The Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) in Philosophy is a three- to four-year research programme in which a candidate undertakes a doctoral level research project under the guidance of a supervisor. The doctoral work culminates in a 75,000-word thesis that is defended in the form of a viva voce examination (oral defence). Satisfactory progress through the DPhil is checked in the form of a mini-viva voce examination taking place at the end of the first and second year of study.
The aim of the Faculty’s DPhil in Philosophy is to prepare you for an academic career in philosophy.
For information on how to make an application please see our Admissions Procedure and Entry Requirements webpage.
The Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee recommends progression from Oxford's BPhil in Philosophy to the DPhil programme in view of the opportunity it offers to students to study a wide range of philosophical topics as well as to focus on a narrower field of research interest. Students proceeding to the DPhil programme via the BPhil will normally write a DPhil thesis which is an expansion of their BPhil thesis, although this is not a formal requirement. Indeed, sometimes, the BPhil thesis topic is not suitable for expansion into a DPhil thesis, or a student may wish to write their DPhil thesis on a different topic.
Each year, some students are admitted to the DPhil in Philosophy from programmes other than the BPhil in Philosophy. These students enter the DPhil initially as Probationary Research Students (“PRS”) from appropriate programmes at Oxford or elsewhere. Typically, these students will have already completed substantial graduate work in philosophy, usually equivalent to that required for the BPhil. Students may also progress from either of the Faculty of Philosophy's specialist MSt programmes - the MSt in Philosophy of Physics and the MSt in Ancient Philosophy.
In the third term after enrolment onto the DPhil, you are required to complete a transfer of status from PRS to full DPhil status. Two appointed examiners will interview you both on your two-page thesis outline, which explains in outline the intended line of argument or contribution to the subject, and on a piece of written work of approximately 5,000 words in the area and philosophical style of the proposed thesis which is typically, though not necessarily, a draft chapter of the thesis.
Students who progressed from the MSt in Philosophy of Physics course are required to write a 20,000-word thesis during their year as a PRS, as their MSt does not have a thesis element. Students who progress from the BPhil will enter the DPhil without being required to pass a year as a PRS and as a result will only have another six terms (instead of the usual nine terms) of fee liability for their DPhil.
At the end of the second year, you will be required to apply for confirmation of DPhil status. This entails an interview by one or two appointed examiners on your two-page thesis outline, which goes into some detail and comprises a reasoned statement of the nature of the proposed thesis together with a provisional table of contents, and a piece of written work of approximately 5,000 words.
You should have regular one-on-one tuition sessions with your supervisor(s). These will normally happen twice per term but in some terms, especially at the start of the degree and during the final stages of the thesis, the number of sessions may be increased. You are not required to attend any taught graduate classes as part of your DPhil degree, but you are encouraged to participate in lectures, classes, seminars and other educational opportunities offered throughout the university as relevant to your topic of study.
The course has no fieldwork, industrial placement or year abroad element, but you may decide to attend conferences, workshops or research training elsewhere.
The Faculty believes that it is important both professionally and personally for graduate research students to have opportunities to teach. For graduates seeking an academic career, it is often crucial to have teaching experience when applying for jobs. For many graduate students, teaching is also an important supplement to their income.
The Faculty operates a number of schemes to help our research students secure relevant teaching experience:
- Graduate Teaching Assistant Scheme
- Graduate Lecturing Scheme
- Graduate Teaching Register
For more information on these schemes, please visit the Teaching Opportunities page.
The DPhil Seminar at Oxford University provides a forum for graduate students to present and discuss thesis chapters, and workshop papers that are to be submitted for publication.
Speaker Series: DPhil students present a part of their dissertation to a faculty member and fellow students. The format is approximately 45 minutes for presentation, 15 minutes for faculty commentary, and 30 minutes for Q&A
Publishing Workshop: DPhil students receive targeted feedback on papers they intend to submit for publication relatively soon. Each term participants are placed in groups of 3-4, according to topic. During each of the 3-4 workshops (per topic group) the paper of one group member is discussed. Participants will be expected to attend the workshops of their fellow group members and to have read each of the other papers in advance of the relevant sessions. The format will be approximately 10 minutes for author introduction, 30 minutes for faculty commentary, and 50 minutes for discussion. Other faculty members and students are very welcome, but are encouraged to read the paper in advance.
The Faculty expects that DPhil students will present their work in the DPhil seminar at some point during their studies: most likely in their second or third year. The seminar provides an excellent opportunity for presentation experience, as well as feedback from peers and at least one faculty member other than their thesis supervisor(s). All graduate students and faculty are encouraged to attend, and all students are welcome to present but advantage is given to those who have not yet presented a paper.
For more information including past speakers, please see the DPhil Seminar website.
The Faculty operates a Graduate Placement Service which aims to support graduate research students on the job market from the final year of their DPhil until they secure a tenure track / permanent position. To find out more, please visit the Graduate Placement Scheme page.
The Faculty has an outstanding placement record. In 2015-16 alone, Oxford graduates were appointed to posts at the universities of Birmingham, St Andrews, Pittsburgh, and Munich to name a few.
A number have also obtained positions within Oxford itself, including an associate professorship and a departmental lectureship. Please visit the DPhil Placement Record page for an overview of the Faculty’s placements over the last few years.