The Doctoral degree
Oxford is one of the best places in the world to study Theology and Religion. With extraordinary study resources, including outstanding libraries and a host of research centres, Oxford offers its research students every opportunity to produce original research of high academic quality in their doctoral dissertation.
As a leading research faculty, Oxford’s Theology and Religion can offer a wide range of experienced specialists to supervise doctoral research in numerous fields.
An Oxford doctorate – known as the ‘D.Phil.’– is a qualification that commands worldwide recognition and connotes an outstanding level of academic achievement.
Course Content and Assessment
The D.Phil. is awarded upon the successful oral examination (viva voce) of a dissertation, which is usually submitted after three years of academic research. There is no additional written examination.
In the course of their research, students are required to submit substantial samples of their work-in-progress in application for ‘Transfer of Status’ (usually after one year’s research) and ‘Confirmation of Status’ (usually after two years’ research). These ‘Transfer’ and ‘Confirmation’ exercises are designed to give students the benefit of critical comment from experts other than their supervisor and to ensure that their research project meets with final success.
Part-time study for the doctoral degree is an option for students whose circumstances do not permit full-time study, subject to the Faculty’s approval of the suitability of the research project for part-time study.
Normally, students are required to complete a relevant Oxford M.St. or M.Phil. degree to an adequate standard before applying for admission to the D.Phil. course. Successful applicants are then encouraged to incorporate their master’s work into their doctoral dissertation. Applicants already in possession of an equivalent Master's degree from another institution may apply to have this requirement waived. The Faculty considers such waivers on a case-by-case basis.
The research proposal is a crucial element of a D.Phil. application. It should communicate, not so much the applicant’s personal autobiography, as his or her academic commitment and seriousness. Assessors are looking to be persuaded that applicants know the field they propose to conduct research in, are committed to spending several years working in it, understand what study in Oxford could offer them, and have considered the aptness of Oxford’s resources to the proposed research. Each proposal will be read and carefully evaluated by specialists, and should contain – in about two pages – an outline of the research planned and the goals intended. Within their proposals, applicants should explain:
• the specific field of Theology or Religion in which they propose to conduct research (e.g. Study of Religion, or Old Testament, or Modern Theology, or Philosophical Theology, or Christian Ethics, etc.);
• how they intend to structure and undertake their research;
• the questions, problems, issues, and debates with which they expect to engage;
• how they see the proposed research building on their previous study
• their knowledge of any languages required for their research project (see the appropriate Master’s degree webpages for details, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further guidance);
• what they hope to do with an Oxford D.Phil.
Applicants may also wish to include a provisional title for their dissertation. While it is normal for plans to change in the course of developing a project, applicants should nevertheless make their best effort in their proposal to define their intended research, identify the focal question or problem to which it will constitute an answer or solution, specify a finite body of core texts or sources, and explain the methods involved.
A research proposal is assessed in terms of:
• the intellectual coherence and academic originality of the project;
• evidence of the applicant’s motivation and understanding of the proposed area of study;
• the demonstration of aptness between the proposed research and Oxford’s resources; and
• the feasibility of successful completion of the project in the time available for the course of study (a maximum of four years full-time and eight years part-time).
Relevant Oxford Research Seminars:
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