DPhil in Sustainable Urban Development FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about the DPhil in Sustainable Urban Development

Below are some common questions and answers about the course, that may be of use to you. Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you have further questions that aren't answered below, by emailing pgr@conted.ox.ac.uk.

We recently held an online info session, in which participants gained an overview of the programme, met the course director and had their questions answered. If you missed the event, you can now watch the recording here.

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Course and structure

Who is the DPhil suitable for?

The doctoral programme is delivered part-time, and is aimed at students who are highly motivated to undertake detailed research in preparation for an academic careers or other research-intensive occupations, or to further their professional career at organisations and institutions operating in the field of sustainable urban development.

How is the DPhil structured?

Students admitted to this degree will conduct their own research under the guidance of a University supervisor, who will advise on all aspects of training, development and academic progress. Students are required to attend a minimum of 30 days of university-based work each year for the duration of their studies. The supervision and training opportunities are largely delivered in hybrid format, offering both in-person and online attendance but in-person attendance for supervision, milestone assessments, presentations, seminars and networking sessions etc are highly recommended. Those students who engage significantly with the programme, their peers and the research community are more likely to complete successfully.

Can I take the DPhil full-time?

This DPhil is not available as a full-time programme. Students typically complete in 4 - 8 years.

Can I complete the DPhil in less time if I complete the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development first?

The MSc and DPhil are stand-alone programmes, with students from the MSc welcome to apply for the DPhil, however it isn't an automatic progression. As they are stand-alone programmes and the DPhil is research based, there would be no reduction in time on the DPhil if you have already completed the MSc.

Who will supervise the DPhil?

You can review the supervisor profiles on our webpages for details of their research specialisms and interests to see if they align with yours. We are unable to confirm the availability of appropriate supervision for a specific proposal until we have assessed the formal application, when submitted via the University's admissions system. You do not need to contact a supervisor before submitting an application.

Is it possible to have a supervisor from another Department?

Yes, if that supervisor agrees. Students will also need an OUDCE co-supervisor to ensure that the DPhil course requirements are met. Applicants should not apply to the DPhil on the the assumption that supervision will be available from another department. 

What activities do students participate in?

The DPhil provides doctoral training weeks which cover reading, skills and progress/student-led seminars, and a book club. Students also have access to the Graduate School's termly research training and development programme. More information can be found on the Graduate School's training webpages. 

What resources are available to students?

Students will have access to the Bodleian Libraries, particularly the Department for Continuing Education Library. As a member of a college, students will also have access to their library and other resources.

You can find more information about resources available to students on the Graduate Admissions webpages.

Is this a remote learning programme?

No, the doctoral programme is a degree by research which is delivered part-time. Researchers will work independently towards their thesis, which makes remote work possible. Most supervision and much of the training opportunities will be offered in a hybrid capacity, but there is an attendance requirement of a minimum of 30 days a year and engagement in-person with supervision/ peer networking/ training etc is always strongly encouraged.

Do I have to live in Oxford?

No, the majority of our students travel to Oxford as required. Part-time DPhil students are required to attend Oxford for a minimum of 30 days a year. 

Does the 30 day attendance have to be taken at a set time?

Attendance can be taken as suits you and your timetable in collaboration with your supervisory team. The expectation is that attendance should be taken in term time and for the purposes of progressing your DPhil studies. Many students will plan their attendance for the doctoral training weeks when a group of research skills based sessions, seminars and activites are offered.


Should I apply?

Use this self-evaluation tool from the Graduate Admissions webpages, to determine if you should apply. 

What steps would you advise before applying, when transitioning from a Master's degree to the DPhil?

You should aim to gain the highest mark that you can for the MSc, and to consider fully your research proposal. Applicants should have a clear and feasible research question relevant to SUD and engage with a clear theoretical background as well as empirical context. Applicants should also ensure their research proposal provides a relevant and clear research methodology.

Is a Master's in Sustainable Urban Development required before applying?

An MSc is required, however not necessarily in sustainable urban development. If you have an MSc in a different area you should show in the application a clear engagement with, and understanding of current SUD academic context and research.

Can I continue my Master's dissertation into the DPhil thesis?

Yes, but a clear and original new research context needs to be established. A DPhil proposal will have a different scope than a Master's, so a DPhil cannot just be a continuation.

When is the application deadline?

There are several across the academic year. The core admissions cycle runs from September to March, and all candidates are advised to apply as early as possible (particularly if wishing to apply to a specific Oxford college).

The University of Oxford operates a number of ‘Gathered Fields’, and fields that apply for this course fall in January and March. However, should places still remain beyond March, we may keep the applications window open (indication will be given on our website). The Graduate Admissions website will be updated to show one week's notice of closure (green: open / amber: closing in one week /red: closed).

Please note that candidates who wish to apply for Oxford-based scholarships and other funding must apply no later than the January deadline in order to be considered. If any scholarships are available to applicants later than the January deadline then these will be highlighted as such.

For more information on the application process please see the application guide webpages.

Do I need to select a college?

No, you do not need to apply to a specific college, although college membership will come with entry to our DPhil. Oxford is a collegiate university, and all students are matriculated as full members of a college community.

A list of colleges that accept applicants for the DPhil in Sustainable Urban Development can be found on the “Colleges” tab on the Graduate Admissions website.

Candidates may make an ‘open’ application. This means that should the course interview panel decide that they wish to offer you a place, that the central system will assign your application to a college for their consideration. You may not at that point select a personal preference.

A college place does not indicate that college accommodation will be available. More information about colleges and the graduate college experience is available on the colleges webpages.

What combination of referees is acceptable?

The required number of references is three. Two of the referees should be able to talk directly about your academic ability. This is required as it helps to gauge whether or not you have the academic ability to study at this level at the University of Oxford, and complete your DPhil.

We recognize that it can sometimes be challenging to seek the support of an academic referee, so do get in touch if you experience any particular problems. We’ll try to help you by suggesting an alternative that might work for you. It is usually acceptable for candidates to ask senior professional colleagues to comment on relevant research projects and written management reports. The third reference might be from a client.

We are aware that individual situations will differ, so drop us a line if you would like further advice: pgr@conted.ox.ac.uk. We do need academic referees to enable the academic team to assess your academic ability to undertake the course.

Your application will be deemed complete by the system once all application requirements are met and 2 out of 3 references have been received. If you are selected for interview we will require the third reference to be submitted in advance.

English is not my native language. What do I need to do?

English is the language of instruction for all programmes offered at Oxford.

This DPhil requires a higher level of English. See entry requirements from the Graduate Admissions webpages for more information.

Please note that if English is not your native language, you may need a recent certificate proving you have met or exceeded the higher level of proficiency in the English language.

If you have completed a full-time degree, of a minimum of 9 months, taught and assessed in English within the last 2 years, you may request an English language test waiver at the time of application. Those with extensive professional experience in countries in which English is widely spoken may also submit a waiver request via the application form, detailing level and extent of usage (both verbal and written English).

You'll find comprehensive information about criteria and relevant courses on the English language requirements webpages.

Do I need a student visa?

Part-time students are not eligible for a student visa and we would usually recommend that the visitor visa is suitable to manage the 30 day attendance requirement. Legal requirements change and all situations will differ so it's important to verify what's suitable for you before you apply. You'll find comprehensive guidance on the visas and immigration webpages.

What is the required grade for entry to this course?

The normal minimum qualification to be eligible for admission as a graduate student is a master's degree with distinction overall, or a distinction grade on the dissertation as a minimum, in a discipline relevant to sustainable urban development; and a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any discipline. For guidance on how international degrees compare, please see the National Information Centre (UK ENIC).

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA normally sought is 3.7 out of 4.0.

The academic team will also take relevant knowledge and experience into account.

Please check the Graduate Admissions webpages for more information on the entry requirements for the DPhil.

Fees and funding

Are there scholarships available, and what is the process to follow?

The Graduate Admissions Fees and Funding Scholarship Search allows applicants to search for scholarships they may be eligible for.

A number of our DPhil students have also been awarded the Clarendon Scholarship. The scheme is open to all talented graduate applicants, regardless of background.

Do note that for most, if not all, Oxford-based schemes, candidates must have applied by the advertised January deadline in the proposed year of entry in order to be considered. This applies for the Clarendon Scholarship also.

For more information on alternative sources of funding, please see the fees and funding webpages.

Are part-time DPhils eligible for ESRC/research funding?

This depends on the awarding body. Applicants should check this with the awarding body directly.

Graduate School

Graduate School

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