The Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) is the Faculty’s most advanced research qualification, and entails writing a thesis of between 75,000 and 100,000 word, which must make a significant and substantial contribution to its field. Full-time study for the DPhil 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 the student’s supervisor
The Faculty of Law at the University of Oxford has one of the biggest cohorts of law research students in the English-speaking world.
Students are not admitted to the DPhil degree directly. Instead, they are first admitted to Probationer Research Student (PRS) status. During the first two terms, all full-time students, except those who have previously completed an MPhil in Law at Oxford, are required to undertake the Faculty’s Course in Legal Research Method (CLRM), or the alternative methods courses run by the Centre for Criminology and the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies for students affiliated with those centres. Part-time students must also take the CLRM (or the Centre for Criminology / Centre for Socio-Legal equivalent), but may do so over a period of two years. At the same time, students begin working on their doctoral theses, and in their third term (or sixth term for part-time students) undertake a Qualifying Test which involves the submission of a draft chapter and an outline of the intended thesis. Providing they pass the Qualifying Test, students are then admitted to full DPhil status.
A further assessment known as Confirmation of Status is conducted in the sixth term after admission (the 12th term for part-time students) which also involves submission of draft chapters of the thesis and an outline of the research topic. This is intended to ensure that the student is making satisfactory progress toward ultimate submission of the thesis. After satisfactory completion of Confirmation of Status, students then submit the completed thesis in the third or fourth year (or between years six and eight for part-time students).
Students who have previously completed an MPhil in Law with the Faculty may incorporate the MPhil thesis into the DPhil and, once they have passed the Qualifying Test, may count the three terms of MPhil fees towards the DPhil fee liability.
All students are assigned a specialist supervisor, who will meet regularly with the student throughout the course of the DPhil. A list of Faculty members and their research interests can be found via the link at the foot of this page (applicants to not need to identify or make contact with a prospective supervisor before applying).
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 2019 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 40 reader workstations, which provide access to the internet, legal databases, Microsoft Office applications and Endnote. 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. Students must complete the PLTO if they wish to undertake teaching for the Faculty Research students who complete the course are listed on the Faculty’s Teaching Register, a resource for Faculty members who are looking for teaching provision in particular areas. . Each year the Faculty also appoints a number of Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) in areas where additional undergraduate teaching is particularly needed.
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.
The most distinctive feature of the Oxford DPhil programme is the intensity of supervision.