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A computing cluster at the University
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Healthcare Data Science (DPhil)

About the course

The Healthcare Data Science DPhil is a four-year doctoral cohort-based training programme offering opportunities for doctoral study in computational statistics, machine learning and data engineering within the context of ethically-responsible health research.

This course is jointly run by a range of Oxford departments including the departments of Computer Science, Statistics, Engineering Science, the Nuffield Department of Medicine, and the Nuffield Department of Population Health.

Course structure

The course begins with a training year, which consists of two terms of intensive training in core data science principles and techniques followed by a third term where you will undertake two eight-week research projects in two of your chosen research areas. One of these projects will usually become the basis of your doctoral research, carried out in the following three years.

During the first year, your day will typically comprise of lectures each morning with practical computational exercises each afternoon.

The taught courses covering core subjects such as computational statistics, machine learning, data engineering, ethics and governance, and health research methodology include the following:

  • Ethics
  • Software Engineering
  • Statistical Methods
  • Research Methods
  • Machine Learning
  • Bayesian Statistics
  • Medical Imaging
  • Biomedical Image Analysis
  • Biomedical Time Series Analysis
  • Device and Sensor Data
  • Genetics
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Modelling for Policy Making
  • Data Governance
  • Data Engineering
  • Health Data Quality
  • Health Data Standards
  • Data-driven Innovation.

In each case, you will develop an understanding of relevant concepts and techniques that is not only enough to enable their application and integration but will also serve as a solid foundation should you choose to pursue research in that area.

Each term of taught modules concludes with an extended, team-based two-week data challenge where you will work in small groups with clinicians and domain experts to address questions using large healthcare datasets.

At the start of the second term you will select from a pool of projects. These projects are proposed by Oxford faculty members but you may also contact faculty members to jointly propose projects. There are always more projects than students, and students are typically matched to, at least, their first choice, but it is not possible to guarantee that you will be able to work with a particular member of staff. 

You will undertake two eight-week placements with research groups within the University. These will provide you with experience of working as part of an active group and the opportunity to explore specific areas before writing a proposal for your doctoral research.

At the end of the summer of the first year, you will normally select one of the two projects to become the basis of your DPhil research.

In years two to four you will carry out individual research on a project within the scope of the programme, specifically the development of novel statistical, machine learning or computational methods with application to health or healthcare data. Training will continue in academic reading, writing and presentation skills, ethics, responsible research and innovation, and career development and planning.

While working on your research project, you will have the opportunity to participate in a range of activities including an ethics placement, four-week external data challenge, seminar series and annual cohort-based training programme retreats.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre (MSDTC) 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 department.

Teaching on taught modules and subsequent research supervision are provided by leading academics from a range of departments at the University. You will benefit from dual supervision for the duration of your research project; at least one of the members of the supervisory team will have a strong background in core data science.

You will be expected to meet your supervisors on a regular basis. These meetings should take place at least once every two weeks, averaged across the year and agreed by both parties, to discuss your progress.

Assessment

All modules, data challenges and activities during the taught course component involve some aspect of formal assessment, including written reports, problem solving, and group and individual presentations. At the end of year one, you will submit a short DPhil proposal which will be examined orally by the programme directorate to evaluate your progress and the suitability of the project.

All students will be initially admitted to the status of Probationer Research Student (PRS). Within a maximum of six 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 ten 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 original thesis after, at most, four years from the date of admission.

To be successfully awarded a DPhil in Healthcare Data Science you will need to defend your thesis orally (viva voce) in front of two appointed examiners. 

Graduate destinations

It is expected that graduates will be well placed to take on leading roles in industry, academia and the public sector, including areas where health and health care data is used to direct policy or make decisions about patient care.

Changes to this course and your supervision

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic, epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2024-25

Proven and potential academic excellence

The requirements described below are specific to this course and apply only in the year of entry that is shown. You can use our interactive tool to help you evaluate whether your application is likely to be competitive.

Please be aware that any studentships that are linked to this course may have different or additional requirements and you should read any studentship information carefully before applying. 

Degree-level qualifications

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

  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours 

The above qualification should be achieved in one of the following subject areas of disciplines:

  • Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Engineering Science
  • Computer Science; or
  • A related field with substantial mathematical background

A master's qualification in one of the above subjects is recommended, but not essential.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, usually 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.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

  • Research or working experience in a relevant field may be an advantage.
  • Whilst not required, or expected, publications demonstrating previous research experience in a relevant field and a track record demonstrating an interest in research are likely to advantage your application.

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. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process and are expected to take place around a month after the application deadline.

Interviews are usually held remotely and are approximately 30 minutes in length. The interview takes the form of a series of questions to assess readiness to study, specifically your foundational mathematical, statistical and computational skills, and your interest in working at the interface between machine learning and health and healthcare data. 

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements described under that heading.

References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process. Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed

Shortlisting and selection

Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:

  • socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
  • country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
  • protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.

Initiatives to improve access to graduate study

This course is taking part in a continuing pilot programme to improve the selection procedure for graduate applications, in order to ensure that all candidates are evaluated fairly.

For this course, socio-economic data (where it has been provided in the application form) will be used to contextualise applications at the different stages of the selection process. Further information about how we use your socio-economic data can be found in our page about initiatives to improve access to graduate study.

This is also one of the courses participating in the Academic Futures programme, including the Black Academic Futures programme. Applicants who are offered a place on this course and meet the eligibility criteria will subsequently be considered for funding through the Academic Futures programme.

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.

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 Student visa (under the Student Route). For some courses, the requirement to apply for an ATAS certificate may depend on your research area.

Resources

The Healthcare Data Science cohort-based training programme is based in the Oxford's Big Data Institute (BDI), a new purpose-built 7,500 square-metre research institute at the heart of the University's biomedical campus. 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 medicine and population health.

The institute has dedicated teaching spaces 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. You will have access to a secure research computing infrastructure that supports containerised processing, and you will be able to push your 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 institute houses internationally recognised research groups in genomic medicine, medical image analysis, mobile and sensor data, infectious diseases, and large-scale clinical trials. It is also home to the Ethox Centre and the newly established Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities.

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 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. Cohort-based training programme 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.

When you move out to your DPhil research department you will also have access to the facilities provided by that department. You will remain a member of the cohort-based training programme and will retain access to the Big Data Institute.

Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre

The Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre (MSDTC) accommodates the interdisciplinary, cross-departmental DPhil programmes in medical sciences.

Most are structured DPhil programmes, which provide students with the opportunity to undertake two or three 'rotation' projects and relevant course work in their first year of each four-year structured programme. The main doctoral project starts in the second year of each programme. Most of our programmes receive external core-funding, and currently from the Wellcome Trust (WT), British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and EPSRC.

The MSDTC also accommodates the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars’ Programme, the DPhil in Cancer Science programme funded by CRUK which welcomes applications from clinicians, basic scientists, and medical undergraduates, and the new DPhil in Inflammatory and Musculoskeletal Disease which is funded by the Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research and is open to Oxford University medical students wishing to undertake DPhils in the fields of musculoskeletal disease, inflammation and immunology.

The department also offers an exciting new programme (the DPhil in Advanced Bioscience of Viral Products) run in collaboration with Oxford Biomedica, which aims to deliver the next generation of bioscience leaders to advance research on the underpinning bioscience of viral products for future gene therapies and vaccines.

Each programme has a distinctive intellectual flavour, designed to nurture independent and creative scientists. Students are supported in their development through:

  • supervision and mentoring by world-class academics training in a wide range of research techniques
  • development of student resilience and maintenance of mental health and wellbeing from the start and throughout each programme.

Funding

We expect that the majority of applicants who are offered a place on this course will also be offered a fully-funded scholarship specific to this course, covering course fees for the duration of their course and a living stipend.

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.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2024-25

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home£9,500
Overseas£31,480

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

Information about course fees

Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.

Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.

Continuation charges

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.

Where can I find further information about fees?

The Fees and Funding section of this website provides further information about course fees, including information about fee status and eligibility and your length of fee liability.

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 2024-25 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,345 and £1,955 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. The current economic climate and high national rate of inflation make it very hard to estimate potential changes to the cost of living over the next few years. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2024-25, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of around 5% each year – although this rate may vary depending on the national economic situation. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.

College preference

Students enrolled on this course will belong to both a department/faculty and a college. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 43 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as societies and permanent private halls (PPHs). 

If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. Before deciding, we suggest that you read our brief introduction to the college system at Oxford and our advice about expressing a college preference. For some courses, the department may have provided some additional advice below to help you decide.

The following colleges accept students on the Healthcare Data Science DPhil:

Before you apply

Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. You can use our interactive tool to help you evaluate whether your application is likely to be competitive.

If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide.

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.

Application fee waivers for eligible associated courses

If you apply to this course and up to two eligible associated courses from our predefined list during the same cycle, you can request an application fee waiver so that you only need to pay one application fee.

The list of eligible associated courses may be updated as new courses are opened. Please check the list regularly, especially if you are applying to a course that has recently opened to accept applications.

Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?

You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.

You may wish to make informal enquiries with the HDS team before you apply in order to work out whether this is the right course for you, and the likely availability of funding. You should do so via the contact details provided on this page.

Completing your application

You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents.

For this course, the application form will include questions that collect information that would usually be included in a CV/résumé. You should not upload a separate document. If a separate CV/résumé is uploaded, it will be removed from your application.

If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.

Proposed field and title of research project

As you will not choose your research area until the end of year one, you do not need to specify a research field, or project title beyond "HDS cohort-based training programme" in your application.
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

As you will not choose your research supervisor until the end of year one, you do not need to specify a supervisor beyond "HDS cohort-based training programme" in your application.

Referees:
Three overall, of which at least two 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 preferred, although a maximum of one professional reference is acceptable where you have completed an industrial placement or worked in a full-time position.

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.

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.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A maximum of 500 words

You should provide a statement of your research interests, in English, describing how your background and research interests relate to the programme. If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

The statement should focus on academic or research-related achievements and interests rather than personal achievements and interests.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying;
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study;
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English;
  • capacity for sustained and focused work; and
  • understanding of problems in the area and ability to construct and defend an argument.

It will be normal for students’ ideas and goals to change in some ways as they undertake their studies, but your personal statement will enable you to demonstrate your current interests and aspirations.

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

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