Health Data Science (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training) | University of Oxford
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Health Data Science (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training)

About the course

The Oxford EPSRC CDT in Health Data Science offers opportunities for doctoral study in computational statistics, machine learning and data engineering within the context of ethically-responsible health research. 

The Oxford EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Health Data Science offers a four-year doctoral programme, beginning with two terms of intensive training in core data science principles and techniques. This training - and subsequent research supervision - is provided by leading academics from the departments of Computer Science, Statistics, Engineering Science, Medicine and Population Health.

The first term addresses fundamentals of data science: ethics and data governance, computational statistics, machine learning and data engineering.  The second term addresses the specific challenges of health data - including genomics, imaging and sensor data - and the methodologies needed for large-scale, data-driven health research. Each term ends with an extended, team-based data challenge, with engagement from industry and healthcare partners. 

The Centre is based in the Oxford Big Data Institute. The Institute is an analytical hub for multi-disciplinary working at Oxford, connecting world-leading expertise in statistics, computer science and engineering to data-driven research in clinical medicine and population health.  It is also home to the newly-established Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities. 

The Institute houses strong research groups in genomic medicine, image analysis, mobile and sensor data, infectious diseases, large-scale clinical trials, ethical aspects of healthcare delivery and the ethics of health research. Research groups in partner departments are addressing related challenges in data science: machine learning, knowledge representation, healthcare economics and cybersecurity.

Shortlisted applicants will be asked to select at least two possible research areas from a list of examples provided, and to be ready to discuss these briefly at interview. Successful applicants will undertake two short placements in the second half of the first year, before settling upon a research project for the subsequent three years. For many students, the placements and the project will be within the areas originally selected; however, other options will be available.

Each student will benefit from dual supervision for the duration of their research project, with at least one of the two supervisors having a strong background in core data science. Many students will wish to pursue a project in collaboration with a partner organisation: a technology company such as Elsevier, NVIDIA or Sensyne Health; a pharmaceutical company such as GSK or Novartis; or a research organisation such as the Blockchain Research Institute or the Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre.


The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Centre for Doctoral Training and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. 

Graduate destinations

This is a new course and there are no alumni yet. It is expected that graduates will be well placed to take on leading roles in industry, academia and the public sector. 

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.

Courses suggested by the department

Computer Science DPhil
Population Health DPhil

All graduate courses offered by the Department of Computer Science

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 first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in a data science subject.

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. 

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.

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

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 normally held as part of the admissions process.

Applicants who are shortlisted will be invited to interview as early as possible. The interview will be approximately 30 minutes in length, and will be conducted by at least two people. Interviews will normally take place face-to-face, although Skype interviews can be arranged.


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.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

Some postgraduate research students in science, engineering and technology subjects will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate prior to applying for a Tier 4 visa. Further information can be found on our Tier 4 (General) Student visa page. For some courses, the requirement to apply for an ATAS certificate may depend on your research area.


The Centre for Doctoral Training is based in the Oxford Big Data Institute (BDI), a new purpose-built 7500 square-metre building at the heart of the University's biomedical campus, with dedicated teaching space for classes, workshops, group exercises, and presentations, as well as study space for students during their first year. The Institute has many large and small meeting rooms, a large café, and an open, furnished atrium, affording space for formal and informal interaction with research groups, other programmes, and partner organisations.

Students will have access to a secure research computing infrastructure with 6500 high-memory cores, an NVIDIA GPU resource to support deep learning and image processing, and 13PB of storage. The infrastructure supports containerised processing, and students will be able to push their own applications to cloud infrastructure provided by partner organisations. There is central support for common applications and services, including a JupyterHub server for Jupyter notebooks.

The BDI hosts the clinical informatics and big data activity of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), a substantial programme (£114m) of translational research, delivered by the University in partnership with Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust (FT). This activity includes the development of a secure data warehousing and analytics infrastructure - a ‘research platform’ - to support the large-scale re-use of routinely-collected clinical data for research purposes.

The platform contains integrated, longitudinal records for two million patients, including data from patient administration, electronic prescribing, laboratory tests, imaging reports, pathology reports, discharge summaries and clinical letters. It also contains historical datasets, including a comprehensive collection of laboratory test data, on a larger patient population, from 1993 to date. Oxford University Hospitals have agreed to provide CDT students with access to the platform, and to extracts of the data, for approved training and research purposes.

The BDI hosts the informatics activity of the UK Biobank, a major national and international resource for health research. The Biobank team are leading the development of tools for the acquisition, processing, analysis, and re-use of data from clinical and online assessments, imaging, sensors, genotyping, and national datasets (including hospital episodes, death, and primary care) for a cohort of 500,000 participants. CDT students will have the opportunity to access the expertise of the team, and to become involved in Biobank-based research.

Oxford is one of six substantive sites for Health Data Research (HDR) UK. The Oxford HDR UK team, based in the BDI, will lead research initiatives on 21st Century Clinical Trials and Enhancing Prospective Cohort Studies. This work will include the development of new methods and tools for phenotyping at scale, including machine learning approaches to the analysis of large, complex clinical datasets. CDT students will have the opportunity to participate in HDR UK activities, including a new joint programme with the Alan Turing Institute.


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.


Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£7,970

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

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 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.

How to apply

Prospective applicants are welcome, but not required, to contact the Centre. Questions can be directed to any of the Centre Directors. 

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.


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.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
Up to 1,000 words 

Your statement should explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in. 

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • evidence of understanding of the proposed area of study
  • the ability to present a coherent case in proficient English
  • your commitment to working across disciplines.

Your statement should focus on your academic achievements and interests rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations. 

References/letters of recommendation:
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.

Your references will support your intellectual ability, your academic achievement, your motivation and interest in the course and the subject area, and your ability to work both in a group and independently.

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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