DPhil in Neuroscience (1+3) | University of Oxford
Close up of a image of Inhibitory interneurons
Inhibitory interneurons in the developing cerebral cortex
(Image Credit: Simon Butt)

DPhil in Neuroscience (1+3)

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.

Course structure

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.

Year one

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. 

Supervision

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.

Assessment

In the first year, each of the MSc projects are written up as 10,000-word 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 50,000 word thesis which you will need to defend orally (viva voce).

Graduate destinations

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 (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.

Courses suggested by the department

Neuroscience MSc
Clinical Neurosciences DPhil
Clinical Neurosciences MSc by Research
Clinical and Therapeutic Neuroscience MSc

All graduate courses offered by Oxford Neuroscience

Neuroscience combined MSc and DPhil

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 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.

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 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.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.57.0

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

110Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*191185
C2 Proficiency191185

*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.

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.  

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 5-7 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.

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

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 years 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.

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 following websites: 

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2021-22

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 2021-22 academic year

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£8,570
Overseas (including EU)£25,900

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 2021-22 academic year.

Annual DPhil in Neuroscience fees for the 2021-22 academic year

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, 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.

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 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:

How to 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.

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.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A maximum of 1,000 words

Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in.

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

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.

Your statement should focus on scientific interests and motivation rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

References/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.

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 the deadline information in our Application Guide. Plan your time to submit your application well in advance - we recommend two or three weeks earlier.

Step 4: Check if you're eligible for an application fee waiver. Application fee waivers are available for:

Step 5: Start your application using the relevant button below. As you complete the form, consult our Application Guide for advice at each stage. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

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