DPhil in Primary Health Care | University of Oxford
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DPhil in Primary Health Care

About the course

The Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences is the top-ranked centre for academic primary care in the UK and leads world-class research and training to rethink the way healthcare is delivered in general practice and the community, encompassing may aspects of public health provision, both across the UK and globally.

Integrating evidence and innovation, the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences' main research focus is on the prevention, early diagnosis and management of common illnesses.

The department has methodological strengths in qualitative and applied research; randomised trials; analysis of big data; and evidence synthesis. Much of its research is interdisciplinary and strongly focused on producing benefits for healthcare systems, for the population and for patients.

The department has research groups that are involved in developing and testing complex interventions to prevent non-communicable disease, enhancing self-management of chronic conditions, changing practitioner behaviour and testing interventions for the optimal management of infectious disease. 

You can find a list of potential projects on the department's website (see Further Information and Enquiries). If you are interested in one of the listed projects please contact the supervisor directly. You are welcome to come up with your own research project. If this is the case, the department's website also provides an overview of the research conducted and the researchers in the department (see Further Information and Enquiries). Contact the supervisor(s) that you identify as being most suitable for your proposed project.

Admission to the DPhil is highly competitive. The DPhil programme provides you with a strong training environment and a broad range of research areas and supervisor expertise. Previous research topics (student background in square brackets) include:

  • The evaluation and expansion of methodologies relating to the reporting and analyses of intermediate test results: improving the clinical utility of diagnostic research [statistician]
  • Targeted prevention and management of cardiovascular risk in low and middle income countries; an implementation intervention for cardiovascular risk scoring in Kenya [nurse/midwife]
  • Antibiotic prescribing and resistance in primary care: implications for intervention [GP]
  • Optimising the management of hypertension in pharmacies [pharmacist]
  • Management of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy in the postpartum period [obstetrician]
  • Using conversation analysis to evaluate and design a brief weight loss intervention in primary care [anthropologist]
  • Self-management of weight in adults with overweight and obesity: characterising and evaluating cognitive and behavioural strategies [behavioural scientist]
  • Weight loss as a predictor of cancer in primary care [GP]
  • The optimisation of HbA1c testing in UK primary care [statistician]
  • An exploration of the information and decision support needs of people with multiple sclerosis [social scientist]
  • Developing and evaluating behavioural interventions to reduce meat consumption [psychologist]
  • Supporting successful self-management strategies for people living with chronic pain who have been excluded from pain programmes [physiotherapist]
  • Developing and testing an intervention to reduce salt intake [public health]

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences 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 Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences.

As a minimum, students are expected to meet with their supervisors at least three times per term. Most supervisors meet students at least fortnightly in the first few terms, and this may continue throughout the studentship according to the needs of the student and the project.

Assessment

All students will be initially admitted to the status of Probationer Research Student (PRS). Within a maximum of four term as a full-time PRS student or eight terms as a full-time PRS student, you will be expected to apply for transfer of status from Probationer Research Student to DPhil status.

A successful transfer of status from PRS to DPhil status will require satisfactory progress, submission of a transfer report of up to 5,000 words, and completion of a viva voce assessment. Students who are successful at transfer will also be expected to apply for and gain confirmation of DPhil status to show that your work continues to be on track. This will need to be done within nine terms of admission for full-time students and eighteen terms of admission for part-time students.

Both milestones normally involve an interview with two assessors (other than your supervisor) and therefore provide important experience for the final oral examination.

Full-time students will be expected to submit a substantial, original thesis of up to 50,000 words after three or, at most, four years from the date of admission. If you are studying part-time, you be required to submit your thesis after six or, at most, eight years from the date of admission. To be successfully awarded a DPhil in Primary Health Care you will need to defend your thesis orally (viva voce) in front of two appointed examiners.

Graduate destinations

Many of the department's graduates have developed flourishing careers as researchers in the department. Other alumni from the DPhil have gone on to research careers; lectureships or leadership positions in academic departments around the world, including primary care, public health and as methodologists in a range of other departments. Others take up careers in health care leadership or public policy.

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.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.

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.

Entry requirements for entry in 2021-22

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:

  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in a relevant subject.

However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent. 

A previous master's degree is desirable and nearly all successful applicants have a good master’s degree.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0. However, most successful applicants have a GPA of at least 3.7 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

  • Evidence of a prior interest in the area of research proposed would be beneficial to your application.
  • It is not essential to have a history of previous publications but it would be to your advantage if you do.

Further guidance

You are encouraged to communicate with the department in order to refine your application, especially where scholarships are involved.

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.

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. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.57.0

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

110Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*191185
C2 Proficiency191185

*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.

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 normally held as part of the admissions process.

Interviews for applications received by the early January deadline will take place during the first two weeks of February.

Applications will be shortlisted based on the above indicators. Applicants who are shortlisted are normally interviewed as part of the admissions process; there will be a minimum of three academics on the interview panel, including a potential supervisor. During the interview, you will be asked to make a brief presentation followed by questions from the panel.

Interviews will normally be conducted in person but can be conducted online if necessary.

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

The Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences was established in October 1998 (as the Department of Primary Health Care) with the appointment of a foundation chair in general practice and its research was judged to be the strongest in the UK in the assessments of research quality in 2008, 2014 and 2018. It provides a strong multi-disciplinary training environment and a full programme of academic support and good IT facilities. It has strong links with other epidemiological and community based research groups in the University and also with local general practices that participate in both teaching and research.

Shared office space will be provided in the department for you.

You will have access to the department’s IT support, and to the University library services such as the Radcliffe Science LibraryCairns Library and Knowledge Centre at Old Road Campus.  Other facilities specific to your research will be discussed with your supervisor as you plan your project.

You will be able to attend any seminars run by the department and any other relevant academic seminars elsewhere in the university. You are expected to participate in the DPhil seminar series run in the department.

Funding

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.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2021-22

Full-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£8,290
Overseas (including EU)£27,460

Part-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£4,144
Overseas (including EU)£13,731

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 detailed fee status information and the Oxford and the EU webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU.

Additional information

Full-time study

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.

Part-time study

Please note that you are required to attend in Oxford for a minimum of 30 days each year, and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. Also, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur further 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 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.

If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.

College preference

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. 

How to apply

You should contact a potential supervisor(s) before you apply. Initial contact should be made with the Postgraduate Training Administrator using the contact details provided on this page in order to facilitate contact with supervisors.

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.

Personal statement:
A maximum of 1,000 words

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.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

Your statement will be assessed for your previous research experience, including methodological skills and evidence of your commitment to the topic and to continued study.

You should include the research area (s) that you are interested in, your current knowledge and outline topics for a DPhil. You should also include the names of at least one, and up to three, potential supervisors.

Written work:
A maximum of 500 words

An abstract from a published paper where you are the first author, or a summary of an undergraduate or master’s dissertation, written in English, with a maximum limit of 500 words.

It is not important that the written work relates closely to the proposed area of study. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

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. Your references should be academic - unfortunately, professional references are not acceptable.

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:

Step 5: Start your application using the relevant button 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.

Application GuideApply - Full time Apply - Part time

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