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DPhil Structure

Full-time study

Most students in the Department study full-time, and are expected to complete their research within three years (nine terms).  Research studies take place 52 weeks of the year, and students are entitled to 38 days of holiday (including UK bank holidays) during that time.  Students are expected to live and study in Oxford unless fieldwork takes them further afield.

Theses within the Medical Sciences Division are normally a maximum of 50,000 words in length.


All students begin their studies as Probationer Research Students (PRS status). During a research student’s career, they will undergo two milestone assessments.  These are designed to evaluate the student’s progress at two key points in their studies.

Transfer of Status provides an opportunity for a detailed check on a student’s progress, and understanding of their DPhil research, within the first four terms of the programme and is an opportunity for students to receive independent feedback. Confirmation of Status usually takes place in the eighth term after admission, and offers an opportunity for students to receive independent feedback as they begin the process of writing up their findings and drawing conclusions for their thesis.


After a successful Confirmation of Status, students are expected to submit their thesis by the end of the ninth term.  A viva examination will be conducted by two examiners, one internal to the University and one external.  This typically takes place within three months of the examiners being sent the completed thesis.


Students may transfer to part-time study during the programme with the approval of their supervisors, College, Department, and Division.  Part-time study is expected to take place at 50% of the intensity of full-time study, so all timescales are usually doubled.