About the course
You will spend up to four years in one of the department's many research groups, working on a project supervised by the group's principal investigator. During this period you will have the opportunity to take part in the comprehensive training programme organised for graduate students.
After a very short induction period of one or two weeks, during which some basic training is provided, you will start a research project in your supervisor’s laboratory.
You will be supervised by a team that includes your main supervisor, a graduate advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies. Your graduate adviser will usually be another experienced principal investigator in the department. Your supervisor may appoint a senior member of the laboratory as your day-to-day supervisor. Most laboratories have weekly meetings where members present and discuss their research results with other members of the laboratory. You will also regularly present your work in progress seminars, which are attended by other research groups working in related areas. Further support is available from your college advisor.
There are a number of key stages in the research programme.
- Within a month of starting, you will meet with your supervisor and graduate adviser to finalise your project and agree on an initial programme of research.
- Within the first three months, you will complete an analysis of your training needs with your supervisor.
- Within the first six months you are expected to complete a literature review on a topic relating to your area of research.
- After one year you will apply to transfer to DPhil status. To do this you write a report describing your research to date and plans for the future. This will be assessed by two independent experts, who interview you as part of the process.
- You will apply to confirm your DPhil status by the end of your third year. This involves writing a short progress report and thesis outline and giving a presentation. The application is assessed by two experts.
- The final stage is submission of your DPhil thesis, which needs to be done within four years.
Whilst working on your research project you will participate in a comprehensive, flexible skills training programme which includes a range of workshops and seminars in transferable skills, generic research skills and specific research techniques. There are also numerous seminars and lectures by local and visiting scientists and you are provided with many opportunities to meet leading scientists.
There are a wide range of events organised for DPhil students. All students participate in an annual graduate students' symposium, which is attended by the entire department. Student contributions are carefully evaluated and prizes are awarded to the best posters or presentations in each year.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology 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 Sir William Dunn School of Pathology.
The majority of graduates from the DPhil in Molecular Cell Biology in Health and Disease (previously the DPhil in Pathology) pursue research careers in academic institutions or industry. Graduates also pursue careers in management (in pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies), consulting, law, teaching, with science funding organisations, charities and in scientific publishing.
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
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.
Courses suggested by the school
Infection, Immunology and Translational Medicine DPhil
Chromosome Biology DPhil
Cardiovascular Science DPhil
Interdisciplinary Bioscience DPhil
Biomedical Sciences (NIH OxCam) DPhil
Biomedical and Clinical Sciences DPhil
Integrated Immunology MSc
All graduate courses offered by the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology
Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21
Proven and potential academic excellence
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 any subject relevant to the proposed research project.
However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.
A previous master's qualification is not required.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 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 experience, such as an undergraduate research project and/or industry placement is very important. Most successful applicants will have relevant research experience.
- It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor(s).
- Publications are not required, but they do provide an advantage.
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||7.0||Minimum 6.5 per component|
Minimum component scores:
|Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced||185||Minimum 176 per component|
|Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency||185||Minimum 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.
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.
All applications are assessed by a panel of (typically 5-7) academics using these selection criteria and ranked. A shortlist of approximately 30 applicants is interviewed by a panel of at least three academics. Applicants are required to give a 10-minute presentation of one of their research projects and this is followed by around 20 minutes of questions from the panel. Interviews usually take place in Oxford, but international students may be interviewed by Skype.
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:
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.
The department is located in the University Science Area in central Oxford adjacent to the beautiful University Parks. It occupies attractive landscaped grounds and comprises three main research buildings. These are all joined by a striking link building which includes a cafeteria, recreational area, and library. There are numerous seminar/meeting rooms available within the department, fully equipped with audio-visual equipment.
You will be provided with plenty of bench space in your supervisor's laboratory and a suitable desk. The laboratories are all newly-refurbished, spacious and well equipped. There are central facilities for flow cytometry, light and electron microscopy, surface plasmon resonance, proteomics and genome engineering. Training and support is available for use of all these resources. You will have your own computer and have access to the department’s IT infrastructure and servers. You will also have access to the University Libraries such as the Radcliffe Science Library and the Cairns Library. Library access includes full online access to all relevant scientific journals, available anywhere.
You will also have access to the extensive range of seminars and symposia in this and other departments at the University. During term-time there are regular departmental seminars which all graduate students are expected to attend. Student also present at regular progress seminars, which bring together groups in the department working in related areas. Your research group will be able to advise you as to which seminar series you should attend. All seminars are advertised on the web portal Oxford Talks.
Graduate students in the department run a Graduate Students' Association and meet regularly for social, science and networking events.
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.
Annual fees for entry in 2020-21
Annual Course fees
|Home/EU (including Islands)||£7,970|
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.
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.
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.
The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Molecular Cell Biology in Health and Disease:
How to apply
If you are applying to one of the listed available supervisors in the departmental studentship competition, it is not necessary to make contact with these supervisors before you apply.
In all other cases you should contact prospective supervisors before you submit any application to ensure that a supervisor is able to consider your application. Contact should initially be made via email and should include a CV/résumé.
The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:
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.
Statement of purpose/personal statement:
Up to 500 words
Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford and your relevant experience and education.
Your statement should also indicate your choices of project(s) and supervisor(s), and your reasons for selecting them.
This will be assessed for your reasons for applying to this department, your reasons for selecting the proposed supervisor(s) and/or project(s), your understanding of the research area and the relevant techniques, and your ability to present a reasoned case in English.
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.
References should generally be academic though professional references relevant to the course are also acceptable, eg from research employment.
Your references will support academic achievement and intellectual ability, appropriateness of background knowledge, proficiency in research, motivation and commitment, 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 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).