Higher Doctorates

Higher doctorates are earned awards of the University whose fundamental purpose is to recognise excellence in academic scholarship.

The regulations and administration of higher doctorates have been comprehensively reformed following a review in 2016. The new procedures have been in operation since 2018 and a post-implementation review was conducted in 2021-22. The outcome of that review has prompted the University to suspend applications for Higher Doctorates from the 2023-24 round onwards whilst further work is undertaken to determine what the future of higher doctorates should be.

Applications received in the 2022-23 round which have not yet been resolved will continue to be processed.

The higher doctorates offered by the University are: Doctor of Divinity (DD), Doctor of Civil Law (DCL), Doctor of Letters (DLitt), Doctor of Science (DSc), and Doctor of Music (DMus).

A fee of £3,100 will be payable for submission of an application, of which £310 is non-refundable should you not progress to full scrutiny after initial screening.


Any person who is a current member of Congregation (or was a member at the point of retirement from the University) or holds a degree of the University may apply for leave to supplicate for one of the higher doctorates. 

Graduates of the University of Cambridge or the University of Dublin who have been incorporated in this University are precluded from supplicating for one of the higher doctorates, unless they are also a current member of Congregation (or were a member at the point of retirement from the University) or hold a degree of the University.


Applications can be submitted on an open basis; additionally departments, faculties and colleges may wish to invite an application from a specific candidate. An invitation to apply does not in itself constitute proof that the work of the candidate is of sufficient significance to merit the award of the degree concerned. This remains a judgement of the responsible body on the recommendation of its judges. For an indication of the academic standard required for one of the higher doctorates, please refer to the examination regulations for Higher Doctorates and to the local guidance prepared by the relevant responsible body.

Applications to supplicate shall be made to one of the following responsible bodies only.



Board (Faculty/Division)

Doctor of Letters (DLitt)



English Language and Literature

Fine Art


Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics

Medieval and Modern Languages and Literature


Oriental Studies


Theology and Religion

Fine Art

Social Sciences

Social Sciences

Doctor of Science (DSc)

Social Sciences

Social Sciences


Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences


Medical Sciences

Doctor of Music (DMus)



Doctor of Divinity (DD)


Theology and Religion

Doctor of Civil Law (DCL)

Social Sciences


Applications from the Department for Continuing Education will be considered by the relevant cognate area in one of the four divisions. Candidates applying under the auspices of the Department for Continuing Education should contact the Submissions and Research Degrees Team for confirmation as to which division will consider their application.

Application cycle

Applications will be considered on a cyclical basis.

The application window will open on 1 August each year and applications should be submitted using the online application form no later than midnight 31 August. We ask candidates to note that unfortunately applications for a DSc in Medical Sciences will not be opened in the 2021-2022 year, having been postponed for a year under the recommendation of the Education Committee. Applications for a DSc in Medical Sciences are expected to be open as part of the August 2022 application window. Any changes to this information will be published on this web page when available. Candidates should be aware that the processing of applications will normally be subject to the following timetable:


Due by (Academic Year in which application is made)

Candidate submits application for screening

31 August

Division undertakes screening

End Week 3 Michaelmas Term

Candidate notified of outcome of screening

End Week 4 Michaelmas Term

Candidate submits full submission

End Week 8 Michaelmas Term

Submission sent to judges

End Week 0 Hilary Term

Judges send recommendation

End Week 11 Hilary Term

Responsible body consider judges recommendations

End Week 9 Trinity Term

Candidates notified of outcome

End Week 10 Trinity Term

Local guidance

Please read the relevant local guidance for the Higher Doctorate degree you are interested in before proceeding with your application.

Initial application

An initial application submitted for screening will consist of:

  • a completed online application form
  • proof of payment of the application fee
  • a pdf document of no more than 10 sides of A4 (minimum 11pt, single spaced) to include a statement of how the candidate meets the criteria for the award
  • a pdf copy of the candidates CV
  • a pdf copy of the list of key / representative publications as stipulated by the relevant local guidance;
  • a list of any individuals the candidate would like to see excluded from the pool of judges on grounds of conflict of interest, with grounds to be explained. Please note, however, that the relevant responsible body reserves the right to appoint any judge that they see as being the most appropriate person to judge a candidate’s work.

For all higher doctorates, work submitted for other degrees is excluded from consideration. Additionally, at least one year must have elapsed between the publication of any published paper or book and its submission as evidence in support of an application. For work produced in collaboration, a candidate must state in respect of each item the extent of their own contribution.

Screening process

Initial applications will be subject to a screening process to establish if there is a prima facie case for the candidate to be considered for the degree. The nature of the screening process is detailed in the local guidance prepared by the relevant responsible body.

Should the responsible body conclude that there is not a prima facie case for consideration, the candidate will be notified by the Submissions and Research Degrees Team. A fee of £310 will be retained by the University and the remainder of the application fee will be returned to the candidate (£3,100).

There is no right of appeal in relation to a screening decision, although unsuccessful candidates may re-apply at the next available opportunity.

Candidates invited to proceed to full scrutiny will be notified by email by the Submissions and Research Degrees Team.

Full application

Please note: Due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, all submissions of published works in support of applications for the University’s Higher Doctorate degrees must be in digital format. Staff are working remotely for the foreseeable future and are unable to receive or distribute any items in hard copy for the 2020/21 application round.

Details of the nature of the submission required for a full application, in terms of the extent and form of publications as appropriate to the conventions of the field, will be determined by the responsible bodies and form part of the local guidance which is available to candidates. If/when judges are appointed, the candidate will be informed and shall then provide two copies of the publications listed in their initial application (either in hard copy or electronically), and a full list of all their publications to the Submissions and Research Degrees Team. Hard copies should be sent to the Submissions and Research Degrees Team, c/o The Examination Schools, 75-81 High Street, Oxford, OX1 4BG. (Please read the note at the top of this section regarding the submission of published works for the 2020/21 application cycle). The previously submitted application form, covering statement, CV, and the key/representative publications list (with their explanation statements), provided at the screening stage will also be used at this point.

Appointment of judges

Once a prima facie case for the candidate to be considered for the degree has been established, the Submissions and Research Degrees Team will liaise with the Chair of the responsible body in whose remit the research submission lies to recommend judges to act on behalf of the responsible body. Nominated judges will be approached during Michaelmas term whilst the candidate prepares their full application. Two judges will be appointed to consider the evidence submitted.

For applications from current members of Congregation, both judges shall be external to the University. For other applications one internal and one external judge may be appointed, or two external judges if an internal judge is not available. The identity of the judges will not be divulged to the candidate at any time.

Conflict of Interest

Prior to appointment judges approached will be required to declare any conflicts of interest that they hold with the candidate. Judges will not be appointed to judge submissions for candidates with whom they have a conflict of interest. For the purposes of judging a submission for a Higher Doctorate, a conflict of interest is defined as follows:

  • a close professional, contractual or personal relationship with the candidate or who has a financial interest in the research of the candidate
  • anyone who is already, or knows they will be, in a position to significantly influence the future of the candidate: e.g. on an appointment panel for a post for which the candidate has applied
  • anyone significantly involved in recent or current collaborative research activities with the candidate
  • an external judge cannot be a member of a governing body or committee of the University or currently employed by, or taking up a position during the course of judging a submission at the University
  • the appointment of both external judges from the same department of the same institution.

Additionally, if within the last three years:

  • the judge supervised or had line management responsibility for the candidate
  • the external judge was a member of staff or student of the University.

Furthermore, if a judge is aware of any other circumstance that presents a potential conflict of interest with a candidate, they should raise this with the responsible body who will decide if an alternative judge should be appointed.

Should it not be possible to engage judges before the beginning of Hilary Term in the relevant academic year, the responsible body may decline to consider the full application. In such circumstances the full application fee will be refunded to the candidate. Any delay in appointing judges will be notified to candidates together with a revised timetable for judging the submission by the Submissions and Research Degrees Team.


The appointed judges will each produce an independent report assessing whether the candidate’s submission has met the award criteria. The reports and recommendation will be received and considered by the relevant responsible body.

In the event that the two judges’ reports are in conflict, a third judge will be appointed to review the submission without knowledge of the previous judgements. This third judge shall be external to the University and will not be appointed to judge submissions for candidates with whom they have a conflict of interest as defined above.

Candidates will be advised that there has been a delay in receiving the judges’ reports on their submission and a revised timetable for the outcome of the submission will be provided to the candidate by the Submissions and Research Degrees Team. It will normally be expected that the third judge will review the submission over the Long Vacation with the relevant responsible body receiving the report in Michaelmas Term.


If the judges decide that the candidate’s submission merits the awarding of a Higher Doctorate, and this is endorsed at a meeting of the relevant responsible body, the candidate will be granted leave to supplicate for one of the higher doctorates. Success will be notified to the candidate by the Submissions and Research Degrees Team. The relevant responsible body will receive a copy of the result letter.

The decision of the responsible body will also be published in the University Gazette and the University Calendar. One copy of each of the papers and books submitted as evidence will remain in the possession of the University for deposit in the Bodleian Library, unless the Library already possesses a copy.

If the judges decide that the candidate’s submission does not merit the awarding of a Higher Doctorate, and this is endorsed at a meeting of the relevant responsible body, the candidate will not be granted leave to supplicate for one of the higher doctorates. The outcome will be communicated to the candidate by the Submissions and Research Degrees Team. Unsuccessful candidates may re-apply at the next available opportunity.

Whether the outcome of the application is positive or negative, all candidates will receive anonymised copies of the judges’ reports for feedback purposes.

Data privacy statement 

In the course of completing this application form, you will have provided information about yourself (‘personal data’). We (the University of Oxford) are the ‘data controller’ for this information, which means we decide how to use it and are responsible for looking after it in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

How we use your data

We will use your data to assess your application for eligibility and suitability for leave to supplicate for a higher doctorate.

We are processing your data for this purpose only because you have given us your consent to do so, by ticking the appropriate box on the application form. You can withdraw your consent at any time by contacting us at [email protected] or +44 1865 276391. In this event, we will stop the processing as soon as we can.  However, this will not affect the lawfulness of any processing carried out before your withdrawal of consent

We will only use your data for the purposes for which we collected it, unless we reasonably consider that we need to use it for another related reason and that reason is compatible with the original purpose. If we need to use your data for an unrelated purpose, we will seek your consent to use it for that new purpose.

Who has access to your data?

Access to your data within the University will be provided to those who need to view it as part of their work in carrying out the purposes described above. We will also need to share your data with external judges, appointed by the University, if your application passes the pre-screening stage of the process. Where we share your data with a third party, we will seek to share the minimum amount necessary.

Retaining your data

We will only retain your data for as long as we need it to meet our purposes, including any relating to legal, accounting, or reporting requirements. 


Your data will be held securely in accordance with the University’s policies and procedures. Further information is available on the University’s Policy on Data Protection page.

Where we store and use your data

We store and use your data on University premises, in both a manual and electronic form. 

Both forms may be transferred to, and stored at, a destination outside the European Economic Area ("EEA"), if you pass the pre-screening stage of the application process and a judge from outside the EEA is appointed to assess your full application.

Such transfers will only take place if one of the following applies:

  • the country receiving the data is considered by the EU to provide an adequate level of data protection;
  • the organisation receiving the data is covered by an arrangement recognised by the EU as providing an adequate standard of data protection e.g. transfers to companies that are certified under the EU US Privacy Shield;
  • the transfer is governed by approved contractual clauses;
  • the transfer has your consent;
  • the transfer is necessary for the performance of a contract with you or to take steps requested by you prior to entering into that contract; or
  • the transfer is necessary for the performance of a contract with another person, which is in your interests.

Your rights

Information on your rights in relation to your personal data are explained GDPR section of the Council Secretariat page.

Online application form

The application window is now closed. Applications can be submitted from 1 to 31 August each year.

The application fee must be paid in advance, via the University online store. You will need your payment reference number to complete the application form. 

Please note that the application form cannot be saved and must be completed and submitted in the same session.


Candidates not invited to full scrutiny following the screening process, and those whose full submission did not merit the awarding of a Higher Doctorate, are eligible to re-apply at the next available opportunity.

Candidates wishing to make a reapplication should take into consideration any feedback that they received at either the screening or judging phases to inform their reapplication. The same screening panel and judges may be used to assess a reapplication, particularly in narrow academic fields. Copies of previous judges’ reports will not be made available to either the screening panel or judges.

Higher Doctorates Appeal Procedure

1.      Scope

1.1   This procedure covers appeals against a decision of the ‘responsible body’ not to grant leave to supplicate for a Higher Doctorate. This right of appeal is set out in paragraph 11 of the General Regulations for Higher Doctorates.

1.2   There is no right of appeal in relation to a screening decision (i.e. where a responsible body concludes that there is not a prima facie case for the candidate to be considered for the degree). This is set out in paragraph 3 of the General Regulations for Higher Doctorates. The right of appeal set out in paragraph 11 of the regulations applies only where a candidate has made a full application, having been invited to do so following the screening process.

2.      Deadline

2.1   Appeals against the decision of the responsible body should be submitted no later than 28 calendar days after the notification of outcome has been sent by the Higher Doctorates team in the Examination Schools. Appeals submitted after this deadline will not be considered.

3.      Grounds for appeal

3.1   Appeals will only be considered on the ground that there was a procedural irregularity in the decision making process for the application.

3.2   Appeals against the academic judgement of the responsible body (including the assessors) cannot be considered.

4.      Submitting an appeal to the Education Committee

4.1   Appeals should be submitted to the [email protected] mailbox.

4.2   An Appeal application should include a statement setting out the grounds for procedural irregularity in the decision making process, with any supporting evidence, which was likely to have had a material impact on the decision of the responsible body.

5.      Consideration of the appeal

5.1   The Chair of Education Committee will be notified of any Appeal application received. The application will be reviewed by a member of Education Policy Support who may request the applicant to clarify any points or provide further information in support of the Appeal. Once any points have been clarified or further information provided, the Appeal documentation will be submitted to the appeal panel.

5.2   An appeal panel will consist of two members of Education Committee (appointed by the Chair of Education Committee). These members will not have been involved in the consideration of the application for the Higher Doctorate and will not be members of the same faculty or department as the candidate. In the event that this is not possible, the Chair of Education Committee may appoint a panel drawn from staff of the University with appropriate experience who are not members of Education Committee and who have not been involved in consideration of the application for the Higher Doctorate.

5.3   A member of Education Policy Support will provide the appeal documentation to the panel for its consideration. The panel will be responsible for making a decision on behalf of Education Committee. The panel will discuss the appeal and determine whether it should be upheld or dismissed. In reaching its decision, the panel will have regard to whether the impact of any irregularity found would have resulted in a substantially different outcome to the application for a Higher Doctorate.

5.4   The panel’s decision will be communicated to Education Policy Support who will provide a formal response to the appellant. The formal response will normally be communicated to the appellant within eight weeks of the receipt of the original Appeal. If this is not possible, the appellant will be notified and informed of a revised timeframe.

5.5   There will be no further avenue for appeal following the decision of the panel on behalf of Education Committee.

6.      Consequences of appeal outcomes

6.1   Education Committee cannot make a decision to award a Higher Doctorate as this is a matter of academic judgement and falls within the remit of the responsible body. If an appeal is upheld, Education Committee may ask that the application be reconsidered in full or in part by the responsible body. Education Committee may require that a different assessor or assessors be appointed, if it determines that this is appropriate in the context of the outcome of the appeal.

6.2   Education Committee may make recommendations for improvements to the process for the consideration of Higher Doctorates as a consequence of the appeals it considers.

[1] The relevant Divisional Board or other responsible body as specified in the information published by the University.

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