DPhil in Philosophy | University of Oxford
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DPhil in Philosophy

About the course

The Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) in Philosophy is a three- to four-year full-time research programme whereby you undertake a doctoral level research project under the guidance of your supervisor(s). This course is not available in part-time mode of study and is not offered via distance learning.

The doctoral work culminates in a 75,000-word thesis that is defended orally in front of two appointed examiners (viva voce). Satisfactory progress through the DPhil is checked in the form of a mini-viva voce taking place at the end of the first and second year of study.

The primary aim of the faculty’s DPhil in Philosophy is to prepare you for an academic career in philosophy.

The Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee recommends progression from Oxford's BPhil in Philosophy to the DPhil course in view of the opportunity it offers to study a wide range of philosophical topics as well as to focus on a narrower field of research interest. Students proceeding to the DPhil programme via the BPhil will normally write a DPhil thesis which is an expansion of their BPhil thesis and may be able to incorporate the full contents of their 30,000-word BPhil thesis into the 75,000-word DPhil thesis. However, this is not a formal requirement; sometimes the BPhil thesis topic is not suitable for expansion into a DPhil thesis, or you may wish to write your DPhil thesis on a different topic.

Each year, some students are admitted to the DPhil in Philosophy from programmes other than the BPhil in Philosophy. These students will enter the DPhil initially as Probationary Research Students (PRS) from appropriate programmes at Oxford or elsewhere. Typically, these students will have already completed substantial graduate work in philosophy, usually equivalent or nearly equivalent to that required for the BPhil. Students may also progress from the Faculty of Philosophy's specialised MSt programmes - the MSt in Philosophy of Physics, the MSt in Ancient Philosophy and the MSt in Practical Ethics

Normally in the third term after enrolment onto the DPhil as a PRS student, you are required to complete a transfer of status from PRS to full DPhil status. Two appointed examiners will interview you on your two-page thesis outline, which explains the intended line of argument or contribution to the subject, and a piece of written work of approximately 5,000 words in the area and philosophical style of the proposed thesis which is typically, though not necessarily, a draft chapter of the thesis.

If you progressed from the MSt in Philosophy of Physics course, you are required to write a 20,000-word thesis during your year as a PRS, as your MSt does not have a thesis element. 

Normally at the end of the second year after you enrol as a PRS student, you will be required to apply for confirmation of your DPhil status. This application will involve an interview by one or two appointed examiners on your two-page thesis outline, comprising both a reasoned statement of the nature of, and some detail on, the proposed thesis together with a provisional table of contents, and a 5,000-word piece of written work intended as a part of the thesis, in final or near-final draft.

If you progress from the BPhil, you will enter the DPhil without being required to pass a year as a PRS and as a result you will normally apply for confirmation of DPhil status in the third term after enrolment onto the DPhil and, according to the Examination Regulations at time of publication, you will only have six terms (instead of the usual nine terms) of fee liability for your DPhil.

You should have regular one-to-one tuition sessions with your supervisor(s). These will normally happen twice per term but in some terms, especially at the start of the degree and during the final stages of the thesis, the number of sessions may be increased. You are not required to attend any taught graduate classes as part of your DPhil degree, but you are encouraged to participate in lectures, classes, seminars and other educational opportunities offered throughout the university as relevant to your topic of study.

The course has no fieldwork, industrial placement or year abroad element, but you may decide to attend conferences, workshops or research training elsewhere.

You may attend any graduate or undergraduate classes, seminars and lectures in and outside of the Faculty of Philosophy which are of interest to you, provided that those classes, seminars and lectures are open to you.

MLitt in Philosophy

The Masters of Letters (MLitt) in Philosophy is awarded on the basis of a thesis of maximum 50,000 words for the MLitt. In practice, applicants are admitted for the MLitt only in exceptional cases, and few students submit a thesis for the MLitt. The MLitt is more often an exit award for DPhil students who fail or withdraw from the DPhil degree but meet the requirements for the MLitt.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Faculty of Philosophy 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 Faculty of Philosophy.

Graduate destinations

The DPhil in Philosophy's primary aim is to prepare students for an academic career in philosophy. Most DPhil graduates do indeed secure academic posts, as witnessed by the faculty's placement record.

The faculty provides a placement scheme to help students seeking jobs within philosophy. Users of the placement scheme may ask their referees to send reference letters directly to the faculty where they will be held on file and sent out to universities or other academic institutions at the student’s request. The placement scheme is normally available to alumni until they have secured a tenured post.

The faculty's Placement Officer helps job applicants with the preparation of their CVs, provides advice about the presentation of material in an application dossier, and arranges practice interviews. The Placement Officer also holds a yearly introductory placement seminar, compulsory to those wishing to make use of the placement scheme. Also, students are invited to give talks based on material they propose to use in their writing samples or job talks, with an opportunity for comment and discussion. Each December, it is intended that the Placement Officer attends the Eastern Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association to support candidates who have interviews there.

The faculty also runs an email mailing list for members of the placement scheme, which will be used to pass on job tips and news of vacancies.

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. 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 sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Other courses you may wish to consider

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 faculty

Law DPhil
Theology DPhil
Politics DPhil
Politics (Political Theory) MPhil
Philosophical Theology MPhil
Philosophical Theology MSt

All graduate courses offered by the Faculty of Philosophy

Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:

  • the BPhil in Philosophy from the University of Oxford with a distinction or near-distinction grade, or an equivalent national or international qualification; and
  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in philosophy or a closely-related degree which involved substantial engagement with philosophy. However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.6 out of 4.0. However, most successful applicants have a GPA of 3.7.

If your degree is not from the UK or another country mentioned 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

You are not required to have any publications but these may be an advantage as admission to the course is very competitive.

Further guidance

Applicants who achieve a distinction in the BPhil in Philosophy, the MSt in Philosophy of Physics, the MSt in Ancient Philosophy or the MSt in Practical Ethics are eligible for progression to the DPhil, provided that the faculty's Graduate Studies Committee is satisfied that their proposed thesis topic and outline indicate that they can be adequately supervised by members of the Philosophy Faculty. Students who pass the BPhil in Philosophy, the MSt in Philosophy of Physics, the MSt in Ancient Philosophy or the MSt in Practical Ethics without a distinction may be admitted to the DPhil at the Committee’s discretion.

All applications are assessed by the faculty's Graduate Studies Committee at the same time, after the application deadline has passed, and offers are made on a strictly comparative basis.

Applicants should not apply with more than one distinct research proposal.

English language requirement

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement.

Detailed requirements - higher level

The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are:

IELTS Academic7.5Minimum 7.0 per component
TOEFL iBT110

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced191Minimum 185 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency191Minimum 185 per component

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. For more information about the English language test requirement, visit the Application Guide

Supporting documents 

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.

Supervision

Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

Admissions panels and assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

After an offer is made

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements: 

Financial Declaration

If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.

Disclosure of criminal convictions

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.

Resources

Oxford is one of the world’s great centres for philosophy, and is widely recognised to be amongst the best. More than 150 professional philosophers work in the University and its colleges, between them covering a vast range of subjects within philosophy, and many are international leaders in their fields. 

Many philosophy subjects at Oxford are ranked at or near the top in the most recent Philosophical Gourmet Report’s breakdown of programmes by speciality (2017-18): metaphysics, epistemology, philosophical logic, philosophy of language, philosophy of religion, applied ethics, normative ethics, political philosophy, philosophy of law, philosophy of art, philosophy of physics, philosophy of mathematics, ancient philosophy, 18th century early modern philosophy and 20th century continental philosophy.

The Philosophy Centre in the Radcliffe Humanities building on Woodstock Road acts as a focal point for the faculty’s activities and contains, as well as lecturing and teaching space, a graduate study room and a graduate common room. A wireless network runs throughout the Philosophy Centre.

The Philosophy Centre also contains the department's library, with over 25,000 volumes, a collection of approximately 80 periodicals, online access to many philosophical databases, and librarians trained in the specific bibliographic needs of philosophers. Many college libraries also have extensive holdings in philosophy.

Each term, many graduate classes and research seminars are organised by faculty members in which graduate students are full and important participants.

Graduates are encouraged to organise their own seminars and reading groups, and they also run two societies: one invites distinguished speakers from the UK and around the world, while another gives graduates the opportunity to present papers to a graduate audience.

Each year there is an Oxford Graduate Philosophy Conference, in which most graduate philosophy students participate in some way.

The faculty runs a teaching scheme, lecturing scheme and a Graduate Teaching Register with the aim of providing teaching experience for those DPhil students who intend to pursue an academic career. In the case of the teaching scheme and Graduate Teaching Register, you will do a certain amount of teaching and marking under the guidance of a college fellow. If you are accepted into the lecturing scheme, you will be allowed to give an undergraduate lecture course of your own choice and design, consisting of four one-hour lectures. 

Funding

There are over 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£7,970
Overseas£22,050

Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.

Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Additional information

The Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee has a research and travel fund for graduate students to which students may apply for assistance with, for example, the costs of attending conferences or workshops. BPhil and MSt students may only apply for funding if they are presenting a paper. Probationary Research Students and DPhil students are entitled to apply for funding to attend a workshop, conference, etc, whether or not they are presenting a paper.

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.

Living costs

In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 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 2020-21, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

How to apply

You are encouraged to check whether there are potential supervisors for your proposed area of research at Oxford and indicate in your application if there are particular faculty members you would like to work with.

Please note that it can never be guaranteed that your proposed supervisor will be assigned to you, even if you receive prior informal approval from that supervisor.

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

CV/résumé

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Research proposal and personal statement:
Proposal of up to 2,000 words and statement of up to 500 words

Your research proposal and personal statement should be submitted as a single, combined document with clear sub-headings.

Research proposal

Your research proposal should comprise 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.

The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for:

  • coherence 
  • originality 
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course (normally three years and a maximum of four years)
  • commitment to the subject
  • 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, but you should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at the time of your application.

You may wish to make reference to your academic achievements, interests and aspirations and the relevance of the course to your future career development plans.

Personal statement

You should also submit a one-page personal statement in English explaining your motivation for applying for graduate study at Oxford, in which you may wish to consider the following questions:

  • why are you applying to this particular programme of study?
  • what relevant academic and/or research experience do you have?
  • which areas of study within the subject interest you?
  • why would you be an excellent candidate for this course?
  • how does this course fit in with your future career plans?

This will be assessed for evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study.

Your statement should focus on philosophy, rather than personal, extra-curricular achievements and interests.

Written work:
One essay of 4,000 to 5,000 words

You should submit an academic essay on a subject related to your proposed research topic. 

The essay should be typed or word-processed in English and must be clearly marked with your name and the date of composition. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for:

  • clarity and accuracy of thought and writing
  • intellectual independence
  • willingness and ability to reach conclusions by reasoned argument rather than assertion
  • a critical and attentive reading of any texts discussed
  • understanding of important philosophical ideas and theories
  • if required by the topic of the work, appropriate technical skills.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally 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.

Three academic references are usually required. However, if you have been out of education for a long time, or if you have substantial relevant working experience, then a maximum of one professional reference may replace an academic reference provided that it speaks to your ability to undertake philosophy studies at graduate level.

Your references should support outstanding academic achievement, great intellectual ability, strong motivation, and independence of thought.

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Carefully read the entry requirements on this course page to make sure you meet all the criteria.

Step 2: Check above what documents are required and prepare to apply by reading our Application Guide.

Step 3: Apply as soon as possible. Consult the Application Guide for more information about deadlines.

Application GuideApply

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