About the course
The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Approaches to Biomedical Science: Responsible and Reproducible Research (SABS: R³) is an innovative open collaboration between the University of Oxford and 22 partner industrial organisations.
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.
SABS: R³ is predicated on the increasing reliance of biomedical research on computational approaches, and hence on well-engineered research software. The programme aims to train first-rate biomedical scientists equipped with the skills needed to transform their research through the creation of innovative, reusable computational tools and solutions for cutting-edge biomedical research problems.
This four-year programme of research and training has strong industrial links, with each student having both academic and industrial supervision.
The programme enables students from a range of scientific backgrounds to focus on computational biomedical research problems, including the design and testing of new chemical and biological entities, the modelling of biological and physiological systems, the robust analysis of large complex datasets and the development of novel computational methods for medical and biological imaging. This cross-disciplinary work introduces students to cutting-edge software engineering, machine learning, cheminformatics, computational simulation, bioinformatics, data mining, statistical analysis, physical and structural study of biomolecules, mathematical modelling, and medical and biological imaging. Underpinning the entire programme will be an appreciation of the vital importance of taking a responsible and reproducible approach to computational biomedical research.
The CDT's industrial partners are currently AC Immune, AstraZeneca, Aurox, the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre, Diamond Light Source, Elsevier, e-therapeutics, Exscientia, GE Healthcare, GlasxoSmithKline (GSK), Hoffmann La Roche, IvyFarm, LabGenius, Lhasa, LifeArc, Moffitt Cancer Center, Oracle, Oxford Drug Design, Reckitt Benckiser, SimOmics, UCB and Vernalis.”
A major advantage of the programme is that you are not required to choose the substantive DPhil project until after the initial taught training phase, allowing a more informed choice of research project to be made.
In addition to learning about biomedical science, the first six months of the course are devoted to acquiring advanced software development and theoretical and technical skills that form the backbone of interdisciplinary research in this area. This training draws from the engineering, mathematical, physical, chemical and biological sciences through a combination of intensive lecture courses, project work and hands-on software development. Each taught module lasts for either one, two or three weeks and is assessed using a method appropriate to the course: for example, open-source software development, presentations, group assignments or written work. This will be complemented with relevant research and communication skills training throughout the four years of the programme. A key element of the programme is the group-development of an open-source software solution to a current research problem put forward by our industrial collaborators.
After completion of the taught training phase, you will undertake two exploratory research projects of thirteen weeks' duration each, similar in scope to a master's-level project, followed by the three-year DPhil project. You will be based within the research group of your principal supervisor for these, which may be in the University or with an industrial partner.
The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Centre for Doctoral Training 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, 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.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of the doctoral research phase of your course (years two to four), however it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.
During the first year students are assessed on each of the taught modules undertaken in the first two terms as well as completing a project report on each of the two short rotation projects undertaken. Satisfactory achievement will be required for progression to the research stage, assessed by a DTC viva on transfer to the appropriate department.
Assessment during the following three years of the programme will follow the regulations of the department in which you are hosted, and typically involves Transfer of Status and Confirmation of Status as standard. On completion of your thesis you well complete a viva.
The programme is part of the DTC which has a strong record of alumni success. To date, around 60% of students have gone on to pursue academic careers and 20% have entered into industrial research. The DTC’s alumni are responsible for at least 20 start-up companies and over 30 granted or pending patents. Many students who have gone onto successful careers are invited back to talk to current students within the Research Skills sessions.
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.
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.
Courses suggested by the centre
All graduate courses offered by the MPLS Doctoral Training Centre
Entry requirements for entry in 2023-24
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:
- at least a strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in physical sciences (ie chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics, statistics, physics, biochemistry)
Applicants with degrees in other scientific disciplines with strong quantitative/mathematical backgrounds and/or strong programming/software engineering skills are also encouraged to apply.
Entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have or are on track to obtain a first-class degree or the equivalent.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0. However, most successful applicants have or are on track to obtain a GPA of 3.7.
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 and experience
- Successful applicants will have demonstrable interest in programming.
- Applicants will be required to demonstrate their experience and interest in the use of quantitative approaches.
- Research or working experience in a relevant area may be an advantage. Preference may be given to those who have previously studied in a relevant area. Evidence of training in a relevant area may be an advantage.
- Although publications are not required, a strong publication record may advantage an 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.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*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.
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.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. 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 for all suitably qualified applicants following initial assessment by the programme directors. Interview panels usually consist of two members, including a programme director and an academic expert in the areas relevant to the student. Interviews last for around 40 minutes and include questions and exercises to ascertain the level of mathematics, biology and programming obtained by the applicant to date. If necessary, interviews will be held via Microsoft Teams for candidates based outside the UK.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published 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.
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.
Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
Initiatives to improve access to graduate study
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.
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.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
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:
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.
The taught component of the programme is held within the University of Oxford Doctoral Training Centre (DTC). The DTC provides excellent facilities specifically designed to promote interdisciplinary study and currently houses six programmes with multiple seminar rooms available. All students have individual study spaces with access to a desktop computer and appropriate IT support. Social break-out space is provided and there is a small well-stocked library.
The DTC provides opportunities for all cohorts to come together regularly for both academic and social purposes.
The short projects and DPhil projects are hosted in a range of departments across the University or with the industrial collaborator, as appropriate.
The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. 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 centre's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2023-24
Annual Course fees
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.
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.
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 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 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 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
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 following colleges accept students on the Sustainable Approaches to Biomedical Science: Responsible and Reproducible Research CDT:
The following colleges accept students on the Sustainable Approaches to Biomedical Science: Responsible and Reproducible Research CDT:
Before you apply
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. 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.
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.
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.
General enquiries should be directed to the course administrator 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. 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
Please leave 'Field and title of research project' blank on the 'Course' tab of the application form.
At the start of the second term students will select from a pool of projects.
It is not necessary for you to identify a potential supervisor in your application.
The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Centre for Doctoral Training.
Three overall, academic preferred. 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 intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation 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.
In addition, Sustainable Approaches to Biomedical Science will contact referees and ask them to answer a small number of specific questions about the candidates. This will be in addition to the standard reference requirements as listed above.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 1,000 words
Your “Statement of Purpose” describes, in English, how your background and research interests relate to the SABS programme. You should follow the template below. Your statement should focus primarily on academic, research, or employment-related achievements and interests, rather than personal achievements and interests.
Make sure your statement of purpose is anonymised with respect to your name, ethnicity, and gender. Anonymisation of application forms is one of the actions we are taking as part of a pilot aimed at minimising conscious and implicit bias in the admissions procedure for graduate students.
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, in particular any research you have conducted, relevant employment or work experience (if any), and/or any activities that illustrate your personal strengths, research, programming, communication, and/or team skills.
Describe your current research interests and identify any potential supervisors or groups you are particularly interested in working with, explaining which aspect of their work most interests you. SABS has three major research themes; please also indicate which area(s) you are most interested in:
- Theme 1: Computational & Data-Driven Structural Approaches to Drug Discovery
- Theme 2: Cellular Microscopy and Image Analysis Underpinning Biomedical Discovery
- Theme 3: Physiological Modelling Underpinning Biomedical Discovery
Explain your motivation for applying to the SABS doctoral programme and why you would be a suitable candidate for the programme.
Your Statement of Purpose will be assessed for:
- Your reasons for applying.
- Evidence of your motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study.
- Your ability to present a reasoned case in English.
- Your preliminary knowledge of research techniques.
- Your understanding of problems in the area and ability to construct and defend an argument.
It is normal for your ideas and goals to change in some ways as you participate in the programme, so you are not committed to work in the specific subject area or with the supervisor(s) you highlight in your application. You should, nevertheless, do your best to demonstrate your current research interests and aspirations.