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Diagram showing the structure of the DPhil course over 14 terms

Full-time study

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


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

1. Transfer of Status takes place by the end of the fourth term of study. It consists of the submission of a written report and a verbal interview with two assessors. This provides a detailed check on a student’s progress and their understanding of their DPhil research, and is an opportunity for students to receive independent feedback.

2. Confirmation of Status usually takes place in the student's eighth or ninth term. It consists of the submission of a thesis contents list and a timetable for completion of the thesis,and a verbal interview with two assessors. It offers a further opportunity for students to receive independent feedback as they begin or continue 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.  Theses within the Medical Sciences Division are normally a maximum of 50,000 words in length.

Following thesis submission, a viva (oral 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.


If required, students may be given permission to 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.