A student sitting at a desk reading
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, including the study of the world religions; biblical studies; science and religion; ecclesiastical history; systematic theology; ethics; patristics, and philosophical theology. Recent research topics have included, among many other projects, a study of devotion to the infant Jesus in early Christianity; an exploration of trauma in film and the theology of memory; a study of classical Hinduism and environmentalism. Students develop an extensive range of research skills and expertise in their chosen field of research.

Students admitted to the DPhil will 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 a Master's degree from another institution may have this requirement waived. The Faculty of Theology and Religion considers such waivers on a case-by-case basis and may advise applicants to consider an MSt or MPhil degree in their initial application to the University.

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.

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. 

Supervision

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. A supervisor is expected normally to meet with a research student for a detailed discussion of the student’s progress at least twice a term during the period of study.  Meetings are likely to take place more frequently during the early stages of a research programme, and to involve reading and commenting upon substantial amounts of written work during the latter stages.

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.

Assessment

DPhil students join the Faculty as a Probationary Research Student (PRS) and apply for 'Transfer of Status' usually within their first year (if full-time), or their second year (if part-time). There is a further assessment of their work and progress at a more advanced stage of their research, 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).

Graduate destinations

Students with graduate qualifications in theology and religion enter a variety of careers. Many Oxford DPhil students proceed to academic posts in major research universities, liberal arts colleges or church seminaries. Some go on to work for charities and for development, non-profit organisations and think tanks, or in faith-based work. Others proceed to successful professional careers in the civil service, consultancy, the media and academic administration.

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

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 2023-24

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:

  • 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 usually have a master’s degree in theology or religious studies from a recognised institution.

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 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.

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.

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.

References

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.

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. 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 not normally held as part of the admissions process. 

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.

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.

Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

Processing your data for shortlisting and selection

Information about processing special category data for the purposes of positive action and using your data to assess your eligibility for funding, can be found in our Postgraduate Applicant Privacy Policy.

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:

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 nearby 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

The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. 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 faculty's website.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2023-24

Full-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home£11,410
Overseas£26,450

Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

Part-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home£5,705
Overseas£13,225

Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

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.

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 and Funding section of this website, which includes detailed fee status information.

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 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 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 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.

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. 

Before you apply

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. We recommend that you submit your application well in advance - two or three weeks earlier. 

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.

Contacting the department

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.

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. 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).

Proposed supervisor

If known, under 'Proposed supervisor name' enter the name of the academic(s) who you would like to supervise your research. Otherwise, leave this field blank.

Referees
Three overall, academic preferred

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.

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

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.

You are free to determine the length of your research proposal. If you need any guidance, contact the Graduate Studies Coordinator

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 a maximum of 2,000 words each or one essay of a maximum 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.

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

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. 

Instructions for submitting one long piece of work instead of two short pieces

To submit one longer piece of work in your application instead of two shorter pieces, you should upload this document in the first 'Written work' slot on the 'Supporting Documents' tab of the Application Form. In the second 'Written work' slot, you should upload a PDF document with the following statement:

'I have included one long essay in lieu of two short essays. I have checked the course page to confirm this is permitted for this course.'

Start or continue your application

You can start or return to an application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, please refer to the requirements above and consult our Application Guide for advice. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application Guide Apply - Full time Apply - Part time

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