Research Student FAQs
Here are some frequently asked questions about life as a research student.
• For more detailed and more authoritative answers to your questions please consult the Faculty's postgraduate handbook (pdf)
A supervisor will be assigned to you by the Faculty before you arrive to start your research. The Faculty will not admit students for whom an appropriate supervisor cannot be identified in advance. Your wish to work with a particular person cannot always be honoured. There is no reason to expect your supervisor to be attached to your own college. Sometimes, depending on the direction of your work, you may end up with two supervisors, in series or in parallel. Substitute supervision will be arranged if your supervisor goes on leave.
• The list of
faculty member's research
interests (listed by person)
• The list of 'what we do' in the right-hand margin of these pages gives details of who teaches what, listed by subject area.
He or she will advise you on the initial selection and framing of your topic. Then he or she will read your draft chapters, meet to discuss them, and give advice on how to develop them into to a satisfactory thesis. In the early stages, you might expect to meet your supervisor as often as weekly. In the middle phases, no less than monthly. Towards the end, when the whole project is coming together, the frequency might well increase again as the final draft is read.
Only the compulsory course in Legal Research Method in your first year as a research student. This course has no examination. You pass it by attending and participating.
A test taken at the end of your first year to qualify you as a full MLitt or DPhil student. Until then you are a probationer. In the Law Faculty version of the qualifying test you submit a thesis outline and a sample of your work (e.g. a draft chapter) to two assessors, who check that you are making progress at the right pace and level and report back to the Faculty. Their report will also assist you and your supervisor in making progress afterwards. If you take a one-year research degree such as the MSt or MPhil, and want to proceed to DPhil, you can arrange to have your proposal for DPhil work assessed at the same time as your MSt or MPhil thesis; the MSt or MPhil examination then doubles as your qualifying test.
You may attend anything you like that appears on the printed lecture list for any faculty or department, unless special indications are given to the contrary. In small group seminars it is polite to ask since these may have a more personal dynamic that you might upset.
Typically the College's academic role is more limited in the case of research students than in the case of students on taught courses. That is because every research student has a University supervisor with overall responsibility for his or her academic progress. However the college retains an interest. The law tutors (if any) and the tutor for graduates will typically be available to provide extra advice and support. The college also has various administrative, disciplinary, domestic, and pastoral functions. It may also be the place where you live, for at least part of your time as a research student.
There is a dedicated Graduate Reading Room, although without individually assigned seats. It has 45 desks: 30 of which have power and ethernet connections available (the rest are covered by the wireless network) and several sofas for more relaxed reading. Those in college accommodation will normally find that their room is set up as a live/work space. Colleges also have their own libraries, and many have separate law libraries where you will find extra workspaces.
• More on libraries and work facilities ...
Many subject areas have active discussion groups. Often members of the Faculty attend alongside research students. Some of these have occasional visiting speakers as well as showcasing the work in progress of regular attendees.
• Check the discussion group pages for current and past programmes ...
The Faculty awards an increasing number of scholarships and bursaries annually to new or continuing research students. The Faculty also has a budget to help pay for its research students to attend conferences or otherwise travel in connection with their work. Some colleges will match this money. Some colleges also have further small grant programmes for research students.
The Oxford Law Faculty does not offer part-time research degrees. You are expected to work on your research full-time for about 44 weeks a year. This is the figure used by UK research councils, who also often set 6 hours as the maximum weekly amount of non-academic employment that can reasonably be undertaken consistent with being a full-time research student. These figures are the proper ones to rely on even if you are not funded by a UK research council. Additionally, your college will have its own strict rules governing paid employment during term time which will apply to you while you are fulfilling your residence requirements for the degree (whether you are in college accommodation or not). You must always obtain your supervisor's permission before engaging in paid work of any kind.
The Faculty makes these opportunities available only to research students in their second or later years of research. Students can apply to become Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) or register as Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs) in the Faculty. GTAs are awarded annually and depend on the Faculty's teaching needs in a particular year. GRAs enter their details on a database that is used by Faculty members who required assistance with advanced or specialized legal research. The Faculty provides a short training programme for research students at the end of their first year so that they are qualified to make themselves available for tutorial teaching in the following year. A modest amount of teaching and/or research assistance may be regarded as integral to your training as a scholar. However you should still be careful not significantly to exceed the guidelines above for the number of hours per week you spend in paid employment. You must always obtain your supervisor's permission before engaging in paid work of any kind.
The Faculty plays host to a voluntary organisation called Oxford Pro Bono Publico, which provides a range of pro bono support services to solicitors and barristers who are themselves working on a pro bono basis. Research students in the Law Faculty are encouraged to volunteer for Oxford Pro Bono Publico, so long as they have the consent of their supervisors, and subject to the guidelines above for extra-curricular work.
Yes, there is research student representation on the Faculty's graduate studies committee and on the Faculty Board. There is also a graduate student representative on the Committee for Library Provision in Law. The Faculty's graduate student society organises the election of representatives. There is a senior faculty officer - the Director of Graduate Studies (Research) - with whom issues can also be raised.
The Law Faculty has its own Graduate Studies Officer who helps law graduate students with all the formalities. There is also central Graduate Studies Office in the University which handles certain aspects of admissions and support for all of the University's postgraduate students.
Try the Faculty's postgraduate handbook. Ask your supervisor if one has already been allocated, or your college law tutor if you have already been admitted to a college. Or contact the Faculty's Graduate Studies Officer, who will pass your query on to the Director of Graduate Studies (Research) if necessary.
• Admissions question? Graduate admissions FAQs are here...