About the course
The DPhil in Pharmacology offers a wide range of cutting-edge research topics within a multi-disciplinary and world-renowned department (ranked number 1 by subject since 2019 in the QS World Ranking), from calcium signalling to cardiovascular pharmacology, neuropharmacology and medicinal chemistry.
In the first instance, applicants are strongly advised to visit the department's website to identify potential supervisors based on their research area of interest. Selecting the correct research area and discussing possible projects is a hugely important first step, so it is recommended that you contact potential supervisors directly to discuss possibilities before you apply online for a place on the course.
This programme aims to train students in the general areas of:
- Cardiovascular Pharmacology
- Medicinal Chemistry
Within each areas cutting-edge laboratory research techniques will be used including biophysics of ion channels, electrophysiology, microscopy, molecular biology, systems biology to a broad range of sub-disciplines including cell biology, calcium channels and signalling, chemical tools, medicinal chemistry, drug discovery, vascular pharmacology, circadian rhythms, rare diseases, lysosomal and sphingolipid disorders, neuronal circuits, synaptic plasticity and pharmacology, neuropsychopharmacology and molecular biology.
A typical day/week in each year of the course in the first two to three years will mostly focus on direct research and lab work, but will also require reading of the literature, attendance at departmental seminars, lab meetings and skills training. Once sufficient progress has been made, research will taper off and efforts will be put into data analysis and preparing a thesis.
On the DPhil, your research will be carried out at Oxford under the supervision of a member of academic staff. You will work within their research group on a project at the forefront of the subject.
If you are interested in joining the department as a DPhil student, you are strongly encouraged to look at the Department of Pharmacology's current research to help identify the most suitable area of research. Selecting the correct research project is a hugely important first step, so it is recommended that you contact potential supervisors directly to discuss possibilities before you apply online for a place on the course.
On starting as a probationary research student, besides regular monitoring undertaken by your supervisor and department, the University checks your progress twice - firstly, your transfer to DPhil status and secondly, the confirmation of your DPhil status.
DPhil candidates will be assigned to two supervisors, one acting as the main day-to-day research supervisor and the second as an additional mentor. The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Department of Pharmacology 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 Pharmacology.
In the case of students who require specific help to adjust to an academic programme or to a new range of skills, supervisors will work with them to ensure that they have additional support.
At the end of your time with the department you will produce a doctoral thesis that represents a significant advance in the field.
You will begin your course as a probationary research student (PRS) and near the end of the first year you will write a report to transfer to DPhil (PhD) status. To transfer your status, you must make a formal application which will include a research report and statement of future research plans. You will also take an independent assessment by two assessors. Continuation in the programme is subject to passing the Transfer of Status exam.
After eight terms of study you will need to apply formally to confirm your DPhil status. You will be required to present your on-going work in a formal context where it will be reviewed by two independent assessors. Continuation in the programme is subject to successfully completing the Confirmation of Status.
The length of the programme ranges from three to four years with the exact duration depending on the following factors as judged by your supervisor(s) and assessors:
- focus and rate of your research development and progress
- achievement of acceptable focus and scope of thesis
- publication quality research
- length of available funding
You will be given the opportunity to potentially become an expert in your research area and you will have demonstrated that you are an original and creative thinker capable of independent scientific work at a very high level.
According to the department's last survey, 100% of DPhil students have either gone on to continue their education or are in employment. Departmental academics follow their alumni with interest.
Examples of careers and employers on completion of the DPhil: postdoctoral research, the pharmaceutical industry, the Wellcome Trust, the biotechnology industry, graduate medical study, investment banking and Google UK.
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.
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
Entry requirements for entry in 2021-22
Proven and potential academic excellence
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 a biological or chemical science, but applications from high-calibre candidates with mathematical and physical science backgrounds are welcomed.
However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.
A previous master's is not a prerequisite for consideration for a place to study for a DPhil.
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
We do not seek Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- Research or work experience in your research area may be an advantage. Evidence of your employer's support is required, if applicable to your circumstances.
- It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.
- Previous publications are not a condition but would advantage an application.
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 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.
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.
Applicants will be considered for interview in shortlisting meetings are chaired by the Director of Graduate Studies and include supervisors from all applicants' chosen research areas. You will be assessed on your academic results, enthusiasm for and knowledge of the area of research requested for your DPhil study plus your academic references. Interviews are held in person and there will be a minimum of two interviewers. Skype (preferably with video) interviews will only be considered in exceptional circumstances.
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:
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.
The Department of Pharmacology offers excellent IT facilities and support.
You will be able to access virtually all relevant journals through the University library services. University libraries also stock many current textbooks relating to the study of Pharmacology.
The department is well-equipped with the latest scientific equipment including a transmission electron microscope, robots for protein crystallisation and structure determination, and facilities for proteomic studies, confocal imaging and molecular biology.
Experimental facilities and laboratories are available with study space for you.
The department offers up-to-date lecture and seminar room facilities. Meeting rooms are also available for social and networking events organised by the department and its students.
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 department's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2021-22
Annual Course fees
|Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,|
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
|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.
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 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.
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 following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Pharmacology:
How to apply
It is strongly recommend that you contact potential supervisors directly to discuss possible projects and laboratory space before you apply.
The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:
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.
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.
A maximum of 1,000 words
You should submit a detailed outline of your proposed research, written in English, covering areas such as the background to the research, methodology, expected results and the contribution to the field of learning. It is advisable to liaise with your chosen supervisor when submitting your proposal.
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 four 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.
Your proposal should focus on academic rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.
References/letters of recommendation:
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.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and your ability to work in a group. References should be academic.
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:
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds who meet the eligibility criteria;
- residents in a country listed as low-income by the World Bank (refer to the eligibility criteria);
- current Oxford graduate taught students applying for readmission to an eligible course; and
- additional applications to selected research courses that are closely related to your first application.
Step 5: Start your application using the relevant link 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.