About the course
The DPhil in Paediatrics provides opportunities for study in a broad range of basic, translational and clinical science related to child health including major strengths in developmental immunology and haematology, infectious disease, vaccines, paediatric imaging and neuromuscular biology, mucosal immunology and gastroenterology. You will become part of a vibrant research community both within the department and in the wider University.
You will develop generic research skills by making use of a range of research training and skills development offered by the medical sciences division, alongside direction by your supervisor in specific research methods in relation to your project. You are encouraged to develop a literature review in your first year and to attend courses in manuscript and thesis writing and in presentation skills. At the heart of the skills provision are regular group meetings and the annual departmental Research Day where you will present and develop your research ideas and proposals with the benefit of feedback and support from your peers.
Expand each supervisor's name below to read more about the research themes and areas.
Rinn Song/Else Bijker
Novel Diagnostics for Paediatric Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis (TB) remains a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in children, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, with an estimated incidence of one million cases per year. Diagnosis of TB is complex, especially in young children, because their symptoms are non-specific, they cannot expectorate sputum and often have paucibacillary disease. Despite significant advances in TB diagnostics made in the last decade, they barely impacted on paediatric TB. As a result, under-diagnosis of those with TB is common. Improving paediatric TB diagnosis is very important, not only for individual patients, but also for the assessment of the true burden of paediatric TB and the development of new treatments and vaccines which is hindered by the lack of a reliable reference standard.
New approaches for diagnosis of paediatric TB are urgently needed, especially in three areas that the group is working on:
- tests that can be used at the point of care level;
- non-sputum-based tests; and
- tests that can accurately identify the children with TB currently classified as microbiologically negative.
The group works together in a strong consortium of world-leading scientists and collaborators from around the world, including Uganda, Peru, the United States of America, Switzerland and Canada: the Feasibility of Novel Diagnostics for TB in Endemic Countries (FEND for TB) Consortium, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health for five years. The previous NIH-funded consortium led to the development of the GeneXpert Assay. The objective of the FEND for TB Consortium is to support the evaluation of early-stage tuberculosis diagnostic assays and strategies in the context of existing clinical algorithms in tuberculosis endemic countries. FEND for TB conducts early-stage diagnostic accuracy and feasibility studies and then feeds back to assay developers to facilitate the efficiency of the iterative assay evaluation-assay revision process. The consortium also involves a group of highly-recognised experts in modelling to evaluate impact, cost-effectiveness and other key factors to consider for the possible implementation of promising novel TB tests.
This project would offer a variety of exciting opportunities, including in-country study implementation and supervision, biostatistical and analytical work, modelling research, and through close collaboration with the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) insight and contributions to the process of working with the WHO in their regulatory approval process of new diagnostic tests for TB. For further information, please see the grant information for FEND for FB and the grant information for Novel and Optimized Diagnostics for Pediatric TB (both external links).
Despite available vaccines, pneumonia is still a major killer affecting particularly vulnerable populations, such as children and the elderly. Pneumococcal infections are most common in the winter with secondary pneumococcal pneumonia being the major cause of mortality following seasonal and pandemic influenza infection. Our group uses Human Infection Challenge models in which participants are deliberately infected with live respiratory viruses and bacteria to study host-pathogen interactions, immune responses, pathogen transmission and to accelerate development of vaccines. Our group offers exciting DPhil projects in the following areas:
- Host and pathogen gene expression associate with pneumococcal shedding
- Systemic and mucosal correlates of protection to respiratory infection and vaccination
- Susceptibility to respiratory disease: chronic inflammation, comorbidities and immuneaging
- Interaction of viral and bacterial co-infections and immune response modulation
- Use of nanoparticle platforms to develop treatments for virus and bacterial respiratory infections
- Computational biology and machine learning
Each project can be tailored to give the student exposure to their methods of interest including B and T cell ELISPOTs, ELISAs, Luminex, multicolour flow cytometry and cell sorting, transcriptomic analysis at population and single cell level, and extensive data analysis (including R) and computational biology (machine learning).
It is becoming increasingly clear that immune sex differences have a substantial impact on outcome from infectious disease and vaccines. The group's own studies of children who became infected with HIV in utero show that these immune sex differences start before birth and have substantial impact before birth. Female fetuses born to mothers who themselves become infected with HIV during pregnancy are 2-3x more susceptible to infection than male fetuses. The reason, the group believes, is that the female fetus shares with her mother a strong dependence on the innate immune response, and specifically type I interferon (IFN-I) production in response to viruses such as HIV, to protect against infection. Thus, the virus that evades this defence in the mother is highly IFN-I-resistant, and this same highly IFN-I-resistant virus evades the same innate response in the female fetus, but not male fetuses, who are more susceptible to IFN-I-sensitive viruses with high replicative capacity (Adland et al Nature Communications, 2020).
The Goulder Group Research theme focuses on two related goals: the first being to define the mechanisms and impact of immune sex differences in early life; and the second being to define the immune responses in early life that maximise the potential for achieve cure in HIV-infected children. HIV provides an ideal tool to help understand the immune sex differences that are present in early life and their impact. A cohort of 250 HIV-infected mother child pairs in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, followed from the infant’s birth, form the focus of much of this work in the Peter Medawar Building in Oxford. The exposure of sex-discordant twins to other infections (CMV) and to vaccines provide an additional unique means of evaluating early-life immune sex differences. This group’s work is focused on the South African HIV epidemic. Although the group is based in Oxford, they have over the past 20 years developed strong collaborations in Durban and Kimberley, South Africa.
One in 13 babies are born prematurely; understanding and mitigating the long-term impact of premature birth is important to improve the lives of these children. Apnoea - the cessation of breathing - is a common pathology associated with prematurity. These potentially life-threatening events can result in reduced cerebral oxygenation and frequent apnoeas have been associated with long-term effects including reduced childhood cognitive ability. The focus of the research group is to understand the interaction between apnoea and brain development in premature infants, and to investigate how physiology is altered by pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions. The group is part of a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, nurses, mathematicians, engineers and scientists. The group's work focuses on the collection and use of EEG (electroencephalography) and vital signs (heart rate, respiratory rate etc) data, and the group develops signal processing techniques and uses machine learning to derive tools with the aim to ultimately improve outcomes for prematurely-born children.
Caroline develops approaches to analyse infant brain activity and physiological data, such as heart rate and oxygen saturation, to address clinically relevant questions in the field of neonatal neuroscience. Caroline's research focuses on understanding the impact of apnoea on premature infant brain development, and providing measures to improve the assessment and treatment of pain in infants.
Apnoea - the cessation of breathing - is a common pathology associated with prematurity. These potentially life-threatening events can result in reduced cerebral oxygenation and frequent episodes of apnoea have been associated with long-term effects including reduced childhood cognitive ability. 1 in every 10 babies are born prematurely; understanding and mitigating the long-term impact of premature birth is important to improve the lives of these children.
The thymus is the anatomical site where T cells are generated and instructed to provide protective immunity against pathogens whilst ignoring the individual’s own tissues. Thymic epithelial cells (TEC), an essential component of the organ’s 3-dimensional scaffold, attract T cell precursor from the peripheral blood, foster their differentiation in a bespoke micro-environment, and help to select developing T cells based on their antigen specificities. Based on their distinct structural, phenotypic, and transcriptomic features, TEC are differentiated into distinct subtypes. Defects in TEC differentiation and function are incompatible with a normal generation of naive T cells and therefore frequently associated with severe combined immunodeficiencies or a loss of immunological tolerance. The research of the laboratory seeks to detail the genetic and epigenetic control of TEC development and function combining multi-parameter flow cytometry, advanced histological and molecular methods, proteomics, mathematical modelling and transcriptomic analyses at both population level and single cell resolution.
Young Chan Kim
Under the directorship of Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, my team within the Oxford Vaccine Group (OVG) is dedicated to developing novel vaccines against emerging infectious diseases, including, but not limited to, alphaviruses, plague, Coxiella, and Chagas. To achieve our objectives, we utilise a diverse range of vaccine platforms: from viral vectors (such as ChAdOx1 and MVA), mRNA, subunit, VLP and glycoconjugate to design, develop and perform pre-clinical and clinical testing of vaccines with the primary goal of enhancing human health.
We are delighted to offer an exciting opportunity for aspiring researchers eager to contribute to and expand upon our current and innovative vaccine development initiatives as part of a DPhil programme. Throughout their journey, DPhil students will develop specialised skills in vaccine design, pre-clinical/clinical testing of novel vaccines, and the functional assays such as virus neutralisation assay (PRNT) and Serum Bactericidal Assay (SBA). Additionally, a significant emphasis of our team lies in developing new diagnostic tools against emerging infectious diseases and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) suited for low-resource settings, ultimately aiming to improve clinical management and disease surveillance. We are well-equipped to mentor and guide a diverse array of DPhil projects, encompassing both the development of new vaccines and diagnostic assays.
Emerging and Outbreak pathogens
Despite therapeutic advances, the continued emergence and re-emergence of novel infectious pathogens can have devastating healthcare impacts. Increased global interdependence and the ease of human, animal and trade movements facilitate transmission and present multiple opportunities for pathogen spread.
There are a number of novel and dangerous pathogens with recognised pandemic potential, including but not limited to, SARS-CoV-2, Ebola, Marburg, Lassa Fever, Nipah, and Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever. My team is currently focusing on the development and testing of the Oxford/AstraZeneca (ChAdOx1 nCoV-19/AZD1222) vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 working closely with Oxford Vaccine Group and global teams.
It is widely recognised that the health of humans and animals are interdependent and a number of emerging infectious diseases have a robust animal reservoir. The group are therefore delineating protective immune responses following natural infection in both human and animals to inform therapeutic development and vaccine design.
Using this information, the group are developing vaccines for a number of emerging pathogens with careful consideration of implications for veterinary cross-over and working closely with collaborators at the Pirbright Institute and NIH. Some of the works are at the pre-clinical stage while others have progressed to clinical trials.
This DPhil represents an exciting opportunity to build on the current and innovative program of vaccine development for emerging and outbreak pathogens while working in close collaboration with the Wellcome Trust major overseas research programme in Kilifi, Kenya and other key players for vaccine development against Emerging Pathogens.
Both specialised subject training and generic research capabilities will be developed, including but not limited to:
- Vaccine design (Molecular cloning & vaccine generation)
- Immunogenicity assessment of human samples
- Cellular immune assays (ELISpot, FACS & Intracellular Cytokine Staining (ICS))
- Humoral immune assays (ELISA, FACS & Cultured ELISpot)
- Development of translational assays (Pseudotyped virus assay)
All students will be expected to analyse, interpret and present their data internally and at appropriate conferences. This project will provide a broad range of transferable skills with a unique insight into translational research.
The application of the evolutionary and population approaches to the genomic analysis of bacterial pathogens for translation into public health interventions, especially immunisation
Specific organism interests include the pathogenic Neisseria and Campylobacter. Highly interdisciplinary work across the Medical and MPLS Divisions.
See, for example: MacLennan JM, Rodrigues CMC, Bratcher HB, Lekshmi A, Finn A, Oliver J, et al. Meningococcal carriage in periods of high and low invasive meningococcal disease incidence in the UK: comparison of UKMenCar1-4 cross-sectional survey results (Reference: Lancet Infect Dis. 2021;21:677-87. Epub 2021/01/23. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30842-2. PMID: 33482143)
Utilising the “-omics” toolkit to elucidate the mechanisms underlying immune responses to vaccines and infections
Vaccines have had a transformative impact on public health. However, infection remains an important cause of morbidity and mortality globally, causing ~9% of deaths and two of the five leading causes of disability-adjusted life-years. Acute febrile illness is one of the most common presenting symptoms in healthcare facilities. Signs and symptoms of infection can be non-specific of aetiology. Moreover, diagnostic tests can lack sensitivity and take several hours to days to return conclusive results. Consequently, there is a clinical demand for a new accurate and rapid diagnostic tool — to improve patient care and help tackle the emerging global crisis of antimicrobial resistance.
The immunological processes involved in protective immune responses are not entirely understood and vaccine development has been largely empirical. Recent technological advances offer the opportunity to reveal the immunology underlying vaccine response at an unprecedented resolution. These data could revolutionize the way vaccines are developed and tested and further augment their role in securing global health.
This theme of work explores multi-omics data across a spectrum of immune perturbation — vaccination through to infection. Research includes elucidating the genetic determinants of vaccine responses, describing novel immune correlates of protection, and developing rapid and accurate diagnostics.
Oxford Vaccine Group
At the Oxford vaccine group our mission is the design, development, clinical evaluation and laboratory testing of vaccines to improve human health. We aim to achieve our mission with major programmes on:
- Pneumococcal infection and vaccines (Daniela Ferreira);
- Viral outbreak pathogens (Teresa Lambe);
- Typhoid, paratyphoid, Coxiella, meningococcus and plague (Andrew Pollard);
- Non-typhoidal salmonella (Maheshi Ramasamy);
- TB (Rinn Song);
- Use of “omics” to interrogate vaccine responses (O’Connor);
- Social sciences of vaccines (Samantha Vanderslott); and
- Alphaviruses and Chagas (Young Chan Kim).
Further details can be found under names of individual investigators. These major programmes above are in addition to a broad programme of work on COVID19 and the use of human challenge models and other experimental medicine studies. Our work includes opportunities for PhD training for potential students from both clinical and scientific backgrounds.
Vaccines that provide long-term protection against evolving pathogens eg SARS-CoV-2 and that overcome immunocompromise in older people, are urgently needed. Our knowledge of human immunity is incomplete however, and the opportunity for rational vaccine design has been overlooked.
To address this, the Lymph node single cell genomics ancestry and ageing (LEGACY) Network studies the key tissue in which the immune response is generated. Using real time ultrasound imaging to sample lymph nodes by fine needle aspiration, coupled with innovative clinical study design, we can map the steady state and vaccine-stimulated immune response over time.
Our work involves detailed immunological techniques such as single cell gene expression, Cellular Indexing of Transcriptomes and Epitopes by Sequencing (CITE-Seq), T cell receptor sequencing, sequencing of immunoglobulin genes, multiparameter flow cytometry and systems serology.
Our experimental medicine model is being used to investigate questions in vaccine-responsive lymph nodes and blood in diverse groups:
- LEGACY01: what is the distribution of immune cell types in unstimulated and responding lymph nodes after seasonal influenza vaccine in an ancestrally diverse cohort?
- LEGACY02: how does age affect the priming and recall responses to a novel adenoviral vector vaccine against Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever?
- LEGACY03: how does age affect the kinetics of the response to seasonal influenza and COVID-19 booster vaccinations?
Our multidisciplinary clinical and scientific research team welcomes applications from DPhil students across the arc of our work, with immunology as the cross-cutting theme.
Enteric infections and mucosal immune responses
Infections caused by Gram negative bacteria are a major cause of childhood morbidity and mortality in low and middle income countries. Disease control ultimately requires access to good sanitation, but the current lack of sensitive diagnostic tests and increasing resistance to commonly used antibiotics make vaccines against these pathogens a cost-effective medium-term solution.
This theme investigates immunity against enteric pathogens with a focus on non-typhoidal Salmonella disease. Projects can range from assessing vaccines in healthy volunteer clinical trials to developing laboratory techniques to measure systemic and mucosal immune responses.
The overall purpose of the group's research is to reduce the global burden of hereditary neurological disease. This goal is pursued through three strategic aims:
- identification of genes associated with neurological diseases,
- advancement of the current understanding of the molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis in these diseases, and
- development of effective treatments for hereditary neurological diseases.
This work has recently led to the development of an innovative gene therapy approach for a genetic condition named spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy, relying on viral delivery of an isoform of the disease gene Androgen Receptor and suitable for translation into the clinic (see reference: doi.org 10.1126/sciadv.abi6896) and the identification of genetic variants in the ATP6V0A1 gene as a cause of severe neurodevelopmental conditions (see reference: doi.org 10.1101/2021.06.01.21257500).
In particular, the group are interested in understanding the mechanisms underlying the diversification of the human transcriptomic (RNA editing), the ways those contribute to the functioning of the motor unit in health and disease, and how this knowledge can be harvested to enable targeted correction of mutations in coding sequences of RNA for treatment.
The group employs a combination of transcriptomic analyses, advanced microscopy, cellular and biochemical studies in human iPSC-derived neurons, disease models in mice, and translational studies in human subjects. The group's expectation is that these studies will ultimately reveal central disease mechanisms of neuromuscular diseases and serve as a foundation for the development of effective disease-modifying therapies.
Strategies for therapeutic manipulation of gene expression have matured to the point where there are now multiple FDA-approved drugs with diverse mechanisms of action including gene silencing (via RNase H-active gapmer oligonucleotides or RNA interference using siRNA) and direct antagonism of proteins (using aptamers), and exon skipping/inclusion using steric block oligonucleotides. Of particular interest are splice switching oligonucleotides that can rescue expression of proteins associated with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) – both paediatric muscle-wasting disorders which previously had very limited treatment options. Central to the development of these therapies is an understanding of disease nucleic acid biology (in terms of understanding the target mRNA splicing) and drug nucleic acid chemistry (the design, composition, and delivery of the therapeutic molecule). These exciting developments are paving the way for a plethora of new molecule medicines across a wide spectrum of disease indications. The group are interested in developing new modalities of therapeutic gene manipulation, including gene editing, RNA editing, and gene activation. Primarily, the group are focused on neuromuscular diseases (such as DMD and SMA) and infantile epileptic encephalopathies (such as Dravet syndrome).
Work in the group encompasses:
- investigations of novel RNA-targeting or RNA-based therapeutic strategies;
- gene expression profiling to better understand disease (especially in terms of spatial-restriction, sub-cellular localisation, and non-coding RNA); and
- the development of biomarkers for monitoring responses to therapeutic intervention (with a particular focus on small RNA biomarkers).
The developmental stage-specific cellular and molecular characteristics of fetal and postnatal progenitors are likely to determine the biology of ALL at different ages. We are particularly interested in high-risk childhood ALL, such as infant ALL and Down syndrome associated ALL. We have recently developed a novel MLL-AF4+ infant ALL model using primary human haematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. The overarching aim of research in our lab is to improve the outcomes of children with high-risk ALL.
The current DPhil projects are in these areas:
- Developing faithful models of high-risk childhood ALL to better understand leukaemia initiation and maintenance at different ages;
- Mechanistic studies to understand key drivers of childhood ALL;
- Target discovery and translation of findings from (1) and (2) into preclinical studies; and
- Projects using multi-omics to understand how cell intrinsic and/or microenvironmental characteristics of the developmental stage at which a leukaemia originates, drives the biology of leukaemia at different ages.
Severe neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD) lead to serious and often life-threatening symptoms including seizures, cognitive impairment, communication problems, and motor dysfunction. Our group aims to use bioinformatics to identify the genetic mechanisms underlying these disorders and to develop therapies to improve the lives of those affected.
We focus on three main research questions:
- How can we find the genetic variants and genes underlying these disorders in the coding and noncoding genome?
- What do these genetic variants and genes tell us about the underlying neurobiology?
- How can we use these insights to develop advanced therapies to help affected individuals?
Over the past decade, our group has used whole-exome and whole-genome sequencing of thousands of individuals to identify hundreds of genes underlying NDDs (Read more about this on the PubMed website) and to understand the role of splicing variants and noncoding variants in these disorders (Read more about this on the PubMed website).
Working with collaborators in the USA (UC San Francisco and Yale) we have generated single-cell datasets with epigenetic (ATAC-seq) and transcriptomic (RNA-seq) data from postmortem brain samples of hundreds of individuals. We use these data to understand regulatory processes underlying brain development and NDDs, including the role of biological sex as a modifier. We also aim to use these data to identify genes and variants that are amenable to genome-targeted therapies, including antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) and CRISPR-based genome editing.
STRONG (Specialised Translational Research Oxford Neuromuscular Group)
STRONG (Specialised Translational Research Oxford Neuromuscular Group) has a special interest for newborns screening of genetic condition, Angelman syndrome, innovative outcomes using magneto-inertial technology and wearable devices and natural history studies. The group are working with patients in order to design and conduct efficient clinical trials.
Paediatric Neuroimaging Group
The Paediatric Neuroimaging Group can offer a range of DPhil projects related to early life neurodevelopment and clinical research translation. The group's work is focussed on better understanding the development and treatment of infant pain. The group places great importance on translating mechanistic insights from research into clinical practice and can offer DPhil students opportunities to focus on mechanistic research, clinical trials, methodology development (MRI, EEG and analytical approaches) and provide opportunities to work with industry, academia and regulators to optimise the acceleration of innovations into practice.
Vaccines, Health and Society (VHAS) Unit
The Vaccines, Health and Society (VHAS) Unit is a multidisciplinary research centre that seeks to improve understanding of the roles played by different individuals and groups and their interaction with healthcare practice and medical research. The unit aims to produce theoretical and empirical research in social sciences and create a bridge to public health issues through policy advice, interventions, and public engagement. We draw on a variety of disciplines from sociology, history, behavioural science, health economics, and public policy to combine a wide set of tools and literatures. Further, being based within the Oxford Vaccine Group, benefits from the unique opportunity to interact with vaccinologists, epidemiologists, immunologists, and clinicians. A particular focus lies on studying actors’ attitudes and behaviour towards vaccination in society, policy, and media, across time and geographies. More broadly, our interests are also in a wide range of public health topics, including issue prioritisation, disease history, and social mobilisation. Our research unit runs regular research seminars, has ongoing collaborative writing groups on a wide range of topics, and frequently hosts visiting researchers, providing a lively environment for DPhil candidates. We can support a range of DPhil projects on the social aspects of vaccination and health, including co-supervision with other groups within the Department of Paediatrics (and in exceptional cases outside of the department).
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Department of Paediatrics 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 Paediatrics. During your program of study you would be expected to meet with your supervisor at least three times a term.
You will join one of the department's research groups with primary supervision provided by faculty members in one of the department's laboratory or clinical research facilities. It is highly recommended that individuals speak to and consider a supervisor before they make a formal application.
Formal assessment of progress will be made at three points during the course: transfer of status from Probationary Research Student (PRS) status to DPhil Status; this occurs in the 4th term. This is followed by confirmation of status which traditionally takes place either at the departmental annual research day held in late April or at the end of the ninth term. Then the final thesis and oral examination (viva voce) before the twelfth term ends.
Alumni from the DPhil in Paediatrics include clinicians and scientists who have pursued diverse careers, now populating senior academic and clinical posts in universities around the world. Several individuals have also remained within the University in Post-Doctoral positions.
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
The requirements described below are specific to this course and apply only in the year of entry that is shown. You can use our interactive tool to help you evaluate whether your application is likely to be competitive.
Please be aware that any studentships that are linked to this course may have different or additional requirements and you should read any studentship information carefully before applying.
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 subject relevant to the research project you are applying to.
Entrance is very competitive.
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
- Preference may be given to those who have previously studied in an appropriate scientific research discipline.
- Applicants who have evidence of scientific publication on their application are at an advantage.
- It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.
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.
|Minimum overall score
|Minimum score per component
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)
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.
Candidates who are shortlisted are normally interviewed as part of the admissions process. Interviews usually take place in mid- to late January and there will be a minimum of three academics on the interview panel. Candidates will be either interviewed in person or via video link.
The format of the interview include a short presentation from candidates on their research proposal followed by questions from the interview panel.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements described 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.
The department has state-of-the-art laboratories with a number of research groups at different locations in Oxford, with most of the groups based at the John Radcliffe Hospital and WIMM, the Centre for Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine at the Churchill Hospital, and the Science Centre at South Parks Road.
Students will have access to the department’s IT support and University library services. Workspace will be related to individual circumstances. If undertaking experimental work, bench space will be provided within a laboratory. The provision of other resources specific to a project should be agreed with the supervisor as part of the planning stages of the agreed project.
Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine
The Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM) fosters research in molecular and cell biology with direct application to the study of human disease. The WIMM is the location for the developmental immunology and haematology research groups in the Department.
Peter Medawar Building
The Peter Medawar Building houses an inter-disciplinary research consortium which investigates pathogen diversity through a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches, with links to two University divisions: Medical Sciences, Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences. This is the location for the HIV research group.
Oxford Vaccine Group, Centre for Clinical Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine (CCVTM)
The Oxford Vaccine Group (OVG) is located in CCVTM which is a purpose built space for research in vaccinology and tropical medicine. The facility includes fully-equipped modern Containment Level 2 and 3 laboratories for the design, development and clinical testing of vaccines. Facilities are designed to accommodate multi-disciplinary working across microbiology, immunology, and molecular techniques in proximity to clinical expertise and trial patients/volunteers.
Paediatric Nutrition Research Group Laboratories
The two Paediatric Nutrition Research Group Laboratories are located in the neonatal unit. One is a visual function laboratory to study the development of visual pathways in brain-damaged infants following neurotropic supplementation of their diets. The second is a body composition laboratory which house an air displacement plethysmography used to validate new techniques derived from 3-D ultrasound measures of body composition in new-born infants.
Institute of Developmental and Regenerative Medicine (IDRM)
The Institute of Developmental and Regenerative Medicine (IDRM) has opened in 2022 and will be an available resource for relevant students. At its core is a formal merger of developmental biology and regenerative medicine in the form of 15-20 world leading research groups comprising 240 cardiovascular, neuroscience and immunology scientists. Our intention as an organisation is to integrate their expertise to foster multidisciplinary collaborations.
Bodleian Health Care Libraries provides services to the staff and students of the University of Oxford, mainly in clinical medicine, and to the staff of the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust. There are over 20,000 books and over 550 journal titles in the Bodleian Health Care Libraries
The Medical Sciences Division IT services provide Information Technology services, support and advice to the University of Oxford's Medical Sciences Division. It operates and manages data networks and networked services for the division's departments located on the Oxford Hospital Sites (John Radcliffe, Churchill, Warneford and Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre), the Old Road Campus in Headington, and parts of the Science Area in the centre of Oxford.
The Department of Paediatrics has major research interests in developmental immunology and haematology, infectious diseases of infancy and childhood, mucosal immunology, HIV infection and immune control, design, development and testing of vaccines, neuromuscular biology, the origins of childhood leukaemia, paediatric neuroimaging, and in paediatric molecular genetics.
As a graduate student, you will conduct research within an expanding department that has over 30 DPhil students and 270 members of staff including clinical practitioners, research scientists, support staff and academic visitors.
You will join one of our research groups with primary supervision provided by faculty members in one of the department's laboratory or clinical research facilities, and you will become part of a vibrant research community both within the department and in the wider University.
You will develop research skills by making use of a range of research training and skills development offered by the Medical Sciences Division, alongside direction by your supervisor in specific research methods in relation to your project. You are encouraged to develop a literature review in your first year and to attend courses in manuscript and thesis writing as well as in presentation skills. At the heart of the skills provision are regular group meetings and the Annual Departmental Research Day where you will have the opportunity to present and develop your research ideas and proposals and gain feedback and support from your peers.
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.
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 Paediatrics:
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. You can use our interactive tool to help you evaluate whether your application is likely to be competitive.
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. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide.
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.
Application fee waivers for eligible associated courses
If you apply to this course and up to two eligible associated courses from our predefined list during the same cycle, you can request an application fee waiver so that you only need to pay one application fee.
The list of eligible associated courses may be updated as new courses are opened. Please check the list regularly, especially if you are applying to a course that has recently opened to accept applications.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
Before you apply, you should identify an academic member of staff who is willing to supervise you and has the resources to support your proposed research project. You should do this by contacting them directly. Details of academic staff, including their research interests and contact details, can be found on the department's website.
You should also communicate with the department in order to refine your application before submitting, especially where scholarships are involved.
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.
Three overall, all of which 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.
Academic references are required. Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and your 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 and research proposal:
Statement a maximum of 500 words, proposal a maximum of 1,000 words
Your statement of purpose/personal statement and research proposal 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.
Statement of purpose/personal statement
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.
The research proposal should cover areas such as the background to your research, methodology, expected results and the contribution to the field of learning.
The overall word count should include any bibliography.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying
- the coherence of the proposal
- the originality of the project
- evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
- the ability to present a reasoned case in English
- the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course (a maximum of 4 years)
- 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.
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.