Milestones in a DPhil

By Lizzie Horton @liz.thescientist


So, you’re considering a DPhil at Oxford, or you’ve just enrolled in a course? Here is all you need to know about the main steps and the timeline to completion at Oxford!

1. Transfer of Status

When you first enrol on your course, you will be a probationary student. That is to say, you need to pass your first milestone to continue with your DPhil: the Transfer of Status. In a nutshell, this means you ‘transfer’ from probationary student to official DPhil Candidate. Exactly when this occurs varies between departments, but it is usually at the end of your first year or start of your second. You are examined by a panel (two or three) of professors (internal to your department or external) with no affiliation to your project. The transfer of status is there to check that your project is progressing as expected and to check that you are happy with your project and supervisory set-up. Before the exam, you submit a written report of your project and the results gained thus far. During the exam, you will present your work and plans for the future, and your examiners will be able to provide valuable input and ideas going forward. For this exam, you can pass with no corrections, pass with corrections (a written statement addressing the examiner’s concerns) or not pass. If you don’t pass, you re-take the exam the following term.


2. Confirmation of Status

In your penultimate year, you ‘confirm’ that you are still on-track to completing your DPhil as outlined in your transfer. This is another check designed to help you, that your project is continuing nicely, there are no major set-backs or hiccups and you are happy still with your project and support from your team/department. Again, there are a panel of examiners that can be the same as or different to the examiners for your transfer. Similarly, there is a written report sent before the exam, and a presentation and discussion during the exam. The confirmation allows you to present a ‘timeline to completion’ – outlining what you have left to do in your project. With your examiner’s input, you can solidify priorities and ensure your timeline is complete and realistic.


3. Submission

The final stage is your thesis submission. The maximum date for this is outlined by your department and/or funding body.


4. DPhil Viva

After submission, you have a few months before your final viva. This is a formal, robed event with multiple examiners, who may come from different universities and travel for your viva. It is multiple hours, in which you must ‘defend’ your thesis. If you pass, you are now a Doctor!