DPhil in Musculoskeletal Sciences | University of Oxford
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DPhil in Musculoskeletal Sciences

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.

You will develop your research skills through a range of research training in your first year, including compulsory attendance to core subjects with lectures on a variety of topics such as an introduction to “pathophysiology of musculoskeletal disorders, epidemiology, basic immunology, clinical trials and rehabilitation” 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 term of your research training.

You will be required to attend and present at postgraduate 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 regular seminars by internal and external speakers on various clinical and non-clinical 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:

  1. completion of termly reports by you and your supervisor(s) through Graduate Supervision Reporting (GSR)
  2. completion of a 5,000-word transfer report and viva, before the end of the fourth term
  3. confirmation of your status before the end of 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.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of Medical Sciences and the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (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.

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.

Graduate destinations

According to the department's records, 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 in 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. 

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.

All graduate courses offered by the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences

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 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 the DPhil.

You do not need to have a previous master's degree to be considered for this DPhil.

For applicants from the USA or China, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

If your degree is not from the UK or another country mentioned 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 any field may be an advantage. For clinical applicants, evidence of your employer's support will be required.
  • In exceptional circumstances, an applicant could be considered if they have substantial professional experience in a musculoskeletal-related field.
  • It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.
  • Although it is not essential, preference will be given to applicants who have had recent publications and/or awards from various funding bodies.
  • Previous publications are not a requirement; however, they would be advantageous to your application.

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

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.

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 up to five senior academics and it will last a maximum of 45 minutes. Those shortlisted for interviews will be notified 10 to 14 days 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.

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 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 £25 million and around 100 postgraduate research students.

NDORMS has state-of-the-art research facilities across the spectrum of our research expertise.

There is student representation within the various departmental committees, providing student-led support as well as representing students’ interests on departmental decision-making.

You will have access to a wide range of resources within the department and University, including the following facilities.

IT support

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, the divisional skills training portal, Researchers' Toolkit, significant information on the University's student gateway, career courses and libraries online.

Libraries

You will have access to local libraries: the Bodleian Library, the Cairns Library based in the John Radcliffe Hospital and musculoskeletal-related topics at the Girdlestone Library located at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre's Knowledge Centre on the Old Road Campus. 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 100 DPhil and MSc research students. There is an active student committee which organises regular social events, 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.

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

You should make contact with the academic member of staff with whom you wish to undertake research in order to ascertain the suitability of the project to your experience. Details of potential supervisors can be found on the NDORMS website. 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.

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 completion within twelve academic terms (ie four years) 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 should support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and ability to work independently.

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Carefully read the entry requirements on this course page to make sure you meet all the criteria.

Step 2: Check above what documents are required and prepare to apply by reading our Application Guide.

Step 3: Apply as soon as possible. Consult the Application Guide for more information about deadlines.

Application GuideApply

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