A purple flower and other plants
Plants in the University's Botanic Garden
(Image Credit: Nicola Mastroddi)

Interdisciplinary Bioscience (BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership)

About the course

The Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) programme is a four-year DPhil/PhD programme supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) that provides innovative training for graduates from a life science, physical science or computational and mathematical science background who wish to conduct leading-edge bioscience research. 

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, the socio-economic data you provide in the application form will be used to contextualise the shortlisting and decision-making processes where it has been provided.  Please carefully read the instructions concerning submission of your CV/résumé, statement of purpose, transcript and letters of support from referees in the How to apply section of this page, as well as the full details about this pilot.

Research areas within the programme include integrative animal and plant biology, mechanistic molecular and cellular biology, and bioscience for food, industry and health (including crop science, animal health and welfare, synthetic biology, industrial biotechnology and the development of innovative approaches for drug discovery and pharmaceutical production).   The majority of research projects undertaken by DTP students involve “transformative technologies”, which include advanced imaging and data analysis techniques, the development and application of new and emerging methods and technologies, mathematical modelling, ‘omic and systems biology approaches, and innovative approaches to address the three Rs. Please note that we do not support research focused on human diseases and disease processes or abnormal conditions. We support research on livestock species and managed land (for example agriculture) and support studies on wild species only when they act as suitable model to provide wider understanding of biological processes.

The programme is led by the University of Oxford in partnership with eight world-class research organisations - the Pirbright Institute, which provides the UK’s national capabilities for the study and control of viral diseases of livestock, Oxford Brookes University, and five research organisations at the Harwell Campus Oxford (Diamond Light Source, ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, STFC Central Laser Facility and the Research Complex at Harwell), which provide the UK’s national capabilities for synchrotron science, neutron science and laser science, and the new Rosalind Franklin Institute, which and supports the development of new methods for life science research in areas such as imaging, spectroscopy and structural biology. We are also partnered with the Novo Nordisk Research Centre Oxford, an innovative target discovery and translational research institute. The DTP’s training programme draws on expertise in all nine partner organisations and students will have the opportunity to learn about the facilities and expertise available across these organisations during the initial training phase.

You will undertake a four-year doctoral training programme. In your first term you are based at the Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) at the University of Oxford and undertake an individually-tailored training programme that includes training in research skills such as mathematics and statistics, programming, imaging and image analysis, bioinformatics, and modelling biological processes and systems. You can also access a wide variety of additional training provided across the partnership throughout your doctoral studies.

A distinctive feature of the DTP training programme is that you are required to undertake a 12-week internship or placement to gain experience of work in a professional environment and in transferable skills that will be beneficial in your future career. Areas that may be explored during internships include industrial research and development, science policy, teaching, science communication, publishing, entrepreneurship and project management.

You will have the ongoing support of the DTP throughout your studies, including an ongoing training programme in professional skills such as scientific writing, project management, CV writing and interview skills, teaching skills, public engagement and enterprise and entrepreneurship. You can also access specific training in advanced research skills that are relevant to your research interests through specialist training courses, industry-led study groups and practice-led training groups.

Course features for DTP students (not applicable to Industrial Studentships and Partner Studentships)

After the initial training phase, you will undertake two 12-week research projects in two different research groups within the partnership, which are tailored to meet the likely requirements of your main doctoral project. You are encouraged to use these rotation projects to further develop your interdisciplinary skills. Following on from the project rotations, you will undertake a three-year doctoral research project with an internationally leading research group and have access to world-class facilities and expertise.

Course features for Industrial (iCASE) and Partner Studentships

If you apply to the DTP’s Industrial Studentship programme you will have a primary academic supervisor in one of the nine DTP partner organisations and undertake research in collaboration with an industrial or non-academic partner organisation. You will undertake a placement (12 weeks minimum) with the industrial partner organisation instead of a 12-week internship to gain experience of work in a non-academic professional environment.

If you apply for a Partner Studentship, at least 50% of your research will be undertaken in close collaboration with a supervisor at one of the DTP's non-University partner organisations (eg Diamond Light Source, Rosalind Franklin Institute, The Pirbright Institute), and you will be co-supervised by a University supervisor. If you undertake a partner studentship that does not involve an industrial partner you will undertake a 12-week internship in a non-academic setting.

Partner Studentships may be advertised as specific projects with named supervisors (please see the DTP's website for details of currently available projects) or can be applied for by applying to the main DTP programme and stating your interest in being considered for a partner studentship with a named partner organisation.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff.

In the first year of the course, DTP students and some Partner students will be supervised by the programme directors, who will also support students in choosing their doctoral research project. Supervision arrangements for years two to four will therefore be confirmed at the end of the first year when the doctoral project is chosen.

If you are recruited to an Industrial Studentship or to some Partner Studentships, your supervisor will be known from the outset of your studies and you will work with your supervisor and the programme directors to design and develop your training programme.

Students on the Industrial Studentship programme will have a primary academic supervisor in one of the nine DTP partner organisations and a co-supervisor in the non-academic partner organisation.

All DTP students have both a primary supervisor and a co-supervisor with relevant expertise when in the research phase of their DPhil.

Typically, a student should expect to have meetings with their supervisor or a member of the supervisory team with a frequency of at least once every two weeks averaged across the year when in the research phase of their DPhil. The regularity of these meetings may be subject to variations according to the time of the year, and the stage the student is at in their research programme.

Assessment

The programme has three milestones to assist you in your progress. You will be required to write a research proposal during the first year of your DPhil, in consultation with your supervisory team, which describes the background literature, aims and rationale for your project, along with a plan of work. This will be assessed by two researchers with relevant expertise to check the suitability and feasibility of the proposed project, along with your understanding of your project. This enables students to receive useful feedback on their proposed project at an early stage. 

The University has two formal milestones to measure your progress, the first being transfer of status, and the second is confirmation of status, which are typically undertaken in the second and third year of your degree respectively. The exact assessment format used will vary according to discipline and department, but each typically involves an assessment of your progress by two researchers with relevant expertise. The purpose of the transfer process is to review your project and your plans for future work, to check that you are making satisfactory progress in the development of your project, and to satisfy the assessors that your work is potentially of DPhil quality. The purpose of confirmation of status to provide an indication that if work on the thesis continues to develop satisfactorily, then consideration of submission of the thesis within the time remaining to complete your studies would appear to be reasonable. It therefore provides a second stage of formal progress review. Both you and your supervisors will also be required to reflect and report on your progress at regular intervals using the University’s graduate supervision system (GSR).

The final assessment of your work will be based on submission of a written thesis, the exact requirements for which may vary by discipline and department, and through an oral (‘viva voce’) examination, which will be assessed by an internal and external examiner.

Graduate destinations

The majority of bioscience graduates from the University of Oxford go into a bioscience-related position after graduation. Many stay in academic research, others work in government, for charities and within the commercial sector.

An increasing number of students are exploring and taking up opportunities for entrepreneurship, supported by the training programme in the DTP and the highly entrepreneurial environment within the University and across Oxfordshire as a whole.

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.

All graduate courses offered by the MPLS Doctoral Training Centre

Entry requirements for entry in 2022-23

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 relevant academic subject (eg biochemistry, biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, statistics, computer science).

It is not an application requirement to have completed or to be in the process of completing a master's degree.

However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent and/or a master's degree.

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.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

  • Research or working experience in a relevant area may be an advantage, although consideration will be given to the opportunities (or lack thereof) applicants may have had to gain experience based on their personal circumstances. Preference may be given to those who have previously studied in a relevant area.
  • Evidence of training in a relevant area and/or the relevance of the course to future career development plans may also be an advantage.
  • Although publications are not required, a publication record may advantage an application.
  • It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of one or more potential supervisors within the partnership, although applicants for the main DTP programme are not required to contact or identify a specific supervisor prior to admission. Applicants for individual iCASE studentships or partner studentships are expected to familiarise themselves with the published work of their potential supervisor(s) and to contact their proposed primary supervisor in advance of submitting a formal online application.

Extenuating circumstances

If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.

English language requirement

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.57.0

TOEFL iBT, 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.

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 will be selected for interview based on the aforementioned criteria. Shortlisting will take place and we aim to reach a target ratio of interviewees to places such as 3:1. Interviews will normally be held within four to six weeks of the application deadline and will either be in person or by video (eg MS Teams or Zoom) and will take around 30 minutes. Admission decisions are made by the DTP admissions committee.

Applicants will be asked to discuss their academic history and any research projects(s) that they may have pursued. They will also be questioned on aspects of their research training to date, understanding of the proposed area of study and motivation for doing a DPhil. If appropriate, they may be asked questions to assess their mathematical and quantitative skills or their ability to critically analyse scientific literature.

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. The After you apply section of this website provides further information about the academic assessment of your application, including the potential outcomes. Please note that any offer of a place may be subject to academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions may vary depending upon your individual academic circumstances.

Students are considered for shortlisting and 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. 

This programme is participating in the Academic Futures programme, including the Black Academic Futures programme, to address the under-representation of candidates who are members of certain groups in postgraduate study. It is also participating in a continuing pilot to improve the selection procedure for graduate applications, in order to ensure that all candidates are evaluated fairly. Therefore, information on socio-economic background may be used in the selection of candidates for shortlisting or admission, and information on race and ethnic origin may be used at shortlisting where candidates have met academic criteria.

Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed. Applicants who meet eligibility criteria will subsequently be considered for funding through the Academic Futures programme or other University scholarships in addition to studentship funding available through the programme. 

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, your offer letter will give full details of your offer and any academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course.  In addition to any academic conditions which are set, 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.

Resources

Oxford has an extremely rich and diverse library service provided by over one hundred libraries.  The Radcliffe Science Library is the main science reference library of the University of Oxford. The library subscribes to many journals published overseas, most of which are in English.

In addition to the University facilities, the DTP has a stock of reference books available. You will have access to ejournal and other electronic resources provided by the University of Oxford when working within University departments or in partner organisations such as The Pirbright Institute or research organisations at the Harwell Campus Oxford.

You will have access to a wide variety of world-class research facilities across all seven of the partner organisations within the DTP, depending on your research interests. These include:

  • beamlines at Diamond Light Source and ISIS Neutron and Muon Source;
  • a wide variety of advanced imaging and microscopy systems that enable biological imaging across all scales from single molecules to high speed video imaging of animal flight;
  • containment facilities for animal virology, transgenic plant and plant disease research; 
  • facilities and expertise for advanced methodologies such as mass spectrometry, proteomics, genome engineering, protein production and purification; and 
  • supercomputing facilities for data-intensive applications.

As a DTP student in your first year, you will undertake the majority of the taught components of your training programme in a modern purpose-designed Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) located in the heart of the University’s South Parks Road Science Campus, shared by the DTP and the other CDT programmes.

The co-localisation of the DTP with other life science graduate programmes in the DTC, each with its own distinctive remit and student cohorts, provides a unique opportunity for students in the DTP to establish friendships and scientific collaborations with graduate researchers from a wide range of academic backgrounds, with expertise and interests ranging from mathematical modelling of biological systems to environmental research, medical imaging and drug discovery.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2022-23. 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 department's website.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2022-23

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home£8,620
Overseas£28,560

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 section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our detailed fee status information and the Oxford and the EU webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) and living costs. However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2022-23 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,215 and £1,755 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 2022-23, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

College preference

All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs). 

For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges. 

The Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP has close links with Reuben College, Linacre College, University College, and St Cross College, and recommends that applicants state a preference for one of those colleges. However, you are free to list any other college that accepts students in the Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP on your application form.

The following colleges accept students on the Interdisciplinary Bioscience programme:

How to apply

Please read all the the instructions carefully before starting your application. You should pay particular attention to the instructions concerning the submission of your standardised CV and contextual information, statement of purpose, and anonymised letters of support from referees.

You can apply for entry to the DTP and be considered for a specific research project offered through the Industrial Studentship Scheme. The same course title and code is used for applications to both the DTP programme and the Industrial Studentship programme.

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.

Standardised CV and contextual information
Instructions and link to the standardised CV form and contextual statement submission form

Standardised CV form

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. You will need to upload a standardised CV to the graduate application form as part of your application. This standardised CV should be generated using the online form that requests certain information that you will likely have included on your CV. Once you have completed the form, you will have 15 minutes to download your CV as a PDF document. We request that you anonymise your CV in relation to your name and gender pronouns. 

This PDF document will be in the same format for all applicants and you should not modify the document before you upload it, or submit your CV in a different format. 

Generate your standardised CV

You can find more information about the standardised CV form on our page that provides details of the continuing pilot programme to improve the assessment procedure for graduate applications.

Contextual statement

If you wish to provide a contextual statement with your application, you may also submit an additional statement to provide contextual information on your socio-economic background or personal circumstances in support of your application.

Submit a contextual statement

It is not necessary to anonymise this document, as we recognise that it may be necessary for you to disclose certain information in your statement. This statement will not be used as part of the initial academic assessment of applications at shortlisting, but may be used in combination with socio-economic data to provide contextual information during decision-making processes.

Please note, this statement is in addition to completing the 'Extenuating circumstances’ section of the standard application form.

You can find more information about the contextual statement on our page that provides details of the continuing pilot programme to improve the assessment procedure for graduate applications.

Further information

Considering socio-economic and contextual information, and anonymising your CV as part of the selection procedure, are some of the actions we are taking as part of a pilot aimed at minimising conscious and unconscious bias in the admissions procedure for graduate students. Further information about con be found on the page outlining the pilot selection procedure for MPLS doctoral training courses.

Statement of purpose:
A maximum of 1000 words

Please provide a statement of purpose, in English, describing how your background and research interests relate to the programme, following the template below. The statement should focus primarily on academic, research or employment-related achievements and interests rather than personal achievements and interests.

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

Briefly explain your motivation for undertaking doctoral study, including at least one specific example of how you have prepared yourself for doctoral study that illustrates your commitment and motivation.

Summarise your previous achievements and experience, including information on any research you have conducted, relevant employment or work experience (if any), and any activities or experience that illustrate your communication skills, team skills or personal strengths.

For doctoral programmes without a pre-defined research project, please describe your current research interests and identify any potential supervisors or groups you are particularly interested in working with, explaining which aspects of their work most interest you.

If you are applying to undertake a specific, advertised project with a named supervisory team, please explain your motivation for applying to undertake this project.

Explain your motivation for applying to this doctoral programme and why you are a suitable candidate for the programme or project you are applying to.

Your statement of purpose 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
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques
  • understanding of problems in the area and ability to construct and defend an argument.

It will be normal for your ideas and goals to change in some ways as you participate in the programme and if you are applying for the main DTP programme rather than a specific advertised project, you are not committed to work in the specific subject area or with any supervisor(s) you highlight in your application. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate your current interests and aspirations.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally academic. Referees should anonymise their references.

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.

One professional reference can be accepted if you have relevant work experience, but academic references are preferred.

Your references will support proven and potential academic excellence in terms of intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, communication skills and ability to work in a group.

We are requesting that referees anonymise their references with respect to name, ethnicity and gender as one of the actions we are taking as part of a pilot aimed at minimising conscious and unconscious bias in the admissions procedure for graduate students. Please ensure any referees you approach are aware of this requirement. 

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 the deadline information in our Application Guide. Plan your time to submit your application well in advance - we recommend two or three weeks earlier.

Step 4: Check if you're eligible for an application fee waiver. Application fee waivers are available for:

Step 5: Start your application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, consult our Application Guide for advice at each stage. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application GuideApply

Was this page useful?*