Introducing our courses | University of Oxford
Magdalen College cloisters
Walking through the Magdalen College cloisters at sunset
Credit: Ahmad el-Naggar / Graduate Photography Competition

Introducing our courses

Oxford’s graduate courses are challenging and intensive: we expect a lot from our graduate students. Our approach to graduate study emphasises your ability to work independently, while supported by a world-class academic community.

About our courses

Oxford offers more than 350 graduate courses across the disciplines, with courses opening in new areas every year. This includes taught and research courses available for full-time and part-time study, and at every level from diplomas to doctorates.

Each graduate course has a dedicated course page on our website, which will provide you with detailed information about the course and how to apply for it. You can browse our graduate courses A to Z or by department.

As a graduate student you'll belong to a department or faculty – a thriving academic community working to advance knowledge in a particular field. Your department or faculty will provide your teaching and supervision, as well as extensive, specialist resources to support your studies. Our departments often collaborate on joint courses and interdisciplinary research projects.

Every graduate student at Oxford is given an academic supervisor. Throughout your course, you'll receive personalised support and guidance from an expert in your field, helping to guide your programme of study or research.

Students on matriculated courses also belong to a college. You can find out more about Oxford's colleges in our Colleges section.

Non-standard admissions processes

The following courses have a non-standard application process:

Medical training

For information about admission to the pre-clinical stage of medical training, please see the accelerated course details on the Medical Sciences Division website.

For information about admission to the clinical stage please contact the Medical School via enquiries@medsci.ox.ac.uk.

BTh in Theology and training for the Christian ministry

Oxford has been a place of training for the Christian ministry since the origins of the University. Today, the Faculty of Theology and Religion and the Department for Continuing Education continue this long tradition by offering a range of degree and vocational courses. The training for ministry information provided on the Faculty of Theology and Religion website outlines the full range of courses that are offered by both departments.

DPhil in Continuing Education

The Department for Continuing Education offers part-time DPhil programmes in a number of specific subjects but also admits doctoral students in other areas where it can provide appropriate supervision and research training. Such students are admitted to the DPhil in Continuing Education programme. The designation ‘Continuing Education' is used for administrative purposes, and does not affect subject content or appear on the degree certificate.

Admissions are arranged on an exceptional basis under the University's Education Committee. They are otherwise governed in all aspects under the standard part-time DPhil regulations. Please see the department's website for further details.

Residence requirements

Students enrolled on full-time courses are subject to the University's residence requirements, which are set out in the Examination Regulations for each course. Students studying for part-time courses are exempt from these residence requirements.

Changes to courses

The University will seek to deliver each course in accordance with the descriptions set out in the relevant course pages and the corresponding “Course Information Sheet”, which is sent to applicants with their offer of a place. 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. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Taught courses

As a taught graduate, you'll study your chosen subject area at an advanced level, usually leading to a master’s or master’s-level qualification.

Our courses are shorter than those at other institutions, making them intensive and fast-paced. Some courses are intended to prepare you for a research degree; others are oriented toward specific professional skills. All of our taught programmes are designed to challenge and inspire you, and help you to build transferable skills that are sought after by employers.

A full-time taught course typically lasts 9-12 months, but some take two years to complete. We also offer a range of part-time taught degrees. Students on taught programmes study a range of core and optional courses. You can find more information about the structure of each programme and the options offered on the course page and the department's website.

During your course, your academic supervisor will be on hand to offer advice and support, and to help guide your programme of study. We're proud of the close working relationships between supervisors and students, and the small-group teaching on our taught courses.

If you are interested in more general guidance on choosing a taught graduate course, the Steps to Postgraduate Study website is an external resource that has been designed to help you identify the right questions to ask when you are deciding what and where to study.

Find a taught course

Types of taught course at Oxford 

Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

This course is of a higher standing than the Master of Studies (MSt) and full-time study normally lasts for two years (six terms). In the first year, some of the course elements may be common with the MSt and at its end candidates may be required to pass a qualifying test before continuing. Some MPhils are organised so that the first year is taught and the second is predominantly research based. In the second year students are expected to complete a substantial dissertation (usually up to 30,000 words) and to sit written examinations.

Master of Studies (MSt)

Students studying full-time are normally required to undertake three terms of study followed by an examination. The exact composition will vary according to the course, but will usually involve a range of core and optional course elements often including research methods and the submission of a dissertation (usually of around 10,000–15,000 words). Study is supported by seminars and lectures. Assessment may be by coursework as well as by written examination papers and dissertation. Some course elements may be common with Master of Philosophy (MPhil) course and it is possible in some cases to form the foundation of an application to either the related MPhil or DPhil.

Master of Science (MSc) by coursework

These degrees are generally offered in Science or Social Science subjects and typically require students to undertake one year of full-time study. The exact composition of the degree will vary according to the course, but will often comprise a range of core and optional modules, supported by teaching in the form of lectures and seminars. Assessment is by a combination of course assignments (in many cases including a dissertation of around 10,000–15,000 words) and written examinations.

Other master’s-level degrees (BCL, BPhil, EMBA, MBA, MFA, MJur, MPP, and MTh)

The University offers a range of other master’s-level degrees:

Please see the relevant course page for further details about each course.

Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) and Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert and PGCE)

A number of one-year (three-term) diplomas and certificates are available to graduate students. These include the Postgraduate Certificate in Education, which is a teacher training course for graduates that is more commonly referred to as the PGCE.

Research courses

We have over 120 research courses, including our doctoral programmes. Our research degrees offer the opportunity for sustained research in the area of your choice.

Working closely with your supervisor, you will propose, carry out and write up a substantial research project. Your supervisor will help you to devise a programme that allows you to realise the full benefits of the University's outstanding intellectual community and resources. They will meet with you regularly to stimulate your thinking, discuss your ideas, and provide guidance on how to approach your research.

Oxford is internationally renowned for the quality of its research, and graduate research students are integral to our success. We offer first-rate resources and facilities, expert supervision and a supportive academic community in which to work. You'll also receive specialist training in research skills in one of our graduate schools, and have access to a fantastic range of resources and opportunities to help you make the most of your time at Oxford and boost your employability.

Find a research course

Types of research course at Oxford

Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil)

Oxford’s main doctoral research degree is called a DPhil (our name for the PhD), and usually takes between three and four years to complete. Working closely with an academic supervisor who will oversee your studies, you will focus on a specific research project to produce a thesis that represents a significant and substantial piece of work. You will be assessed on the basis of this thesis and an oral examination called a viva voce. After completing their DPhil, research students frequently pursue academic careers or careers requiring advanced research skills.

During the course of the DPhil degree at Oxford you will need successfully to meet two different milestones:

Transfer of Status: Most DPhil students are initially admitted to the status of Probationer Research Student (PRS). Within a maximum of six terms as a PRS student (and normally by the fourth term) you will be expected to apply for transfer of status from Probationer Research Student to DPhil status. In some subjects, you might be required to successfully complete one or more master’s papers during your first year before you can apply to transfer to DPhil status.

Confirmation of Status: Students who are successful at transfer will also be expected to apply for and gain confirmation of DPhil status, normally within nine 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.

If you're studying on a full-time basis, you will be expected to submit your thesis after three or, at most, four years from the date of admission.

Doctoral training programmes (CDTs, DTPs and DEng)

Doctoral training programmes are four-year courses providing structured training and research experience in the first year, and a research project leading to a DPhil or DEng in subsequent years. These programmes are referred to as Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) and Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs). They are supported through links with industry and other partners, including other universities.

Master of Science (MSc) by Research

This degree is awarded on the basis of a submitted thesis  and is available in some subject areas that also offer a DPhil. Please see the individual course pages in this section for specific information. The examiners must be satisfied that the thesis shows competence in investigating the chosen topic and that the results have been presented in a lucid and scholarly manner. A satisfactory oral examination is also required.

Students will normally initially hold the status of Probationer Research Student and will be expected to apply to transfer to MSc status during the first year of their research.

Combined Master of Science (MSc) and Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil)

Combined Master of Science (MSc) and Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) programmes are four year courses that comprise a one-year taught MSc by coursework (see taught courses) followed by a three-year research project leading to a DPhil. These course arrangements are often referred to as 1+3 programmes. By applying for a 1+3 programme, your application will automatically be considered for both the one-year taught MSc and the DPhil. Progression to the DPhil requires successful completion of the MSc. These programmes are special course arrangements and the constituent MSc and DPhil elements are not always offered separately as stand-alone courses.

Part-time courses

At Oxford, about 1 in 5 graduate students is studying part time. We offer a wide range of part-time courses, from postgraduate certificates and diplomas to taught master’s degrees and doctoral degrees. These programmes are a flexible way to study for a graduate degree, allowing you to fit your studies around work, family or other commitments.

Our part-time courses are designed with the needs of students at different life and career stages in mind. You may be looking to study for a further qualification and enhance your career prospects while in employment, or to develop your knowledge and skills while balancing home-based commitments.

Part-time study at Oxford is intensive, challenging and rewarding. Students enjoy all the benefits of an Oxford higher degree, including excellent tuition, supervision and study resources, and are valued members of our graduate community.

Teaching formats and patterns of study vary. Part-time students are exempt from the University's residence requirements, but most part-time courses require students to attend face-to-face teaching in Oxford. Read the information on the course page carefully, and if you'd like to discuss the requirements for a specific course, please contact the academic department directly.

Find a part-time course

Other options

Recognised Student status

If you are a graduate student currently engaged in research at another university, you may be able to apply for Recognised Student status.

The status of Recognised Student is intended primarily for graduates of some years’ standing engaged in research elsewhere who wish to work in Oxford on a specific topic under the guidance of an academic familiar with the chosen area of study.

You spend a period of up to three terms (ie one academic year) at Oxford, associated with an academic department and an academic advisor to offer general guidance on your area of research. You may use University libraries and attend lectures, seminars and classes (subject to permission from your head of department), although Recognised Students status does not provide a formal association with an Oxford college and will not be awarded a formal qualification or accreditation by Oxford.

Faculties/departments that have accepted recognised students over recent years

The following faculties/departments have accepted recognised students over recent years:

Medical Sciences

  • Department of Biochemistry
  • Department of Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Department of Clinical Neurosciences
  • Department of Experimental Psychology
  • Department of Oncology
  • Department of Paediatrics
  • Department of Physiology, Anatomy, and Genetics
  • Department of Population Health
  • Department of Psychiatry
  • Doctoral Training Centre-MSD
  • Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine
  • Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS)
  • Nuffield Department of Women’s & Reproductive Health
  • Radcliffe Department of Medicine
  • Sir William Dunn School of Pathology

Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Department of Computer Science
  • Department of Earth Sciences
  • Department of Engineering Science
  • Department of Materials
  • Department of Physics
  • Department of Plant Sciences
  • Department of Statistics
  • Department of Zoology
  • Mathematical Institute
  • Rudolf Peierls Centre for Theoretical Physics
  • Sub-Department of Astrophysics
  • Sub-Department of Atomic and Laser Physics
  • Sub-Department of Inorganic Chemistry
  • Sub-Department of Organic Chemistry
  • Sub-Department of Particle Physics
  • Sub-Department of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry

Social Sciences

  • Blavatnik School of Government
  • Department of Economics
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Politics and International Relations
  • Department of Social Policy and Intervention
  • Faculty of Law
  • Oxford Internet Institute
  • Oxford School of Global and Area Studies
  • Saïd Business School
  • School of Anthropology & Museum Ethnography
  • School of Archaeology
  • School of Geography and the Environment

Humanities

  • Faculty of Classics
  • Faculty of English Language and Literature
  • Faculty of Theology and Religion
  • Faculty of History
  • Faculty of Linguistics, Philology, and Phonetics
  • Faculty of Medieval & Modern Languages
  • Faculty of Music
  • Faculty of Oriental Studies
  • Faculty of Philosophy
  • Ruskin School of Art

Oxford University Department of Continuing Education

Application process

The first step in applying for Recognised Student status is to contact the academic department where you would like to be based via the details provided in our individual graduate course pages and request agreement from them, and from a member of their academic staff who is prepared to act as your academic advisor. Please note above the departments that have accepted Recognised Students in recent years. If you gain approval you will be required to submit an application form, together with a number of supporting documents. Further information can be found on the Recognised Student status page and our Visiting and recognised students fees page. The application form, together with notes of guidance, can be found below.

2019-20 academic year

File Recognised Students - Application Form - 2019-20 entry

PDF icon Recognised Students - Guidance notes - 2019-20 entry

Visiting Student status

If you are a student from overseas and wish to spend a period of up to three terms (ie one academic year) in Oxford on a course related to the degree you are studying in your own country, you can apply to a college for a place as a Visiting Student. However, it is not possible to join the activities of Oxford's taught graduate courses, so as a Visiting Student you would follow the curriculum from Oxford's undergraduate courses.

Application process

For further details about Visiting Students and how to apply, please see the information on the undergraduate Visiting Students page.

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