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DPhil in detail

The course has an emphasis on solving pressing public problems and provides robust training for understanding particular policy challenges and for evaluating, devising or implementing policy solutions

Research timeline

Year One

  • Identify research training needs and courses.
  • Deepen your research skills through the DPhil Research Development seminar series.
  • Refine your research proposal and submit your work for your Transfer of Status milestone.

Year Two

  • Review your research and training needs, identifying additional courses run through the School and the University's Social Science Doctoral Training Centre.
  • Carry out the research and analysis for your DPhil.
  • Continue to develop your policy research findings, insights and approaches.

Year Three

  • Review your research and training needs.
  • Submit your work for the Confirmation of Status milestone.
  • Develop and share your research further.
  • Submit your thesis.
  • Start planning for your post-DPhil career development.

For those enrolled in the part-time programme, we expect the three year progression to take about six years.


There are several steps to get through before you can be awarded your DPhil in Public Policy. Below is an indicative summary of what happens at each stage.

Probationer Research Student status

Students will normally be admitted as Probationer Research Students (PRS). During this period you will work closely with your supervisors to prepare and develop your research. This includes refining your topic and research question, improving your knowledge of applicable research methods and preparing for your transfer to full DPhil status.

Transfer of Status

PRS students are expected to submit material for Transfer of Status by the end of the first year of study. This means going through a formal assessment of your capability to work at doctoral level: the assessors will evaluate whether you are suitably prepared to carry out advanced research and whether your proposed thesis can be completed within the expected time frame.

Confirmation of Status

Once you have successfully transferred to full DPhil status and have carried out a substantial amount of the research required for your thesis, you will apply for confirmation of this status. The purpose of the Confirmation of Status is to determine whether you have made adequate progress and are on track to submit a successful thesis within the expected three-year timeframe. 

Applying for your Examiners

Prior to submitting your final thesis, you can apply for your Examiners and prepare to submit your final thesis. You will be required to nominate internal and external Examiners - the former being an academic within the University of Oxford, the latter an academic working elsewhere.

Submitting your thesis

The DPhil in Public Policy thesis must not exceed 80,000 words. The limit includes abstract, all notes and appendices but not the bibliography.

Final viva voce

This represents the culmination of the DPhil programme. Examiners will certify whether you possess a good knowledge of the subject of your thesis with an oral discussion and whether the thesis grants you the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Research supervision

At the heart of Oxford’s DPhil research experience is the relationship between you and your supervisors. We want to give you the best possible guidance during your research and we believe in the benefits of a joint supervision that extends beyond the School. Joint supervision allows you to receive guidance and advice from a wider base of subjects and methodological expertise, and to have exposure and connections with other University departments.

You will typically have at least two supervisors during your DPhil research. The primary supervisor is usually drawn from our faculty and is responsible for the academic development and progress of the student. You will also have a secondary supervisor who could be a faculty member from another department within the University of Oxford. In some cases, you will have the same two supervisors throughout the programme, in other cases, the second supervisor may be added or change at a later stage. There is also an option for special supervision where an expert is drafted in for a particular aspect of your research.

If you are interested in our DPhil, please note that you do not need a confirmed supervisor in order to apply, as we will appoint one as soon as your application is deemed successful. However, we invite you to check the list of our faculty members who are also DPhil supervisors. By looking at their research interests you may be able to determine if there is likely to be a suitable supervisor for your area of interest. 

These are the faculty members who are, or have been, DPhil supervisors:

We are a growing School and continue to recruit new faculty. We will keep our list of DPhil supervisors updated so please keep checking.