The DPhil in Education is a full-time programme which takes 3-4 years and which is intended to provide graduates with a wide range of research skills as well as in-depth knowledge, understanding and expertise in their chosen field of educational research.

The course

The DPhil in Education is an advanced research degree of a high standing and is awarded on the basis of a thesis and an oral examination.

A full-time programme takes 3-4 years to complete and is intended to provide graduates with a wide range of research skills as well as in-depth knowledge, understanding and expertise in their chosen field of research.

About 80 DPhil students are attached to the department, researching a wide range of topics, normally linked to one or more of the department Research Groups. Students come from over 40 different countries and are supported by a variety of scholarships and grants. Entry is highly competitive, and applicants are required to have a strong academic background and are required to submit a research proposal.


The department offers some part and full scholarships to attract the very strongest students who would otherwise not be able to come and study in Oxford.

It is committed to developing the number of fully-funded studentships it can offer to DPhil students, given their importance to the department’s research culture. To be considered for any of these scholarships and studentships applicants MUST apply before the end of the January ‘gathered field’. These are all highly competitive, and require high quality well-crafted research proposals.

All eligible applicants for graduate study are automatically considered for the University’s prestigious Clarendon Scholarships and the departmental scholarships. You will be notified around the beginning of March if you are being considered for any of these funding opportunities.

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

The ESRC is the UK’s largest organisation for funding research on social and economic issues. The University, in collaboration with Brunel University and the Open University, hosts the Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership – one of 14 Doctoral Training Partnerships accredited by the ESRC as part of a Doctoral Training Network.

In order to be considered for a Grand Union DTP ESRC studentship, you must select ‘ESRC Grand Union DTP Studentships in Social Sciences’ in the University of Oxford scholarships section of the University’s graduate application form. You must also complete a Grand Union DTP Application Form and upload it, together with your graduate application form, by the relevant January deadline for your course.

Information about ESRC studentships at Oxford can be found here. Please ensure you have read all of the guidance available on the website before completing the Grand Union DTP Application Form. Questions can be directed to the Grand Union DTP Office.

Talbot Scholarships

This scholarship fund is the result of a bequest to the department in honour of Ms Elfrida Talbot, who ran the first women’s hostel for Education students in the University in the early years of the twentieth century. It is normally used to part-fund a UK/EU doctoral student for three years who was seen as strong contender for an ESRC doctoral studentship. Strong contenders for ESRC studentships will be automatically considered for this scholarship: no separate application process is needed. This scholarship is usually offered once every three years.

Clarendon scholarships

The very strongest applicants for all our MSc and DPhil programmes are automatically considered for University Clarendon scholarships. There is no separate application process. These are highly competitive and each year only one or two of our students are successful. During our initial admissions screening, supervisors nominate applicants with outstanding academic records to be considered. These supervisors then prepare a supporting statement.  A departmental panel ranks these candidates and the Director of Doctoral Research puts forward a shortlist of the strongest applicants to the divisional committee.

Departmental studentships

The department is keen to attract the very strongest MSc students and encourage them to stay on for doctoral study. The shortlist will normally be made up of those students shortlisted for the Clarendon scholarships. Interviews and decisions will be made once the Clarendon awards are announced in March/April of each year.

Awards will vary in range, but will seek to make a significant contribution to the overall cost of fees. Successful candidates will be expected to make an active contribution to the academic and professional life of the doctoral students within the department. These scholarships may not be offered every year.

Further Information on graduate scholarships and awards offered by the University and external agencies can be found on the Student Funding Services website.

Fostering teenagers

The Hazel Project collaborative doctoral studentship

The Rees Centre and the Department of Education, through The Hazel Project, are awarding a collaborative doctoral studentship. The Hazel Project comprises founding members of Diverse Care and Xcel2000. This doctoral research will focus on teenagers in foster care and will specifically explore the characteristics of Foster Parents. The research will consider the concept of a therapeutic placement in terms of the relationship(s) within fostering families to explore what makes a good quality foster care placement for teenagers. Existing knowledge of the English foster care system would be desirable and applications from those with care experience would be welcome.

The first phase of the student’s fieldwork will include a period of background research and relationship development with the people and organisations working in the foster care sector in England. Once they have developed clear research questions, our student will engage their study participants over a period of time, including fieldwork in fostering families. The student will also carry out a secondary analysis of administrative data about the pathways of teenagers in foster care.

The PhD studentship will be co-funded by The Hazel Project and the Department of Education. The student will be based in the Rees Centre in the Department of Education. They will be supervised by Dr Lisa Holmes and another senior member of the Rees Centre research.   

How to apply

To apply for the studentship you must submit an application to study for a DPhil in Education at the University of Oxford by midday, 24 January 2020. Details about applying can be found at: https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/graduate/courses/dphil-education?wssl=1#content-tab–2. Your application should include in the research proposal an indication of how you would engage critically with the core elements of the project – adolescents in foster care. Your proposal can draw on the information detailed above. The applicant will be assessed as part of the applicant pool for the Department of Education.

Queries about the studentship should be addressed to: lisa.holmes@education.ox.ac.uk 

Walking with Women: Exploring Hidden Homelessness

ESRC Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) collaborative doctoral studentship with the Derrill Allatt Foundation and Human Story Theatre

The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing and the Department of Education are awarding a collaborative doctoral studentship, in partnership with Human Story Theatre. This doctoral research will make use of a range of participatory arts-based methods to study the lives of homeless women (or other highly marginalised groups at risk of becoming homeless, such as people with care experience), exploring the relationship between their experiences in education, broadly defined, and their lives today.

The first phase of the student’s fieldwork will include a period of background research and relationship development with the people and organisations working in both the homelessness sector and community arts in Oxford. Once they have developed clear research questions, our student will engage their study participants over a period of time, listening to their stories and visiting places particularly significant to their lives and their educational experiences. Walking as a participatory method of biographical research enables researchers and the people whose lives we wish to understand to walk together, reflecting on their knowledge, experiences, and memories in the context of the places, spaces, and sensory experiences in which they live their lives.

The project partner, Human Story Theatre, aims to harness the power of theatre to convey important messages about the issues faced by the health and social care sectors today. They encourage audiences to share experiences and to play an active part in the discussions and debate surrounding the issues faced. Over the course of the award, the student will work with Human Story Theatre to devise and evaluate literary and artistic projects using, with participants’ full and ongoing consent, elements from their narratives. These might be theatrical, musical, community projects such as creative mapping, displays of art in public places, street theatre, and working with writers and librettists to present stories in different ways. The aim of this aspect of the project is to raise awareness of the problem of unseen and unheard women, who walk perpetually, feeling unsafe if they remain in one place.

The PhD studentship will be co-funded by the Derrill Allatt Foundation and the ESRC Grand Union DTP for three years from October 2020. The student will be based in the Department of Education and Wolfson College at the University of Oxford. They will be supervised by Dr Katherine Collins and Dr David Mills from the Department of Education and supported by Gaye Poole and Amy Enticknap at the Human Story Theatre.

Information about ESRC studentships at Oxford and eligibility can be found on the Grand Union DTP website. This studentship is open to candidates who meet ESRC residency requirements for a full award (covering fees and a stipend for living costs).

How to apply

To apply for the studentship you must submit an application to study for a DPhil in Education at the University of Oxford by midday, 24 January 2020. Details about applying can be found at: https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/graduate/courses/dphil-education. Your application should include a research proposal indicating how you would engage critically with the three core elements of the project – homelessness, walking, and education – if offered the studentship. Your proposal can draw on the description of the research detailed above.

In addition you must complete a Grand Union DTP Application Form  and upload it, together with your graduate application form. Please ensure you also select ‘ESRC Grand Union DTP Studentships in Social Sciences’ in the University of Oxford scholarships section of the University’s graduate application form.

The admissions process is in two parts: the applicant will be assessed as part of the applicant pool for the Department of Education; the selected candidate will then be assessed as part of the applicant pool for the ESRC Grand Union DTP funding.

Queries about the studentship should be addressed to: katherine.collins@education.ox.ac.uk.


Scholarships are awarded on entry to the doctoral programme, not at any later point. If you are not awarded a scholarship in your first year, but elect to self-fund, you will be asked by the University to sign a declaration that you have the money to cover your fees and your living expenses for the first year. It should be noted that although you are only asked about the first year, it is extremely unlikely that you will acquire funding after that. There are no additional scholarships within the University for continuing doctoral students. The department in general and individual staff members work hard to bring in funding for doctoral students, but we cannot fund everybody. It is worth carefully considering which colleges might have scholarships for which you are eligible when you apply.

Most colleges will offer some very small grants for fieldwork, travel or conference attendance. These are in the region of a couple of hundred pounds at most.

You can work part time during your doctorate, subject to the requirements of your visa, but you must obtain the support of your supervisor to do so, and it can have detrimental effects on your progress. There are occasionally some paid research assistant posts within the department which are advertised to the doctoral cohort but these tend to be highly sought after. We do not have undergraduates so you are unlikely to be able to supervise as graduate students outside Education do.

There are some charitable trusts outside of the University to which you might be able to apply for some funding; we cannot keep track of all the potential requirements, so you should seek these out for yourself. However, they are not likely to be sufficient to cover fees and living expenses in their entirety.

Hardship funds (run by colleges) tend to be for ‘unexpected circumstances’; self-funders not getting any funding in second or subsequent years is not seen as unexpected. Both the university and the department have some limited funds for those writing up the final stages of their doctorate. These are highly competitive and there are always more requests than there is money to fulfil them.

This advice is not intended to put you off, but it is important for self-funders to have a realistic view.


What qualifications do I need to apply?

For more specific details of our admission criteria please visit the DPhil in Education course page.

How many students do you recruit to the DPhil in Education programme?

22 students are recruited to our DPhil in Education programme each year.

Can I study online or through distance learning?

It is not possible to study at a distance or on-line on our DPhil programme.

What are the backgrounds of students recruited to your programmes?

The department offers a very wide range of courses. As well as a comprehensive Doctoral programme attracting students from all over the world, we offer full-time one year MSc in Education and in MSc Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition (ALSLA) courses, as well as a range of part-time courses, some aimed primarily at UK teachers (e.g. MSc Learning & Teaching, MS Teacher Education) and some at distance learning (e.g., Applied Linguistics and Language Teaching). Consequently our courses cater to students from a diverse range of backgrounds.

For example in 2016/17, the department had a total complement of 582 students of whom 366 were studying full-time and 216 were studying part-time. For 2018/19, across the MSc Education, MSc ALSLA, and DPhil programmes, approximately 33% of our students came from the UK or EU, and the remaining 67% from overseas. The cohort from those programmes included students from Ghana, Japan, Germany, India, Malaysia, China, Mexico, Estonia, Australia, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and the United States, among many others.

What our students share is exceptional academic achievement in their previous learning and an ambition to excel academically.

Can I study part time?

Although doctoral research training programmes across the University tend to be structured around the needs of full-time students, we are able to offer a part-time DPhil option for students who reside and are employed locally.  For more information about studying for a part-time DPhil with us, please see the specific page.

How much will it cost to study and live in Oxford?

To find out how much it will cost to undertake your studies at the University, please visit the Fees and Living Costs webpage for details.

Can I apply for more than one course?

We would strongly encourage you to focus your application on the course for which you have the most interest and experience.

Can I apply for your courses if I am in the process of achieving my qualification to gain entry onto the programme?

Yes, you may apply for any of our courses whilst studying for another degree. If you are successful in achieving a place on one of our programmes, we would make a conditional offer which would include the condition of you achieving your qualification. You are required to submit an interim transcript at application. However, your final outcome would need to be available prior to you commencing the course at Oxford.

Can someone check my research proposal before I submit an application?

If you wish to check whether your proposed area of research might fit into the interests of current members of staff or the department’s research centres you should contact the Higher Degrees Office.

English is not my first language; which higher level language qualification is acceptable? And what score do you require?

If you do not have English as your first language, we would like you to have achieved the higher level competence in English Language proficiency i.e. IELTS 7.5 overall with at least 7.0 in each component, or TOEFL 110 (Internet-based).

We do not accept tests which are more than 2 years old. We encourage applicants to apply with a successful IELTS test. If evidence that you successfully meet the English language condition cannot be provided with your application, the language requirement will be set as a condition if an offer is made.

Further information can be found by visiting the Application Guide.

Can I apply for a waiver of proof of proficiency in English?

For information on applying for a waiver of the English test requirement please visit the Application Guide.

How do I apply?

For information about applying see the University Admission’s DPhil page. For a more detailed explanation of the process, please click here for the application guide.

Not all of my qualifications will fit on the application form, what shall I do?

If you require more space on the application form, please contact Graduate Admissions for advice.

I have been outside of an academic setting for some time now; who shall I have to act as my referees?

We strongly recommend that you have at least one reference from your most recent academic tutor. If you are currently in employment, you would be expected to provide a reference from your employer as well as an academic referee who is able to comment on academic capability/suitability for Higher Degree study.

What do I need to include for the samples of written work?

The written work should be related to the DPhil in Education and should be on separate topics. If you do not have any existing material that fits this requirement, you may wish to critique an article or write a book review based on the course subject.

You may submit written work previously completed for a prior course of study if the topic is relevant, eg an assignment or chapter of a dissertation etc, provided it meets the requirements. If your work is significantly longer than the guide length it should be edited to meet the requirements.

A list of relevant references is required for your written work and should be included in your word count.
This will be assessed for understanding of the subject area, an ability to construct and defend an argument, and proficiency in academic English.

What do I need to include in the research proposal and personal statement?

If you are applying to the DPhil programme you need to submit a statement of one to two pages and proposal of 2,500 words. Your statement and proposal should be submitted as a single, combined document with a clear subheading for each.

You should submit a convincing personal statement (statement of purpose) explaining your reasons for applying to the programme and highlighting your relevant academic and professional experience.

You should also submit a research proposal written in English. An indicative bibliography is required but you do not need to include this in your word count. Your proposal should include an indicative title and a short introduction/synopsis, a discussion of the most relevant scholarly literature, and a research question or hypothesis. This issue or question should emerge from your review of the literature. Please also provide a rationale for the importance of this research topic.

Your proposal should also indicate your proposed methodological approach. This will depend on the kind of research you envisage. If empirical research is planned, then please discuss the likely ‘data’ to be collected. At this stage these ideas are exploratory, and likely to develop and change once you are accepted.

This will be assessed for your potential to carry out doctoral research, the quality and coherence of the proposal and the originality of the project.

It will be normal for your ideas to subsequently change in some ways as you develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment.

Your proposal should focus on your proposed research topic, rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

How is my supervisor decided?

Your supervisor will be decided by the department following your successful offer of a place on the course on the basis of staff research interests and staff workload and availability.

Am I required to attend for interview?

Yes. If you live in the UK you will normally be invited to an in-person interview here at the Department. If you live in another country we will arrange an interview by telephone or by Skype. You will be given advance notice of your interview date and time and we require confirmation of attendance. We are sorry that we cannot currently reimburse you for any travel expenses.

What will the interview be like?

We are keen to find out more about you and your interests, and how these might tie in with the research specialisms of academic staff within the department.

For DPhil applicants, we will ask you to talk in detail about your research proposal, its design, your methodological choices and potential challenges you might face. For MSc applicants, we will ask you about your knowledge of the course, your reasons for wanting to study in this area, and initial ideas for their dissertation research.

Applicants may be asked to explain how their areas of interest link to those of the departments’ research groups, centres and academic staff.

When will the outcome of my application be known?

Applications will be considered by the admissions panel within the department and decisions will be made in accordance with the following deadlines:

January application deadline – 20 March 2020.

You will be informed of our decision by email to ensure that you receive the outcome as soon as possible.

In the event that we are not able to offer you a place, we regret that it is not possible to provide you with feedback on your application.

Can I defer entry to a course?

The University will only consider requests for deferral of entry due to exceptional unforeseen circumstances, and only after all conditions set for the offer (both academic and financial) have been met.

What if I have already completed research training as part of a Masters degree?

All PRS students no matter what their previous training are required to undertake the Research Training Seminar course. This is the seminar specifically for PRS students, preparing you for the Oxford DPhil structure, creating a supportive cohort and enabling you to begin professional development for an academic or non-academic career. Other research training courses are: Beginners and Intermediate Quantitative Methods; Perspectives and Debates in Qualitative Research and Philosophy of Educational Research. The exact courses you will be required to take will depend on your previous training and experience, and the decision will be based on the evidence you provide in your application and in discussion with the Director of Doctoral Research on matriculation.


Couldn’t find your answers under our FAQ section?

Please direct all enquiries to our Higher Degrees Office and a member of the administrative team will be happy to assist you.

Phone: +44 (0)1865 274187 or +44 (0)1865 274187
Email: higherdegrees@education.ox.ac.uk