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 other primary care settings, both across the UK and globally. 

Applicants are strongly advised to visit the Medical Sciences Graduate School website to help them identify the most suitable course and supervisors.

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 illness. 

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 the NHS, 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. 

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:

  • Rhe 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]

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 primary care departments around the world.

Other courses in this area

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 relevant subject.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree, a GPA of at least 3.7 out of 4.0, or the equivalent.

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

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.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

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(s)

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, only one of whom can be a potential supervisor. During the interview, you will be asked to make a brief presentation based on your research proposal; this will be followed by questions from the panel.

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

Publications

It is not essential to have a history of previous publications but it would be to your advantage if you do.

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.

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher 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 Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences 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 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.

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.

5. Assessors

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.

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

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 and 2014. 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 groupings 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

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.

Full funding opportunities are available for all applicants to this course, whatever your nationality. The Medical Sciences Graduate School website provides further details, as well as information about external funding opportunities.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2019-20

Full-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£7,730
Overseas£23,950

Part-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£3,865
Overseas£11,975

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

Research proposal:
Two pages

The research proposal should cover areas such as background to research, aims, methodology, expected results and contribution to the field of learning. 

The overall page count should include any bibliography. The proposal should be written in English.

This will be assessed for:

  • the coherence of the proposal
  • the originality of the project
  • evidence of 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 (maximum four years).

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.

Written work:
One essay of 2,000 words

A first author publication, academic essay or other writing sample from your most recent qualification, written in English, is required. An extract of the requisite length from longer work is also permissible.

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.

This will be assessed for a comprehensive understanding of the subject area; an understanding of problems in the area; an ability to construct and defend an argument; your powers of analysis; and your powers of expression.

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: 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 - Full time Apply - Part time

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