DPhil in Surgical Sciences | University of Oxford
A student working in a lab
PhD student working on surgical sciences in a laboratory
(Image Credit: Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences)

DPhil in Surgical Sciences

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 our Surgical Grand Round series and Research Away Day. 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.

Supervision

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.

Assessment

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.

Graduate destinations

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 (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.

All graduate courses offered by the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences

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 an area of relevance to your research project.

However, entrance is very competitive and most 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.

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.

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 (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.  

Applicants who are shortlisted are interviewed as part of the admissions process. If you are located in the UK, this will take place in person; for applicants outside the UK, the interview will take place by telephone or Microsoft Teams (preferably with video).

You will be asked to outline your educational background, interest in the degree, and how this applies to your future plans. You will also be asked to make a five-minute presentation on your research proposal, a previous research project or other relevant material. The interview will last approximately thirty minutes, and there will normally be a minimum of two academics on the interview panel.

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

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 or assessment schemes 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 Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), 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.

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

Fee status

Annual Course fees

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

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

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 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.

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. 

The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Surgical Sciences:

How to apply

Informal procedural enquiries should be made to the Graduate Studies Administrator in the first instance. It is strongly recommended that you identify and directly contact a potential supervisor(s) before you apply although it is not a prerequisite to applying.

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:
A maximum of 1,500 words

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.

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.

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.

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 plan your time to submit your application well in advance.

Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.

Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).

Application GuideApply

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