About the course
This programme aims to train the next generation of leaders in translational oncology research by applying state-of-the-art techniques to address fundamental biology of cancer and how to optimise treatments for patients.
The Department of Oncology employs multidisciplinary approaches from physics, biology, chemistry and mathematical modelling to investigate DNA biology and epigenetics, cell and environmental biology of tumour tissue and both systemic and local immunological responses in cancer. This programme focuses on expanding scientific knowledge with a particular focus on therapies involving drug discovery or action and combination therapies with radiotherapy.
The DPhil in Oncology is a three-to-four year DPhil programme and is based on the conduct of a specific research project conducted in a single research group or laboratory. Applications are accepted from both basic scientists and clinicians.
Students will be admitted directly to a particular research area, within a research group/laboratory lead by a Principal Investigator who will be formally appointed as their DPhil supervisor.
As a graduate student you will have access to a wide range of resources offered by the department, the Medical Sciences Division and the wider University, to obtain the skills you need to become an outstanding researcher. The Department of Oncology provides an induction to the department in the first weeks of study and encourages attendance at divisional and University induction events. There is also a wide range of courses and workshops which you can attend to acquire skills that will be necessary for the pursuance and presentation of your research, as well as your professional development as a research scientist. Please note there are no taught elements for the DPhil in Oncology.
For this course, the allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Department of Oncology 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 Department of Oncology.
Students will normally have two strands of supervision and the support of the Director of Graduate Studies, as well as administrative support within the department. Information about research groups and supervisors connected with this course can also be found on the Department of Oncology website.
The University has a code of practice for supervision of research under which supervisors must:
- Advise, guide and support the student in all aspects of their research project
- Identify a clear plan of research
- Draw up a timetable for research
- Have regular meetings, at a minimum once every two weeks
- Report on the student’s progress
- Identify the student’s training needs
- Encourage the student to participate in the wider Oxford community
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 they have additional support.
All students are initially admitted to the status of Probationer Research Student (PRS). Within a maximum of four terms candidates are expected to apply for transfer of status from Probationer Research Student to DPhil status.
A successful transfer of status assessment will require satisfactory attendance, submission of a thesis outline and presentation to the assessors. Students who are successful at transfer will then be expected to apply for and gain confirmation of DPhil status within nine terms of admission, to show that their work continues to be on track.
Both milestones normally involve a presentation and an interview with two assessors.
Students are expected to submit their thesis by the twelfth term of their studies. To be successfully awarded a DPhil candidates are required to attend a viva voce to defend their thesis to two appointed examiners, of which one is from the University and one is external from another institution.
After completion of their doctoral training, graduates of the Department of Oncology progress to postdoctoral research positions in Oxford, elsewhere in the UK or internationally (around 50%), to study medicine (around 25%), or to employment in medical charities and other professional organisations (around 25%).
Research students are expected to leave the DPhil in Oncology equipped with the scientific knowledge and cutting-edge technical skills that enable them to become the scholars, teachers and researchers of the next generation, both in the UK and globally.
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 a biological, medical, chemical, mathematical, or physical science subject, as appropriate for the projects offered.
However, entrance is highly competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent. A previous master's degree is not required, but is an advantage.
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
- Publications are not required, but they may advantage an application.
- It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.
All students are cleared for security. Non-EU students will require approval from the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) for courses at the Department of Oncology.
English language proficiency
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. The minimum scores required to meet the University's standard level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.0||6.5|
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. It is expected that interviews will be scheduled in January and will normally be held by video conference.
Shortlisting meetings to consider applicants for interview and the interview panels include a minimum of three academics. The format of the interview is a five-minute presentation of your research experience or recent scientific project, followed by a question-and-answer session designed to investigate your:
- experience or potential
- knowledge of the field
- interactive skills
- presentation skills
- analytical skills
- experimental design
- scientific motivation
- career plan.
The interview will last between 30-40 minutes. During this time your application will be discussed in detail and you may expect a challenging conversation with panel members. However, it is hoped that you may find this a stimulating opportunity to discuss your work.
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.
In the Department of Oncology, students work alongside and learn from leaders in their field, and are provided with a world-class academic environment. They benefit from excellent support services, including a comprehensive portfolio of personal and professional skills development. Students are encouraged to attend training opportunities that include both subject-specific and generic research and transferable skills.
The University has a well-developed skills training portfolio in line with the UK Research Councils Joint Statement on graduate skills. The Medical Sciences Division training opportunities cover all aspects of research-related or technical skills, such as ethics, data analysis and statistics and bioinformatics; communications skills including scientific writing and oral and poster presentations, careers and personal development such as personal effectiveness and career planning; and finally academic practice including grant writing, teaching and intellectual property.
In addition, the Careers Service provides a full list of online courses, which are complementary to the divisional provision, and provides advice on career progression and job applications. Other facilities and support are available through Oxford University IT Services, the Language Centre, and the Oxford Learning Institute for professional development.
Students are provided with laboratory workspace, desk space and IT facilities in support of their research. In addition there are on-site library and social facilities.
The Department of Oncology has an established graduate training programme for science graduates and clinical research fellows under the leadership of Professor Mark Middleton.
It is one of the largest departments in the University of Oxford’s Medical Sciences Division. It houses over 400 staff and graduate students, both clinical and non-clinical, and brings together research and clinical groups from across Oxford who are based at the Old Road Campus Research Building (ORCRB), the Radiobiology Research Institute (RRI), the Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine (WIMM) and the NHS Cancer and Haematology Centre.
The Department of Oncology offers promising graduates a broad range of multidisciplinary and translational cancer research projects. As a result, its graduates come from a wide range of scientific backgrounds, including biology, medicine, engineering, mathematics, chemistry, and physics. The department prides itself on supporting and training the next generation of world leaders in cancer research to ensure its research continues over the long term.
The department ethos is to improve treatment of cancer patients by harnessing Oxford University’s scientific research prowess and translating this into an impactful benefit to cancer patients through our own clinical trials. Working together to achieve this aim, we have renowned experts alongside cutting-edge scientists that collaborate across the university to understand the biology of cancer and how to best adopt new therapeutic strategies in medical and clinical oncology.
Research in the Department of Oncology is focused on the biology of cancer and how to translate discoveries into better treatments for patients. The department research strategy centres around the three core themes of DNA (including DNA damage, repair, and replication), cell and tissue biology (tumour microenvironment), and immuno-oncology (including cancer vaccines and virotherapy). Details of individual research groups which work within each of these themes can be found on the department website.
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 department's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2024-25
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, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 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 following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Oncology:
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.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
Before you apply, you should refer to the list of research themes and associated groups on the department's website, to identify areas of research that interest you. You should then contact a potential supervisor(s) to discuss the availability of research projects.
General course enquiries can be directed to the course administrator via the contact details provided on this page.
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.
Proposed field and title of research project
Under the 'Field and title of research project' please enter your proposed field or area of research if this is known. If the department has advertised a specific research project that you would like to be considered for, please enter the project title here instead.
You should not use this field to type out a full research proposal. You will be able to upload your research supporting materials separately if they are required (as described below).
Under 'Proposed supervisor name' enter the name of the academic(s) who you would like to supervise your research.
You may list up to three potential supervisors, listing then in order of preference or indicating equal preference.
Three overall, academic preferred
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.
Academic references are strongly encouraged, though you may use up to one professional reference provided that it is relevant to the course.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and ability to work in a group.
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 maximum of 500 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.