of the admissions process.

There will be a minimum of three academics on the interview panel. For the RDM Scholars Programme or the WIMM Prize Studentship, interview dates are advertised on the appropriate website. For all other applications you will be contacted to arrange a date for interview. Details of the interview format will be provided to you after shortlisting.

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 Radcliffe Department of Medicine (RDM) is a large multi-disciplinary department with internationally renowned research programmes in a broad range of sciences related to medicine. Research spans the translational research spectrum, from basic biological research through to clinical and population research. The RDM is committed to training the next generation of scientists in biological and clinical sciences.

RDM scientists were rated at the highest level in both basic science and clinical research across a wide range of fields in the UK's Research Excellence Framework 2014 (REF 2014).

The department has a staff complement of over 650 people, an annual research income of around £55 million and around 150 graduate students.

You will be allocated space within your supervisor's lab. RDM has state-of-the-art research facilities across the spectrum of our research expertise and where specialist facilities do not exist within RDM itself it is usually possible to use facilities elsewhere in Oxford.

The department has a number of graduate student representatives, two of whom sit on the Graduate Studies Committee. They act as the point of contact for students and ensure that any concerns amongst students can be heard by the department and acted upon.

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 department'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)£27,460

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 Medical Sciences:

How to apply

You are strongly encouraged to contact a prospective supervisor before you apply. Whether you have contacted a prospective supervisor will be taken into account at the shortlisting and interview stage.

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.

Your CV/résumé should include a summary of your scientific skill competencies, give details of any publications and list any prizes or scholarships you have been awarded.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A maximum of 500 words

Although this is a research-based course, a personal statement is required rather than a research proposal. Your personal statement (written in English) should describe your background, the qualities and experience that you will bring to your doctoral research and why you are interested in this opportunity.

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

There is specific guidance on what to include in your personal statement if you are applying for the RDM Scholars Programme or the WIMM Prize Studentship.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques
  • capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability
  • ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace.

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 you may use up to one relevant professional reference – for example, a reference from an industrial placement.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and 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 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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