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The Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) in Philosophy is a three- to four-year research programme whereby you undertake a doctoral level research project under the guidance of your supervisor(s). The doctoral work culminates in a 75,000-word thesis that is defended in the form of an oral defence (viva voce). Satisfactory progress through the DPhil is checked in the form of a mini-viva voce taking place at the end of the first and second year of study.

Graduate destinations

The DPhil in Philosophy's aim is to prepare students for an academic career in philosophy. Most DPhil graduates do indeed secure academic posts, as witnessed by the faculty's placement record.

The faculty provides a placement scheme to help students seeking jobs within philosophy. Users of the Placement Scheme may ask their referees to send reference letters directly to the faculty where they will be held on file and sent out to universities or other academic institutions at the student’s request. The placement scheme is available to alumni until they have secured a tenured post.

The faculty's Placement Officer helps job applicants with the preparation of their CVs, provides advice about the presentation of material in an application dossier, and arranges practice interviews. The Placement Officer also holds a yearly placement seminar, compulsory to those wishing to make use of the placement scheme, where students give talks based on material they propose to use in their writing samples or job talks, with an opportunity for comment and discussion. Each December, it is intended that the Placement Officer attends the Eastern Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association to support candidates who have interviews there.

The faculty also runs an email mailing list for members of the placement scheme, which will be used to pass on job tips and news of vacancies.

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 will enter the DPhil initially as a Probationary Research Student (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 specialised MSt programmes - the MSt in Philosophy of Physics and the MSt in Ancient Philosophy.

The DPhil is examined by a thesis of up to 75,000 words, which has been written under the guidance of (a) supervisor(s) with expertise in the topic of the thesis. You will undergo an oral defence (viva voce) of the thesis, conducted by two appointed examiners. Students progressing from the BPhil may (but are not required to) incorporate the contents of their entire 30,000-word BPhil thesis into their 75,000-word DPhil thesis.

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 on your two-page thesis outline, which explains in outline the intended line of argument or contribution to the subject, and 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 your 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 around 5,000 words intended as a part of the thesis, in final or near-final draft.

You should have regular one-to-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.

You may attend any graduate or undergraduate classes, seminars and lectures in and outside of the Faculty of Philosophy which are of interest to you, provided that those classes, seminars and lectures are open to you.

MLitt in Philosophy

The Masters of Letters (MLitt) in Philosophy is awarded on the basis of a thesis of maximum 50,000 words for the MLitt. In practice, applicants are admitted for the MLitt only in exceptional cases, and few students submit a thesis for the MLitt. The MLitt is more often an exit award for DPhil students who fail or withdraw from the DPhil degree but meet the requirements for the MLitt.

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in philosophy or a closely-related discipline. Applicants are also normally expected to be predicted or to have achieved a high pass or distinction in the BPhil in Philosophy from the University of Oxford or an equivalent national or international qualification. 

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a GPA of 3.7, a first-class degree or the equivalent.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

  • Official transcript(s)
  • CV/résumé
  • Research proposal and personal statement: Proposal of up to 2,000 words and statement of one page
  • Written work:One essay of 4,000 to 5,000 words
  • References/letters of recommendation:Three overall, generally academic


Higher level


Standard level scores

Higher level scores

IELTS Academic 
Institution code: 0713

7.0 Minimum 6.5 per component  7.5  Minimum 7.0 per component 

Institution code: 0490


Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) 185

Minimum 176 per component


Minimum 185 per component

Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) 185

Minimum 176 per component


Minimum 185 per component

  • Global Education
  • Hill Foundation Scholarships
  • Ertegun Scholarship Programme 
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