About the course
The DPhil in Surgical Sciences is a full-time doctoral programme offering research training across a range of scientific areas for both clinical and non- clinical graduates within an academic surgery department.
Hosted by the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, the DPhil in Surgical Sciences is three to four years in length.
Students are admitted directly onto a research project working with one of the department’s many principal investigators (PIs). Usually candidates agree upon a project with their supervisor, and in the first instance we strongly encourage you to visit the department’s website to identify your area of interest and contact a supervisor before applying. Research undertaken within the department covers many areas including fields such as cancer, immunology, and neurosciences, and specialities such as patient safety, transplantation, urology and vascular surgery
You will be integrated into your supervisor’s research group, and will have the opportunity to network with and present to the wider department through events such as our Surgical Grand Round series, Research Away Day and Student Symposium. Normally your supervisory team will consist of your main supervisor along with at least one additional co-supervisor (who may be based outside of the University), with support also available from the Graduate Studies team and college advisors. Typically, students should treat their studies as a full-time occupation of at least 40 hours per week, and should be available during core working hours.
The Medical Sciences Division's skills training programme offers opportunities for you to develop your research and professional skills over the duration of your DPhil. It is recommended that you spend at least ten days a year on your graduate skills training.
You will work closely with an academic supervisor who oversees your studies. The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Nuffield Department of Surgical 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 Surgical Sciences.
You will typically work as part of a research team and supervision may include co-supervision from other collaborating groups or labs, both within the department or from other departments across the university or external to Oxford. 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.
Students will meet with their supervisors on a regular basis, typically several times per week early in their studies and at least weekly or monthly later on. Students are also encouraged to submit regular termly reports on their progress throughout the degree.
All students will be initially admitted to the status of Probationer Research Student (PRS). Within a maximum of four terms as a PRS student you will be expected to apply for transfer of status from Probationer Research Student to DPhil status.
Students who are successful at transfer will also be expected to apply for and gain confirmation of DPhil status within nine terms of admission, to show that your work continues to be on track.
Both milestones normally involve an interview with two assessors (other than your supervisor) and therefore provide important experience for the final oral examination.
You will be expected to submit a substantial and original thesis of up to 50,000 words after three or, at most, four years from the date of admission. To be successfully awarded a DPhil in Surgical Sciences you will need to defend your thesis orally (viva voce) in front of two appointed examiners.
After successfully completing a DPhil in Surgical Sciences, research students typically progress to either postdoctoral research positions pursuing an academic career or, for clinically qualified individuals, to further clinical training and/or clinician-scientist posts.
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, 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.
Entry requirements for entry in 2024-25
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in an area of relevance to your proposed research project.
However, entrance is very competitive and many successful applicants have a first-class degree or equivalent international qualification.
A previous master’s degree is not required.
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 3.7 or above.
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, or experience of, the area of research proposed is likely to advantage an application.
- Publications are not required but may be an advantage.
English language proficiency
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.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
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.
Declaring 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.
You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.
Applicants who are shortlisted are interviewed as part of the admissions process. If you are located in the UK, this may take place in person or on Microsoft Teams (preferably with video); for applicants outside the UK, the interview will take place by Microsoft Teams.
During the interview, you will be asked to make a five to ten-minute presentation on your motivation for undertaking the degree. The interview will last approximately 45 minutes, and there will normally be a minimum of two academics on the interview panel.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading.
References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process. Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed.
Shortlisting and selection
Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:
- socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
- country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
- protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.
Initiatives to improve access to graduate study
This course is taking part in a continuing pilot programme to improve the selection procedure for graduate applications, in order to ensure that all candidates are evaluated fairly.
For this course, socio-economic data (where it has been provided in the application form) will be used to contextualise applications at the different stages of the selection process. Further information about how we use your socio-economic data can be found in our page about initiatives to improve access to graduate study.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
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.
Other factors governing whether places can be offered
The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
- the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
- minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.
Offer conditions for successful applications
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about offers and conditions.
In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also 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.
As a graduate research student at NDS you will have access to fully equipped and well-stocked laboratory facilities, office space, and seminar rooms. Workspace is related to individual circumstances: if you are undertaking experimental work you will be provided with bench space in a laboratory; if you are undertaking theoretical research you will have a shared office space.
Students have access to computers and IT support through the department, to all library facilities and available on-line resources of the University and other experimental facilities as appropriate. The provisions of other resources are specific to your project and should be agreed with your supervisor as part of the planning stages of the agreed project. You will also be given one-to-one specialist training in research and laboratory techniques as required for your project.
You will have access to seminars organised by the department or other departments within the University, individual research groups, or groups with a common area of interest. Some research groups within the department run research seminars that offer the opportunity to present your work and receive feedback from senior members of the department.
The University of Oxford and the Medical Sciences Division provide a rich environment of transferable skills suitable for both researchers and graduate students through the Medical Sciences Division Skills Portal and other resources. The University has established a Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL), which supports the development of research students who wish to follow an academic career, including training in teaching skills.
As a member of the department you are invited to and involved in various social events, which are either organised by the department or ad hoc by the students themselves.
Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences
The Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences (NDS) is the academic department of surgery at the University of Oxford. It hosts a multidisciplinary team of senior clinical academic surgeons, senior scientists, junior clinicians and scientists in training.
The Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences offers research training opportunities for both clinical and non-clinical graduate students. It has a growing number of full-time funded research student opportunities. Research undertaken within the NDS covers many areas including fields such as cancer, immunology, and neurosciences, and specialities such as patient safety, transplantation, urology and vascular surgery.
The graduate research programme within NDS provides a fully integrated training environment. You will be working closely with an academic supervisor who oversees your studies.
NDS also offers two graduate taught courses: the MSc in Integrated Immunology and the MSc in Surgical Science and Practice. The MSc in Surgical Science and Practice is offered jointly with the Department for Continuing Education.
The University expects to be able to offer over 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2024-25. 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 December or 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 any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:
Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the department's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2024-25
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Information about course fees
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 changes 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.
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 2024-25 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,345 and £1,955 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. The current economic climate and high national rate of inflation make it very hard to estimate potential changes to the cost of living over the next few years. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2024-25, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of around 5% each year – although this rate may vary depending on the national economic situation. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
Students enrolled on this course will belong to both a department/faculty and a college. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 43 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as societies and permanent private halls (PPHs).
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. Before deciding, we suggest that you read our brief introduction to the college system at Oxford and our advice about expressing a college preference. For some courses, the department may have provided some additional advice below to help you decide.
The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Surgical Sciences:
Before you apply
We strongly recommend you consult the Medical Sciences Graduate School's research themes to identify the most suitable course and supervisor.
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance.
Application fee waivers
An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:
- applicants from low-income countries;
- refugees and displaced persons;
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and
- applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.
You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.
Readmission for current Oxford graduate taught students
If you're currently studying for an Oxford graduate taught course and apply to this course with no break in your studies, you may be eligible to apply to this course as a readmission applicant. The application fee will be waived for an eligible application of this type. Check whether you're eligible to apply for readmission.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
Informal procedural enquiries should be made to the Graduate Studies Administrator in the first instance. Candidates are expected to identify and directly contact a potential supervisor(s), to discuss the proposed area of research, before applying.
Completing your application
You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents.
For this course, the application form will include questions that collect information that would usually be included in a CV/résumé. You should not upload a separate document. If a separate CV/résumé is uploaded, it will be removed from your application.
If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.
Proposed field and title of research project
Under the 'Field and title of research project' please enter your proposed field or area of research if this is known. If the department has advertised a specific research project that you would like to be considered for, please enter the project title here instead.
You should not use this field to type out a full research proposal. You will be able to upload your research supporting materials separately if they are required (as described below).
Under 'Proposed supervisor name' enter the name of the academic(s) who you would like to supervise your research.
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.
Academic references are required and professional references are not normally accepted. You should nominate referees who are capable of providing an informed view of your recent academic ability.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and ability to work individually as well as in a group.
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.
Statement of purpose/personal statement and research proposal:
Statement a maximum of 500 words, proposal a maximum of 1,500 words
Your statement of purpose/personal statement and research proposal should be submitted as a single, combined document with clear subheadings. Please ensure that the word counts for each section are clearly visible in the document.
Statement of purpose/personal statement
You should provide a statement of your research interests, in English, describing how your background and research interests relate to the programme. If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
The statement should focus on academic or research-related achievements and interests rather than personal achievements and interests.
This will be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying;
- evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study;
- the ability to present a reasoned case in English;
- capacity for sustained and focused work; and
- understanding of problems in the area and ability to construct and defend an argument.
It will be normal for students’ ideas and goals to change in some ways as they undertake their studies, but your personal statement will enable you to demonstrate your current interests and aspirations.
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.
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.
This will be assessed for:
- 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 (normally within 3 years to a maximum of 4 years)
- commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
- preliminary knowledge of research techniques.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.