The Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) is at the apex of the Law Faculty's pyramid of research degrees. It entails writing a thesis of between 75,000 and 100,000 words over a period of three or at most four years  (including a probationer year). From October 2018, the programme is available on a full-time or part-time basis. Full-time study usually comprises three to four years and part-time six to eight years, inclusive of research methodology training in the first year for full-time students and over years one and two for part-time students. Part-time study requires attendance for a minimum of 30 days of university-based work each year, normally coinciding with the full terms of the academic year, to be arranged with the agreement of their supervisor. The thesis must make a significant and substantial contribution to its field.

The Faculty of Law at the University of Oxford has one of the biggest cohorts of law research students in the English-speaking world.


Structure of the DPhil in Law

Students are never admitted to the DPhil degree directly. They are transferred to DPhil status following a 'qualifying test' (QT) taken during the third term for a full-time and sixth term for part-time as a research student. Your initial application to read for a DPhil is strictly speaking an application to become a Probationer Research Student (PRS). In the Faculty of Law you may alternatively qualify through a one-year research degree MPhil. The MPhil year then doubles as your probationer year.

Here is a summary of the possible routes of ascent to a DPhil degree in the Faculty:

Route 1:   PRS (one year full-time) » DPhil (approx. two further years full-time)
Route 2:   PRS (two years part-time) » DPhil (approx. four further years part-time)
Route 3:   MPhil (one year) » DPhil (approx. two further years)

Whichever route you take, your first year as a research student (PRS or MPhil) will be similar. You will take a course in legal research method (CLRM) and you will conduct and write up a substantial piece of research. Some or all of that writing will be used in your qualifying test for DPhil status at the end of the year. In the case of the MPhil this will be your MPhil thesis; in the case of PRS it will be a draft chapter or other similar sample of work. The qualifying test will also require you to draft a proposal for the rest of your research. A DPhil student would be expected to apply for Confirmation of Status (COS) within three terms for full-time and six terms for part-time from successfully completion of the QT /Transfer of Status. The final stage - the submission of a the thesis itself, normally takes place by the end of the fourth year for full-time students and the eighth year for part-time students. Further information on our degrees can be found in the Graduate Research Handbook. All research students in the Law Faculty benefit from the advice of a specialist supervisor or supervisors, and are encouraged to take advantage of the wide range of expertise available within the Faculty and the University more widely.  

Student experience


The induction programme is usually held in the last week of September and comprises Bodleian Law library and IT induction sessions and an orientation session (see 2017 programme) for all new research students. During October the Social Sciences Division also holds a welcome event for all new research students.


The Library has 24 networked computers, giving access to all the online resources within the Library and University.  There is a Graduate Reading Room, a large seminar room, two IT rooms, and three small ‘discussion rooms’ for private study or group work

Opportunities for teaching and training 

Once a year the Law Faculty runs a two day graduate teaching skills programme - the Preparation for Learning and Teaching at Oxford (PLTO) programme. Research students who complete the course are listed on the Faculty’s Teaching Register, a resource for Faculty members. Students must complete the PLTO if they wish to undertake teaching for the Faculty. We also offer Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTAs) which provide DPhil (CLRM). Satisfactory completion of the course requires 32 hours of seminars attendance, an oral presentation and submission of a 2000 word written presentation based on the oral presentation. The CLRM programme runs during Michaelmas and Hilary. The Law Faculty has a wide range of discussion groups where you will have opportunities to present your work and to share ideas with fellow students and Faculty members.


Student Pastoral and Welfare support

In addition to the pastoral support provided by college advisors, the Faculty seeks to support students by various means. Each programme has dedicated administrative support and the administrators in question will be able to help and advice students on a range of matters relating to their studies, or point them towards dedicated sources of support elsewhere in the University. Academic Supervisors and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies - Research can also serve as a source of support.

Apart from these more general roles, the Faculty also offers support in certain specific areas (for example, Disability Contacts and Harassment Advisors).

I gained from my Oxford education a passion for lifelong learning and never-ending curiosity about the world. I learned so much from the most brilliant legal minds in the world — my professors as well as my peers.

Mimi Zou

The most distinctive feature of the Oxford DPhil programme is the intensity of supervision. 

Menelaos Markakis

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Full information and advice on how to apply can be found on Graduate Admissions