Partial Differential Equations (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training) | University of Oxford
Students working on Partial Differential Equations
(Image Credit: PDE CDT)

Partial Differential Equations (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training)

About the course

The central aim of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Partial Differential Equations (PDEs) is to educate cohorts of highly trained, outstanding mathematicians with deep expertise and interdisciplinary skills in the analysis and applications of PDEs, to help drive scientific advances over the next fifty years.

The role of PDEs within mathematics, especially nonlinear analysis, geometry, topology, stochastic analysis, numerical analysis, and applied mathematics, and in other sciences (such as physics, chemistry, life sciences, climate modelling/prediction, materials science, engineering, and finance) is fundamental; it is at the heart of many scientific advances and is becoming increasingly significant.

At the same time, the demands of applications have led to important developments in the analysis of PDEs, which have in turn proved valuable for applications.

A sizeable yearly cohort has allowed the CDT to create new training mechanisms, so that you will learn theory, analysis, and applications of PDEs in a variety of fields in a coherent manner with a natural progression, by-passing a traditionally separate 'pure' or 'applied' approach to learning.

You will undertake a four-year programme with the first year consisting of a set of intensive courses focusing on the analysis and applications of PDEs. The first year also includes two ten-week mini-projects allowing you to broaden your knowledge and find a field suitable for you to develop your main research topic for years two to four. 

There will be annual reviews of your progress, drawing on indicators such as attendance, assessment of your mini-projects, and course results at the end of your first year, followed by the submission of a written report, in support of your transfer from Probationary Research Student status to DPhil status at the end of your second year, and a Confirmation of Status interview at the end of your third year, to ascertain progression towards the submission of your DPhil thesis.

Graduate destinations

It is expected that those successfully completing the training programme will go on to undertake further research in academia/industry or work in industry.

Multiple applications

In applying for this programme, you may submit further applications for up to two of the following associated programmes without paying an additional application fee.

You may only apply to one programme from Group B under this arrangement without paying further application fees.

Group A
Group B
Industrially Focused Mathematical Modelling (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training)DPhil in Mathematics
Systems Approaches to Biomedical Science (EPSRC and MRC Centre for Doctoral Training) 

For instructions, see Applying for more than one course in the Application Guide.

Changes to the course

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. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2018-19

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in mathematics or a related numerate discipline. 

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 out of 4.0.

A previous master's degree is not required, though the requirement for a first-class undergraduate degree with honours can be alternatively demonstrated by strong performance in a master's degree.

Highly motivated and mathematically capable students with a degree in other subjects are also encouraged to apply.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

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(s)

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.  

In previous years, around 75% of applicants have been shortlisted for interview. Shortlisted applicants will be invited for interview normally two to three weeks after the admissions deadline. The department aims to give one weeks' notice prior to interview.

If invited, you can expect to be interviewed by at least two people. The interview could take place face-to-face, by telephone or Skype. The interview will consist of questions in light of your application and supporting documents against the assessment criteria and there will be technical mathematical questions. If being interviewed by Skype it is useful to have some paper and a marker pen to hand to show your answers.


Publications are not expected.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Preference may be given to those who have previously studied partial differential equations and analysis.

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the standard level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Mathematical Institute to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Mathematical Institute 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 Mathematical Institute.

You are allocated a supervisor for the first year and then your supervisor will change to reflect the area of your research for years two to four.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not then change for the remainder 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, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

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.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.


The CDT in PDEs is based within the Mathematical Institute, which provides the following facilities within the recently completed purpose-built Andrew Wiles Building:

  • IT support
  • Whitehead Library and PDE bench collection
  • access to hot-desk office space in the first year and dedicated desk space in years two to four – all desks are equipped with a computer
  • large common room
  • extensive teaching space - six classrooms, three seminar rooms and three lecture theatres
  • on-site canteen
  • spring retreat and summer school

You will have the opportunity to spend time with our academic partners during years two to four with a student exchange of a few weeks to several months in duration. There will also be some internship opportunities with the CDT's non-academic partners.


There are over 1,100 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

This programme has a dedicated stream of funding, and the majority of students on the programme are funded. Eligibility restrictions apply. Further details can be found on the CDT webpage.


Annual fees for entry in 2018-19

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

(including Islands)

The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; 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.

Tuition and college 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 tuition and college fees).

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

For the 2018-19 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between c. £1,015 and £1,555 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.

How to apply

You are welcome to contact academics involved in the CDT, however it is not a necessary prerequisite to applying.

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:
One to two pages

Your statement should be written in English and 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 motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques
  • capacity for sustained and intense work; reasoning ability
  • ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace.

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

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally 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.

Your references should generally be academic, though up to one professional reference will be accepted.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and your ability to work in a group.

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