About the course
The four-year DPhil in Neuroscience (1+3) has an outstanding record of achievement in terms of the publications and future careers of the students who have graduated to date. The programme is highly regarded internationally and many of its alumni are now leading neuroscientists.
The programme takes an integrated approach to neuroscience and provides a wide range of skills training in experimental and theoretical methods that is intended to enable you to ask questions and tackle problems that transcend the traditional disciplines from which this field has evolved.
The first year follows the taught MSc in Neuroscience course, during which you will undertake two extended research projects from a choice of over one hundred offered annually by the extensive neuroscience research community in Oxford. You will also attend the graduate programme lecture series, which provides a broad education covering molecular, cellular, systems, computational and cognitive neuroscience.
After successful completion of the MSc, students continue with a three-year doctoral research project (DPhil). Toward the end of the MSc year, you will decide which laboratories and supervisor(s) you wish to work with and prepare a proposal for your three-year doctoral research project. This project can take place in any area of neuroscience within the Oxford network of laboratories and approved supervisors.
During your first year, you will join those students taking the stand-alone MSc in Neuroscience. Having a larger cohort of students enhances and expands the training opportunities available, helping you to make a more informed decision about the topic and design of your doctoral research project.
The MSc year begins in late September and is divided into three terms. The first term provides an introduction to neuroscience and research methods, while the second and third terms combine advanced taught courses, essay writing and two laboratory rotations (research projects).
Each of the MSc research projects lasts for about 16 weeks and is selected from a very extensive list of approved abstracts. With over 100 abstracts submitted each year, there is always plenty of choice, but if you are interested in a particular lab or research topic then you are welcome to discuss a potential project independently with an appropriate supervisor. Many of these projects lead to publications.
Years two to four
Early in May of the first year, you will meet with the course director and course lecturer to discuss the process for selecting your DPhil project. It is recommended that you talk to several potential supervisors and, in many cases, collaborative projects are proposed.
You may opt to continue one of the MSc lab rotations as your DPhil project, or combine the subject areas or methods encountered during both MSc lab rotations as a collaborative DPhil project, whereas others choose a research area that they have not previously tried out during the MSc year.
You will begin the DPhil in October of the second year. At this point, you will become integrated within your chosen department(s) and follow the same progression as other research students who work there.
Students on this programme choose their own project and supervisor and the proposal is assessed in Summer of the MSc year by the Organising Committee. It is expected that all students will meet their supervisors at least once per month and with the Directors of the programme annually. The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Medical Sciences Division 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 Medical Sciences Division.
In the first year, each of the MSc projects are written up as dissertations. The course concludes the following September with an oral examination.
In the second year, you are initially accepted as Probationary Research Students (PRS) and transfer to full DPhil status by the end of the fourth term. This involves the preparation of a transfer report and an interview to discuss the research you have carried out so far and your future plans with two independent scientists who have relevant expertise.
During the final years of the course you will write a thesis which you will need to defend orally (viva voce).
This course has been running since 1996 and more than 100 students have now successfully graduated. It was previously known as the Doctoral Training Programme in Neuroscience (1+3).
Over 75% of the programme's graduates remained in academia as post-doctoral research scientists, either securing prestigious personal fellowships or positions on a grant, and most of the others secured positions in science communication, science administration or went into medicine. Only 5% opted to leave science altogether.
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, 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.
Entry requirements for entry in 2024-25
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any scientific discipline.
The department encourages applicants with a physical sciences background, as well as those who have studied a biological subject, such as psychology, biochemistry or neuroscience, at undergraduate level.
If in doubt about the eligibility of your qualifications, please contact the department.
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
- Previous research experience as a vacation student or intern can provide an advantage.
- Although it is often the case that applicants for this programme have one or more publications, this is not a requirement.
English language proficiency
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher 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 higher level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*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.
Declaring 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.
You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.
A shortlist is drawn up based on the academic excellence, potential and motivation for research of the applicants. Approximately 30 candidates will be shortlisted. Interviews usually take place three weeks after the application deadline. All shortlisted applicants will be asked to attend an interview in Oxford or, if overseas, to participate in an interview.
The interview panel will typically comprise five to seven members of the Organising Committee, with a range of expertise in neuroscience, and candidates will be required to give a ten-minute presentation on a research project in which they have been involved. The panel will then question the candidates about their presentation and also ask more general questions that explore their motivation for and interest in carrying out neuroscience research.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading.
References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process. Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed.
Shortlisting and selection
Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:
- socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
- country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
- protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.
Initiatives to improve access to graduate study
This course is taking part in a continuing pilot programme to improve the selection procedure for graduate applications, in order to ensure that all candidates are evaluated fairly.
For this course, socio-economic data (where it has been provided in the application form) will be used to contextualise applications at the different stages of the selection process. Further information about how we use your socio-economic data can be found in our page about initiatives to improve access to graduate study.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
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.
Other factors governing whether places can be offered
The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
- the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
- minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.
Offer conditions for successful applications
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about offers and conditions.
In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also 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 Student visa (under the Student Route). For some courses, the requirement to apply for an ATAS certificate may depend on your research area.
An MSc office, within the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics in the heart of the University Science Area, provides a base for MSc in Neuroscience students. IT support is provided by an in-house team and all the MSc lectures are given in this department.
This office provision is most important: the department is very conscious that people on interdisciplinary courses that span different departments are prone to suffer from a lack of identity, as compared to students who work within a designated department.
The Radcliffe Science Library is the main library facility for students throughout the four year programme and students also have access to their college libraries. During the first year, lab rotations are available in at least nine University departments or research centres that contribute to the MSc. The DPhil project in year two to four can also be carried out in these same departments, giving students the opportunity to choose from a very wide range of research areas.
The Cortex Club, a student-led organisation for those studying neuroscience in Oxford, provides an extensive series of seminars and social events where students from all departments can meet to exchange ideas. This is in addition to the seminars and other events that are organised at both divisional and departmental level.
Departments offering this course
This course is offered jointly by the following departments:
With this large concentration of resources and a wide range of research and teaching expertise, two innovative graduate courses are offered: the four-year Doctoral Training Programme in Neuroscience (1+3) and the one-year MSc in Neuroscience.
The aim is to provide formal training in the theory and practical technology of neuroscience, from the most basic molecular mechanisms right up to clinical issues, coupled with the opportunity to conduct research projects selected from well over 100 active laboratories.
The courses are designed to give students a better technical and conceptual grasp of neuroscience than traditional graduate courses, expose them to a wide range of laboratory techniques and provide training in organisational and research skills.
Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre
The Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre (MSDTC) accommodates the interdisciplinary, cross-departmental DPhil programmes in medical sciences.
Most are structured DPhil programmes, which provide students with the opportunity to undertake two or three 'rotation' projects and relevant course work in their first year of each four-year structured programme The main doctoral project starts in the second year of each programme. Most of our programmes receive external core-funding, and currently from the Wellcome Trust (WT), British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and EPSRC.
The MSDTC also accommodates the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars’ Programme, the DPhil in Cancer Science programme funded by CRUK which welcomes applications from clinicians, basic scientists, and medical undergraduates, and the new DPhil in Inflammatory and Musculoskeletal Disease which is funded by the Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research and is open to Oxford University medical students wishing to undertake DPhils in the fields of musculoskeletal disease, inflammation and immunology.
The department also offers an exciting new programme (the DPhil in Advanced Bioscience of Viral Products) run in collaboration with Oxford Biomedica, which aims to deliver the next generation of bioscience leaders to advance research on the underpinning bioscience of viral products for future gene therapies and vaccines.
Each programme has a distinctive intellectual flavour, designed to nurture independent and creative scientists. Students are supported in their development through:
- supervision and mentoring by world-class academics training in a wide range of research techniques
- development of student resilience and maintenance of mental health and wellbeing from the start and throughout each programme.
The University expects to be able to offer over 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2024-25. 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 December or 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 any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:
Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the following websites:
Annual fees for entry in 2024-25
During the first year of the course you will be charged course fees at the MSc in Neuroscience fee rate. These fees are shown in the table below.
Annual MSc in Neuroscience (first year) fees for the 2024-25 academic year
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
In each subsequent year, you will be charged course fees at the DPhil fee rate for that year of study. For an indication of costs, the table below shows the annual DPhil course fees for the 2024-25 academic year.
Annual DPhil in Neuroscience fees for the 2024-25 academic year
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Information about course fees
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 changes 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.
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, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Please note that, depending on your choice of 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 2024-25 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,345 and £1,955 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 current economic climate and high national rate of inflation make it very hard to estimate potential changes to the cost of living over the next few years. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2024-25, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of around 5% each year – although this rate may vary depending on the national economic situation. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
Students enrolled on this course will belong to both a department/faculty and a college. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 43 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as societies and permanent private halls (PPHs).
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. Before deciding, we suggest that you read our brief introduction to the college system at Oxford and our advice about expressing a college preference. For some courses, the department may have provided some additional advice below to help you decide.
The department recommends that you indicate a preference for a college where a member of the Programme Organising Committee is a fellow from the list of colleges on the Neuroscience website.
However, all of the following colleges do accept students on the DPhil in Neuroscience:
Before you apply
We strongly recommend you consult the Medical Sciences Graduate School's research themes to identify the most suitable course and supervisor.
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance.
Application fee waivers
An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:
- applicants from low-income countries;
- refugees and displaced persons;
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and
- applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.
You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.
Readmission for current Oxford graduate taught students
If you're currently studying for an Oxford graduate taught course and apply to this course with no break in your studies, you may be eligible to apply to this course as a readmission applicant. The application fee will be waived for an eligible application of this type. Check whether you're eligible to apply for readmission.
Applying for the DPhil in Neuroscience (1+3)
Please note that if you are applying for this course and your application is unsuccessful, your application will automatically be considered for the MSc in Neuroscience (unless you have requested otherwise in your statement of purpose/personal statement). You will not need to make an additional application for the MSc course or pay an additional application fee to be considered for both courses under these circumstances.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
It is recommended that you contact Dr Deborah Clarke before you apply, using the contact details that can be found under Further information and enquires.
Completing your application
You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents.
For this course, the application form will include questions that collect information that would usually be included in a CV/résumé. You should not upload a separate document. If a separate CV/résumé is uploaded, it will be removed from your application.
If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.
Referees/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, academic and/or professional
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.
Both academic and professional references are acceptable.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, ability to work in a group, aptitude for research, and evidence of a genuine interest in neuroscience.
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.
Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A statement of a maximum of 500 words, plus an extended statement of a maximum of 1,000 words
You should provide a statement of your research interests, in English, describing how your background and research interests relate to the programme. If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
The statement should focus on academic or research-related achievements and interests rather than personal achievements and interests.
This will be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying;
- evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study;
- the ability to present a reasoned case in English;
- capacity for sustained and focused work; and
- understanding of problems in the area and ability to construct and defend an argument.
It will be normal for students’ ideas and goals to change in some ways as they undertake their studies, but your personal statement will enable you to demonstrate your current interests and aspirations.
Extended statement (mandatory for all applicants)
You must also submit an extended statement in addition to your statement of purpose/personal statement. The extended statement should be written in English and be a maximum of 1,000 words.
Your statement of purpose/personal statement and extended statement should be submitted as a single, combined document with clear subheadings. Please ensure that the word counts for each section are clearly visible in the document.
The extended statement should be used to provide further detailed evidence of your motivation, relevant skills and/or experiences that enable further insight into your potential as a DPhil student. You might want to highlight in more detail your research outputs or research skills (wet lab or data analysis) and how that links to your project choice. If you have undertaken a team-based research project, please detail your role in that project. If you have had to overcome any personal or research project adversities, please highlight these in this extended statement.
Further consideration of unsuccessful applications
Please note that if your application to this course is unsuccessful, it will automatically be considered for the MSc in Neuroscience (you will not need to pay an additional application fee). If you do not want your application to be considered for the MSc in Neuroscience, you should state this clearly in your statement of purpose/personal statement.