DPhil in Theology and Religion | University of Oxford
Studying in the library
Studying the humanities in the library
(Image Credit: Yunli Song / Graduate Photography Competition)

DPhil in Theology and Religion

About the course

The DPhil in Theology and Religion is the research degree for graduate students in the Faculty of Theology and Religion. It involves extensive independent study and the opportunity to undertake and present original research at an advanced level. 

This degree offers access to a wide variety of experienced specialists in many different fields of theology and religion, with students developing an extensive range of research skills, and expertise in your chosen field of research.

Students admitted to the DPhil will most often have acquired one of the Faculty of Theology and Religion's MSt or MPhil degrees within their area of research, ie theology, religious studies or another closely-related field. Students in possession of an equivalent master's degree from another institution may apply to have this requirement waived. The faculty considers such waivers on a case-by-case basis and may recommend applicants to consider an MSt or MPhil degree in their initial application to the University.

All DPhil students are assigned a supervisor or supervisors, who will provide support and guidance to help them develop their ideas, direction and a programme of research.

DPhil students become part of an active and vibrant community of graduate research students within the Faculty of Theology and Religion. DPhil students are encouraged to attend and contribute to a wide range of research seminars, workshops and conferences held within the faculty and across the wider Humanities Division. They are also encouraged to attend and participate in the faculty’s professional development sessions, preparatory teaching workshops and graduate teaching training scheme.

DPhil students join the faculty as a Probationary Research Student (PRS) and apply for 'Transfer of Status' usually within their first year. There is a further assessment of their work and progress in their third year, known as 'Confirmation of Status'. The degree is awarded on the successful completion of the research dissertation and an oral examination, commonly called ‘the viva’ (viva voce).

Part-time study

Please note that part-time study requires prior arrangement with a potential supervisor about time spent in Oxford. Part-time students are required to attend for a minimum of thirty days of university-based work each year. Some attendance in term-time is normally required. The DPhil in Theology and Religion is not available by online or distance learning.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Faculty of Theology and Religion 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 Faculty of Theology and Religion. In such circumstances, a second internal supervisor may be appointed.

Graduate destinations

Students with graduate qualifications in theology and religion enter a variety of careers. The vast majority of Oxford DPhil students proceed to academic posts in major research universities, liberal arts colleges or church seminaries. Many go on to work for charities and for development, non-profit organisations and think tanks. Some, however, enter pastoral ministry, management consultancy, the media and archival work.

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. 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 sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Other courses you may wish to consider

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 2020-21

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 master's degree in a relevant subject; and
  • a first-class or strong upper second-class (67% or above) undergraduate degree with honours in theology, religious studies or another closely-related field.

Students admitted to the DPhil will most often have acquired either the faculty's MSt or its MPhil degree within their area of research. Students in possession of an equivalent master's degree from another institution may apply to have this requirement waived. The faculty considers such waivers on a case-by-case basis, and may recommend applicants to consider an MSt or MPhil degree in their initial application to the University.

Entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class undergraduate degree and a grade of 67% or above in a relevant master's degree.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA normally sought is 3.8 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

Other examination results may be submitted alongside degree qualifications. If offered, the minimum Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores normally sought are 160 in verbal reasoning, 5.0 in analytical writing and 150 in quantitative reasoning.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

  • Dependent on your chosen project, you may be required to demonstrate that you have reached a sufficient level in a language or languages relevant to your study such as Hebrew, Greek, Latin or Arabic.
  • Research or work experience in areas of theology may be an advantage, if it demonstrates that you have transferable skills which may be of use during your studies.
  • Publications are not required.

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.

Detailed requirements - higher level

The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are:

IELTS Academic7.5Minimum 7.0 per component
TOEFL iBT110

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced191Minimum 185 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency191Minimum 185 per component

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. For more information about the English language test requirement, visit the Application Guide

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 not normally held as part of the admissions process. However, all applicants who are offered a place will be given a short 20-minute interview via telephone or Skype to gain a better sense of their interests and to facilitate the appointment of an appropriate supervisor. Interviews will normally concern the scope of the applicant's proposal.

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 Faculty of Theology and Religion is based in the Gibson Building, which is situated in the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter on the Woodstock Road. Facilities there include teaching, seminar and lecture rooms, a graduate common room, graduate workspace and faculty administration. The Philosophy and Theology Faculties Library (PTFL) is located near by on the ground floor of the Radcliffe Humanities building.

Libraries

Oxford has a wide and rich range of library resources for Theology and Religion graduates. You will not only have access to the resources of your college and faculty, but also the Bodleian Libraries. This has been a legal deposit for 400 years, which means it can claim a copy of any book or journal published in the UK or Ireland.

The Philosophy and Theology Faculties Library (PTFL) is located in the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter on the same site as the Gibson Building. The PTFL is a lending library primarily for staff and students of the two faculties, in support of research, teaching and learning. It has a collection of c. 30,000 books for loan on open access, with a further 20,000 available by request from remote store. It is also a delivery location for books from the Bodleian stacks for reference use in the library. Many books are now also available in electronic format; some are downloadable for 24-hour loan.

Languages

The Oxford University Language Centre (OULC) at 12 Woodstock Road offers excellent facilities and free courses to members of the University who wish to learn or improve a foreign language relevant to their academic work – or indeed for their general interest and education. Courses are offered in Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), French, Georgian, German, Modern Greek, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Welsh, and English as a Foreign Language (EFL). Most courses consist of two single fifty-minute classes each week or one double class. 

Courses begin in October and continue throughout the academic year. If a course is required for study or research, there is a priority enrolment scheme.

Funding

There are over 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Full-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£10,145
Overseas£23,505

Part-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£5,075
Overseas£11,755

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 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 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 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 2020-21, 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 are strongly encouraged to familiarise yourself with the research interests and expertise available in the faculty prior to application. You may contact the subject coordinator of the relevant research grouping prior to application to discuss the viability of your proposed project and whether supervision may be available should your application be successful.

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:
Around two pages

The research proposal is a crucial element of a DPhil application. It should communicate, not so much your personal autobiography, as your academic commitment and seriousness. Assessors are looking to be persuaded that you know the field in which you propose to conduct research, are committed to spending several years working in it, understand what study in Oxford could offer to you, and have considered the aptness of Oxford’s resources to the proposed research.

Content

Each proposal will be read and carefully evaluated by specialists, and should contain an outline of the research you plan to undertake and what you intend to achieve. 

All proposals should be submitted in English. A selective bibliography may be included and is not included in the overall page count.

You should explain, within your proposal:

  • the specific field of theology and religion in which you propose to conduct research, ie study of religions, Old Testament, New Testament, history of Christianity, patristics, historical and systematic theology, philosophical theology, Christian and religious ethics, science and religion;
  • how you intend to structure and undertake your research;
  • the questions, problems, issues and debates with which you expect to engage;
  • how you see the proposed research building on your previous study;
  • your knowledge of any languages required for your research project - if you are unsure which languages might be required, see the entry requirements for the faculty's master's degrees or contact the faculty directly; and
  • what you hope to do with an Oxford DPhil.

You may also wish to include a provisional title for your dissertation. While it is normal for plans to change in the course of developing a project, you should make your best effort to define your intended research, identify the focal question or problem to which it will constitute an answer or solution, specify a finite body of core texts or sources, and explain the methods involved.

Assessment

This will be assessed for your reasons for applying, the coherence of your proposal, the originality of your project; evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study and your ability to present a reasoned case in English.

A research proposal is assessed in terms of the intellectual coherence and academic originality of the project; evidence of the applicant’s motivation and understanding of the proposed area of study; the demonstration of aptness between the proposed research and Oxford’s resources, and the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course (up to three years full-time or six years part-time).

The faculty will also assess your commitment to the subject beyond the requirements of the degree course, preliminary knowledge of research techniques, capacity for sustained and intense work, evidence of reasoning ability, and ability to absorb new ideas, which are often presented abstractly at a rapid pace.

Written work:
Two essays of 2,000 words each or one essay of 4,000 words

Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts of the requisite length from longer pieces are accepted if prefaced by a note which puts them into context.

The topic of your written work is expected to relate 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 an appropriate intellectual standard, including good theological understanding, conceptual sophistication, analytical and critical skill and the ability to sustain a cogent argument. 

To submit one longer piece of work in your application, upload your work as written work in your application and for the second piece of written work, upload the following text as a PDF or Word document:

"I have included one long essay in lieu of the two short essays as permitted by the department."

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. Professional references are acceptable but limited in what they can demonstrate about academic ability; you should submit no more than one such reference.

Your references will support your academic ability, your relevant background knowledge and language skills, and overall suitability for your chosen course.

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 - Full time Apply - Part time

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