About the course
This is a research degree leading to the award of a DPhil in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry. Many training opportunities are available throughout the course, but the focus of the course is the research project.
You will be admitted as a Probationary Research Student and will join a research group supervised by one or more members of the Department of Chemistry, sometimes in collaboration with other departments. During the first year, in addition to starting work on your research, you will be encouraged to follow training courses chosen from the vast number offered by the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences (MPLS) Division Graduate School, and it is recommended that you attend at least three of these. A quarterly report on your progress is submitted by your supervisor throughout the course.
At the end of the first year you will undergo a Transfer of Status assessment, which is to ensure that you have the potential to gain a doctorate. This assessment will be made on the basis of a report and oral examination.
Research proceeds with quarterly reporting throughout the next two years, and there is the opportunity to follow further courses during this period. By the end of the third year you must pass Confirmation of Status, which is to ensure that you are on track to complete the thesis within a reasonable time.
The degree is examined by thesis and oral examination by two examiners, one of whom is normally from Oxford and one from elsewhere.
Most alumni from the DPhil in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry remain in chemistry, some in the educational sector, and some go into industry, particularly including the computer industry. There is a wide variety of other destinations, including scientific writers, patent attorneys, government and the civil service, and a few go into financial services.
The department runs an annual careers conference for graduate students and the careers service offers a wide variety of support, including CV workshops. The department also hosts a large number of visits from prospective employers, where students can find out more information. There is an alumni officer, who keeps in touch with graduates, and the department runs a number of social and scientific events for them.
Other courses in this area
- MSc by Research in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- DPhil in Inorganic Chemistry
- Inorganic Chemistry for Future Manufacturing (EPSRC CDT)
- DPhil in Organic Chemistry
- DPhil in Chemical Biology
- Synthesis for Biology and Medicine (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training)
Changes to the course
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. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.
Entry requirements for entry in 2019-20
Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:
1. Academic ability
Proven and potential academic excellence
Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in a subject relevant to the proposed research. Normally this will be a chemistry degree, but degrees in other physical sciences or in a biological science may be suitable.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.6 out of 4.0.
However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.
A previous master's degree (either an integrated master's degree or standalone) is preferred but is not required.
If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Applicants with substantial professional experience are welcome.
Other appropriate indicators will include:
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(s)
Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.
The criteria for shortlisting are academic merit, references and motivation. Typically the interview lasts 30 minutes and it may include discussion on your research interests and subject-related questions.
Prior publications are not expected but may help to indicate your aptitude for research.
2. English language requirement
Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the standard level required by the University.
3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places
The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- The ability of the Department of Chemistry to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work
- Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.
The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:
- The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Department of Chemistry 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 Chemistry.
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, maternity leave or change in employment.
4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties
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.
Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.
Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
6. Other information
Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.
In the case of students who require specific help to adjust to an academic programme or to a new range of skills, the supervisor will work with them to ensure that they have additional support.
Students are supervised by some of the country’s most gifted research chemists, many of whom have world-class reputations. Graduate students work in an environment which encourages and inspires them to acquire and develop a wide range of communication, study, and research skills.
Workspace will be related to individual circumstances. If undertaking experimental work, you will be provided with space in a laboratory with access to all the required equipment. If undertaking theoretical research, you will have shared office space.
You will have access to the Department of Chemistry IT support staff, to the Radcliffe Science Library and other university libraries, and centrally provided electronic resources, technical workshops and glass workshops. Experimental facilities are available as appropriate to the research topic. The provision of other resources specific to your project should be agreed with your supervisor as a part of the planning stages of the agreed project.
There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.
For students applying to programmes within the MPLS Division at Oxford, Research Council and other funding opportunities available, subject to eligibility. These opportunities are included in the Fees, funding and scholarship search.
You may also be interested in departmental funding opportunities. Further details can be found on the department's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2019-20
Annual Course fees
|Home/EU (including Islands)||£7,665|
The fees shown above are the annual course fees for this course, for entry in the stated academic year.
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. You may have seen separate figures in the past for tuition fees and college fees. We have now combined these into a single figure.
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.
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.
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 2019-20 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,058 and £1,643 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 2019-20, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.
The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry:
- Balliol College
- Brasenose College
- Campion Hall
- Christ Church
- Corpus Christi College
- Exeter College
- Hertford College
- Jesus College
- Keble College
- Lady Margaret Hall
- Linacre College
- Lincoln College
- Magdalen College
- Merton College
- New College
- Oriel College
- Pembroke College
- The Queen's College
- St Anne's College
- St Catherine's College
- St Cross College
- St Edmund Hall
- St Hilda's College
- St Hugh's College
- St John's College
- St Peter's College
- Somerville College
- Trinity College
- University College
- Wadham College
- Wolfson College
- Worcester College
How to apply
You are very strongly encouraged to make contact with prospective supervisors before applying, in order to work out whether this course is the right choice and the likely availability of funding.
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.
Statement of purpose:
Up to one page or 1,000 words
Rather than a research proposal, you should provide a statement of purpose.
Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in.
Please provide an indication of the area of your proposed research and supervisor(s) in your statement.
This will be assessed for the coherence of the statement; evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study; the ability to present a reasoned case in English; and commitment to the subject.
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.
References should generally be academic though a maximum of one professional reference is acceptable where you have completed an industrial placement or worked in a full-time position.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and ability to work in a group.
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.