DPhil in Continuing Education
The Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) in Continuing Education is an exceptional arrangement that enables admission to part-time doctoral studies to outstanding applicants under the supervision of a member of academic staff of the Department for Continuing Education. Applications are considered under this exceptional arrangement only in the rare instance when their research cannot be adequately supervised under one of the Department’s part-time DPhil programmes. Therefore, prospective applicants should take very careful notice of the exceptional nature of this arrangement, for in most academic years only one student is admitted through this arrangement.
Successful applicants will have a very strong record in their previous higher education, show a great aptitude for research through their academic proposal and display strong potential to pursue independent study and research to the highest level over an extended period of time. There is an expectation that applicants will be prepared to work independently and to have considerable personal motivation. They are expected to read widely and in depth throughout their studies and to show the ability to think about and critique current theoretical and/or empirical thinking in their chosen area of study. It is hoped that the final thesis might substantially advance theoretical thinking in addition to broadening the empirical base within its area of study. Successful applicants will be expected to attend and to contribute to the wide range of research seminars, conferences and workshops organised in the University.
Admissions to the DPhil in Continuing Education require approval from the University’s Pro-Vice Chancellor (Education). The designation ‘Continuing Education’ is used for administrative purposes and does not relate to subject content or appear on the degree certificate. The DPhil is otherwise governed under the University Examination Regulations applicable to research degrees, the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and the part-time research degrees in the Department for Continuing Education.
Students admitted through this DPhil are expected to complete their studies in a minimum of four years (12 terms) and a maximum of eight years (24 terms). Students are required to attend a minimum of 30 days of university-based work each year for the duration of the studies, to be arranged with the agreement of the supervisor(s).
Students on this DPhil can only conduct their studies part-time. No full-time mode of study is available under this exceptional arrangement.
The supervision team for a student admitted through this DPhil involves at least one academic from within the Department for Continuing Education, usually of Associate Professor or Professor rank (see Department’s academic staff). This academic will normally act as the main supervisor, although the supervision team may also include one or more co-supervisors from other departments (subject to the relevant department’s approval).
The allocation of supervision is the responsibility of the Department for Continuing Education, whether or not co-supervisors from other departments are also involved in the supervision team. The Department makes decisions on supervision considering availability of an appropriate supervision team and support for training, assessment and examination throughout the course of studies. Therefore, it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of applicants to work with a particular member of academic staff.
Prior to application, you may sound the interest of a member of our academic staff in serving as a supervisor, should you be accepted through this DPhil. However, an expression of supervision interest by a member of our academic staff in no way guarantees that we shall offer you a place.
In common with other DPhil programmes, you will be admitted initially as a Probationary Research Student (PRS). During your PRS period, you will develop your ideas and form a clear plan for your research. You will develop the necessary research skills, with access to a wide range of training and development opportunities offered via the Department’s Graduate School, Bodleian Libraries, IT Services and other parts of the University.
During the course of the DPhil studies at Oxford you will need successfully to meet two different milestones:
Transfer of Status
You apply for a 'Transfer of Status' from PRS to DPhil status between the 6th and the 8th academic term after admission (each academic year at Oxford having three terms). This involves the submission of written work that is examined by two assessors, neither of whom will be supervisor(s). This process is to ensure that your work is of potential DPhil quality and that the methodology of the research is appropriate and feasible. After successful completion of the Transfer of Status, you will then undertake a period of research work over one to two years.
Confirmation of Status
You will then apply for 'Confirmation of Status' as DPhil sometime between the 12th and 18th term. This will also involve the submission of written work that is assessed by two assessors, neither of whom are supervisor(s). At this stage, the assessors will be checking that your work is on track, reviewing the quality of draft chapters, and the plan for completion of the thesis within the time limit.
Award of the DPhil is dependent upon completion of a doctoral thesis that shall not exceed 100,000 words and that is to the satisfaction of two examiners, neither of whom are supervisor(s), and defending that thesis in a formal oral examination (viva voce) with the two examiners. Examiners of a doctorate must be satisfied that the thesis represents a significant and substantial piece of research, is presented in a lucid and scholarly manner and the candidate has a good general knowledge of the field of their thesis.
Changes to the course and 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. 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.
Many students at the Department for Continuing Education continue to work full-time or part-time while they undertake their doctoral research. The DPhil may enhance professional practice, career prospects and help secure promotions and other opportunities. Support about graduate destinations will be provided by supervisors and other staff associated with the Graduate School. You will also have access to the University Careers Service.
The Department is committed to supporting you to pursue your academic goals.
The Rewley House Continuing Education Library, one of the Bodleian Libraries, is situated in Rewley House. The Department aims to support the wide variety of subjects covered by departmental courses at many academic levels. The Department also has a collection of around 73,000 books together with periodicals. PCs in the library give access to the internet and the full range of electronic resources subscribed to by the University of Oxford. Wifi is also available. The Jessop Reading Room adjoining the library is available for study. You will have access to the Central Bodleian and other Bodleian Libraries.
The Graduate School provides a stimulating and enriching learning and research environment for the Department's graduate students, fostering intellectual and social interaction between graduates of different disciplines and professions from the UK and around the globe. The Graduate School will help you make the most of the wealth of resources and opportunities available, paying particular regard to the support and guidance needed if you are following a part-time graduate programme. The department’s graduate community comprises over 700 members following taught programmes and more than 80 undertaking doctoral research.
The Department provides various IT facilities, including the Student Computing Facility which provides individual PCs for your use. Many of the Department’s courses are delivered through blended learning or have a website to support face-to-face study. In most cases, online support is delivered through a virtual learning environment.
Accommodation and dining
You may require accommodation at some point in your student career. Rewley House is ideally located in central Oxford; the city’s historic sites, colleges, museums, shops and restaurants are only a few minutes’ walk away. The Department has 35 en-suite study bedrooms, all with high quality amenities, including internet access.
The Rewley House dining room has seating for up to 132 people. A full meal service is available daily. The Department operates a Common Room with bar for students.
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 this DPhil 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 on the University's 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).
The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Continuing Education:
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:
- A master's degree with distinction overall, or a distinction grade on the dissertation as a minimum, in a discipline relevant to the proposed area of study; and
- A first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any discipline.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA normally sought is 3.7 out of 4.0.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit the University's 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, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- As this is a part-time DPhil, it is anticipated (although not required) that many applicants will have professional experience in a field relevant to their area of study.
- No publications are expected or required.
- It is essential that applications be submitted as early as possible and to ensure that all required materials are submitted by the advertised deadlines.
English language requirement
Admission through this DPhil 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. Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your doctoral studies. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the University’s Application Guide regarding English language test requirements.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including a research proposal, references and an official transcript. See ‘How to apply’ for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process for the applicants who meet the admission criteria and present a promising research proposal.
The Department endeavours to hold interviews within six weeks of the application deadline.
Interviews will be held in person or arranged using a videoconferencing platform. The interview will normally last around 30-45 minutes and will be conducted by a minimum of two assessors from the Admissions Panel. Applicants will be asked to discuss the key aims of their research proposal succinctly, explaining the relevance of the research question in the context of existing knowledge and outlining the rationale for the research methods proposed.
The interview will seek to determine whether the applicant:
- Recognises the academic rigour required and has the intellectual capacity and on-going capacity to maintain independent and proactive research study to complete a part-time DPhil;
- Shows evidence of possessing research methods skills on which to build on in order to conduct the proposed research project;
- Shows a good understanding of the relevant debates underpinning the proposed area of study; and
- Has independently assessed which academic(s) would be a relevant doctoral supervisor.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for this DPhil. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
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.
After an offer is made
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements:
- Financial Declaration: 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.
Funding and costs
The University expects to be able to offer up to 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2021-22. 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 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, please visit the University's 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 college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on the University's college pages.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on our Sources of Funding pages.
Please note, due to admissions through this DPhil opening in February 2021 only, applicants for entry in 2021-2022 will not be considered for the scholarships available for the January deadline.
Annual fees for entry in 2021-22:
£12,223, whether Home (UK, republic of Ireland, Channel Islands & Isle of Man) or Overseas (including EU).
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 the guidance on likely increases 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.
Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the University's continuation charges page.
For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of the University's website. EU applicants should refer to the detailed fee status information and the Oxford and the EU webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU.
Please note that you are required to attend in Oxford for a minimum of 30 days each year, and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. Also, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur further 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 2021-22 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,175 and £1,710 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 the University's living costs page. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2021-22, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.
As you are studying part-time, your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances, but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your studies.
How to apply
The set of documents you should send with your application to admission under the exception arrangements of the DPhil in Continuing Education comprises the following:
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 University's Application Guide.
A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.
A maximum of 3,000 words
You should provide a succinct overview of the research project you plan to undertake for your DPhil, written in English.
A suggested structure for your research proposal would include:
- An introduction stating your research question as succinctly as possible and a justification for why this is a significant and interesting question to address;
- A literature review providing a brief overview of the existing literature, both theoretical and topic specific, stating how your research fits within that literature, and showing the contribution your research will make to existing knowledge;
- A research methodology outlining how you will answer the research question, which should make reference to overall methodological approach, case selection (where a case is used), data to be collected, and methods of data collection and analysis;
- A schedule of work outlining a preliminary timeline leading to the completion of the research project; and
- A bibliography of the works cited in the research proposal.
The bibliography and any footnotes should be included in your word count. If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
The quality of your research proposal is key in assessing your academic ability to undertake doctoral study. The proposal will be assessed for:
- Coherence and originality;
- Evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study;
- The ability to present a reasoned case;
- The feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course;
- Preliminary knowledge of research techniques; and
- Capacity for sustained and intense work.
It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and methods at this moment.
One essay or other piece of written work, a maximum of 2,000 words
Your written work can be either an essay, a chapter of a thesis, a published scholarly paper, or work written specifically to support your application. Extracts from longer pieces of work are acceptable but should not come from the same piece of work; and should be prefaced by a note putting it in context. It is not necessary for this piece of written work to relate closely to the chosen area of study.
Your work should be written in English and the word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes. Please note that multi-authored works are not acceptable.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for:
- A comprehensive understanding of the subject area;
- The ability to construct and defend an argument;
- Powers of analysis;
- Powers of expression;
- Familiarity with the literature on the subject area.
References/letters of recommendation
Three overall, of which at least two must be academic
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.
Whilst it is recommended that all references be from experienced scholars and teachers of graduate students, one professional reference is acceptable.
Your references will support your intellectual ability, academic achievement, and personal motivation.
Start or continue an application
Step 1: Read the guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.
Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.
Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and plan your time to submit your application well in advance.
Step 4: The Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.
Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (read more information about our deadlines).