About the course
The DPhil in Musculoskeletal Sciences is intended to provide clinical and non-clinical graduates with a wide variety of research skills, in-depth knowledge, understanding and expertise in specific musculoskeletal-related fields of research. Furthermore, as part of your training you will be exposed to a range of topics such as critical appraisal, epidemiology and medical statistics.
Applicants are strongly advised to visit the Medical Sciences Graduate School website to help them identify the most suitable course and supervisors.
You will develop your research skills through a range of research training in your first year, including compulsory attendance at basic musculoskeletal core subjects and selection of three topic-related modules. Attendance on a two-day statistical course is compulsory to assist you with appropriate research design. You are also encouraged to work with your supervisor(s) on your research-specific literature review and to develop a study design for your thesis within the first few of training.
You will be required to attend and present at termly post-graduate seminars, not only to develop your presentation skills but also to benefit from the feedback, support and interaction from your University peers and senior academics. In addition the department runs weekly seminars by internal and external speakers on various clinical and non-clinical musculoskeletal topics, which will provide further opportunity for you to broaden your knowledge in the field.
You are also strongly encouraged to attend skills training courses run by the Medical Sciences Division as well as experiencing teaching/supervising final year undergraduate students, to enhance your skills.
Your attainment will be monitored regularly via:
- completion of termly reports by you and your supervisor(s)
- successful completion of and examination on a 3,000-word transfer report by the fourth term
- successful confirmation of your status within the eighth term, ie confirming ability to submit your thesis by the twelfth term.
Stages 2 and 3 will be assessed by independent senior academics to ensure you are on track with your research and that you are receiving adequate guidance.
According to the department's records, 100% of DPhil in Musculoskeletal Sciences alumni are employed, across a wide range of clinical professions (eg rheumatology, orthopaedics or physiotherapy) and non-clinical related professions (eg postdoctoral academic and industrial research, teaching, pharmaceuticals, marketing and scientific writing). A number of alumni have set up their own businesses or changed paths completely into banking and medical writing, a group which constitutes around 1% of the total number.
The Director of Graduate Studies and Graduate Studies Officer follow the department's alumni to establish the long-term career paths of past students. The department is preparing an alumni-specific website and newsletter.
In applying for this programme, you may submit further applications for up to two of the following associated programmes without paying an additional application fee:
- DPhil in Molecular and Cellular Medicine
- Systems Approaches to Biomedical Science (EPSRC and MRC Centre for Doctoral Training)
For instructions, see Applying for more than one course in the Application Guide.
Changes to the course
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. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.
Entry requirements for entry in 2018-19
Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:
1. Academic ability
Proven and potential academic excellence
Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in biological sciences and/or related topics. The department also considers applicants from medically qualified individuals. In special circumstances, applications from other medically related subjects (eg nurses, and/or allied health professionals) will be considered for DPhil/MSc by research. Although it is not essential, preference will be given to applicants who have had recent publications and/or awards from various funding bodies.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.75 out of 4.0.
You do not need to have a previous master's degree to be considered for this DPhil.
If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).
In exceptional circumstances, an applicant could be considered if they have substantial professional experience in a musculoskeletal-related field.
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other appropriate indicators will include:
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(s)
Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.
All shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in person or by Skype or video-conference (depending on the applicant's native country). The interview will be conducted by four senior academics and it will last a maximum of 45 minutes. Those shortlisted for interviews will be notified three to four weeks prior to the interview date.
The shortlisted applicants will be required to give a 10-15 minute presentation on their previous research or that proposed to be undertaken for the DPhil.
Previous publications are not a requirement; however, they would be advantageous to your application.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
Research or working experience in any field may be an advantage. For clinical applicants, evidence of your employer's support will be required.
2. English language requirement
Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the standard level required by the University.
3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places
The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- The ability of Medical Sciences and NDORMS to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work.
- Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.
The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:
- The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of Medical Sciences and NDORMS 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 Medical Sciences and NDORMS.
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, maternity leave or change in employment.
4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties
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.
Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.
Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
6. Other information
Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.
It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.
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 Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS) is a large multi-disciplinary department with a broad range of sciences related to medicine. Research spans the translational research spectrum, from basic biological research through to clinical and epidemiological research.
The NDORMS is committed to training the next generation of scientists in biological and clinical sciences and has a large number of staff (over 400 people), an annual research grant income of around £16.5 million and around 90 graduate research students.
NDORMS has state-of-the-art research facilities across the spectrum of our research expertise and where specialist facilities do not exist within the department itself, it is usually possible to use facilities elsewhere in Oxford.
There is student representation within the various departmental committees, providing student-led support as well as representing students’ interests on decision making.
You will have access to a wide range of resources within the department and University, including the following facilities.
You will have access to University IT services and Medical Sciences Division IT support. You will be allocated unique single-sign-on (SSO) credentials which will allow you to access numerous resources such as information on local seminars (Oxford Talk), other departmental and University information (WebLearn), the divisional skills training portal, Researchers' Toolkit, significant information on the University's student gateway, career courses and libraries online.
You will have access to local libraries: the Cairns Library based in the John Radcliffe Hospital and musculoskeletal-related topics at the Girdlestone Library located at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre. Furthermore, through the central University library services, you will have access to a wide range of articles and publications.
Study and experimental space
Workspace will be related to and dependent on your individual circumstances. If undertaking experimental "wet" lab work, you will be provided with bench space in a relevant laboratory. If undertaking data analysis and computer-based research, you will be allocated an office space that may be shared.
Lectures and seminars
You will be notified by regular emails about seminar schedules within the department and you are encouraged to visit the Oxford Talk website to access other departments' and divisions' seminars and lectures.
NDORMS Student Committee
Currently there are around 90 DPhil and MSc research students. There is an active student committee which organises monthly pub nights, a Christmas gathering with a band and a picnic in the park during the summer. At least two students are represented at the department’s Graduate Studies Committee, the Athena SWAN Committee and the University's Graduate Joint Consultative Committee to express students' opinions, concerns and views.
There are over 1,100 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.
Full funding opportunities are available for all Medical Sciences Graduate School programmes, whatever your nationality. The Medical Sciences Graduate School website provides further details of these, as well as information about external funding opportunities.
Further information on scholarships and funding opportunities specific to this academic department is also provided on the Radcliffe Department of Medicine's funding webpage.
Annual fees for entry in 2018-19
Total annual fees
The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; 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.
Tuition and college 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 tuition and college fees).
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 tuition fees, college 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 tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2018-19 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between c. £1,015 and £1,555 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.
The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Musculoskeletal Sciences:
- Balliol College
- Brasenose College
- Campion Hall
- Christ Church
- Exeter College
- Green Templeton College
- Harris Manchester College
- Hertford College
- Jesus College
- Kellogg College
- Lady Margaret Hall
- Linacre College
- Lincoln College
- Oriel College
- Pembroke College
- The Queen's College
- St Anne's College
- St Catherine's College
- St Cross College
- St Edmund Hall
- St Hilda's College
- St Hugh's College
- St John's College
- St Peter's College
- University College
- Wadham College
- Wolfson College
- Worcester College
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. Details of potential supervisors can be found on the NDORMS website.
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.
Research proposal and personal statement:
Proposal of up to three pages and statement of up to two pages
You should submit a personal statement and, if you are not applying for specified studentships, a research proposal. If you do submit a research proposal, this must be combined into a single document with your personal statement for uploading to your application.
Your research proposal should comprise a detailed outline of your proposed research, written in English. The research proposal should include details of the background/rationale of the research, hypotheses and methodology. It should explain the originality/novelty of the work and outline how a commitment to complete it within twelve academic terms can be achieved. The overall page count should include any bibliography.
Your personal statement, also 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.
The personal statement will be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying
- evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
- capacity for sustained and intense work
- reasoning ability
- ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace.
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 extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment.
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.
One professional reference is acceptable, though your other references should be academic and should comment specifically on your academic ability.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and ability to work.