Research courses | University of Oxford
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Research courses

As a student undertaking a research course at Oxford, you will focus on a specific area of research throughout your course, working with an academic supervisor who will oversee your studies.

Your supervisor will help you devise a programme that allows you to realise the full benefits of the resources and intellectual community in Oxford. They will meet with you regularly to provide advice about the specific project and suitable research methods. For example, research students are often trained in specific research skills such as statistical techniques or palaeography. Supervisors will stimulate your thinking, requesting written work and returning it to you with constructive criticism. They will review your progress and help you to work within a planned framework and timetable. In the experimental sciences, you can expect to be in regular contact with your supervisor through shared work in the laboratory. In addition you are likely to be part of a research team under your supervisor and this collaborative style of working can provide an important additional information stream and advice network. 

There are certain key stages during your progress towards a research degree when input from your supervisor is particularly crucial:

  • At the beginning, when your research topic and treatment are being defined.
  • When you transfer from one formal status to another – for example, from Probationer Research Student to full DPhil status (see below for information).
  • When the thesis is in the final stages of preparation for submission.

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 before registration or during your course of study for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

Students undertaking research degrees must apply for transfer and confirmation of status within specified time limits for their course, as detailed below.

Research degrees offered by the University of Oxford include:

Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil)

A DPhil is the Oxford term for a PhD. It is an advanced research degree awarded on the basis of a substantial thesis and an oral examination of the thesis and its subject area (often called a ‘viva voce’ or simply ‘viva’). Taught course elements may be required but will not form part of the final examination. The DPhil is of a higher standing than the MSc by Research, and requires a more extensive thesis. Examiners of a doctorate must be satisfied that the thesis represents a significant and substantial piece of research, is presented in a lucid and scholarly manner and the candidate has a good general knowledge of the field of their thesis.

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. 

You will be expected to submit your thesis after three or, at most, four years from the date of admission.

Doctor of Engineering (DEng)

The DEng in Renewable Energy Marine Structures offers you the opportunity to develop in-depth knowledge, understanding and expertise in the design and development of renewable energy marine structures. The programme provides a comprehensive state-of-the-art training through taught modules and advanced research and development based in the sponsoring company. It is run in collaboration with Cranfield University, though you will be based in the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford for the majority of your degree.

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 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. 

Doctoral training programmes (CDTs and DTPs)

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 in subsequent years. These programmes are referred to as Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) and Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs), and are supported through links with industrial and other partners, as well as in some cases other institutions. 

Research courses A-Z listing

This A-Z contains a comprehensive list of Oxford's graduate research courses, ordered by title.

A

Archaeology DPhil (part-time)

B

Biochemistry MSc by Research
Biomedical Imaging EPSRC and MRC CDT

C

Chemical Biology MSc by Research
Clinical Neurosciences MSc by Research
Cyber Security EPSRC CDT

D

E

Economics DPhil
Education DPhil
Engineering Science MSc by Research
English DPhil
Experimental Psychology MSc by Research

F

Fine Art DPhil

G

H

History DPhil

I

Inorganic Chemistry MSc by Research

L

Law DPhil

M

Materials DPhil
Materials MSc by Research
Mathematics MSc by Research
Musculoskeletal Sciences MSc by Research
Music DPhil

N

O

Oil and Gas NERC CDT
Oncology DPhil
Oncology MSc by Research
Organic Chemistry MSc by Research

P

Pharmacology MSc by Research
Politics DPhil
Primary Health Care MSc by Research
Psychiatry MSc by Research

R

Radiation Oncology combined MSc and DPhil

S

Sociology DPhil
Statistical Science EPSRC and MRC CDT
Statistics MSc by Research
Surgical Sciences MSc by Research
Synthetic Biology EPSRC and BBSRC CDT
Systems Biology EPSRC CDT

T

Theology DPhil

Z

Zoology DPhil