Section 1: Admissions

1.1 Responsibility for the selection and admission of research students

It is the responsibility of Education Committee, through its Graduate Panel and Graduate Admissions Committee, to determine the policy, timetable, and process for the admission of research students.

Postgraduate research (PGR) students are admitted as Probationer Research Students (PRS), except in certain cases provided for by special regulation. Divisional boards and faculty boards have the power and responsibility to admit PGR students. In the case of divisional boards, this power is delegated to, and responsibility discharged by, departments and other units designated by a board as a University Admitting Body (UAB).

No person may be admitted as a PGR student unless he or she has also been admitted as a member of a college, and unless the application for admission as a PGR student has the approval of his or her college. Colleges collectively agree to admit all those offered a place for graduate study by a UAB.

In the formulation and implementation of its policy and procedures for the admission of research students, all members of the University must be mindful of the University’s Equality Policy, and of its responsibilities under the Equality Act (2010). These include the requirement to have ‘due regard’ to the need to:

- Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation;
- Advance equality of opportunity; and
- Foster good relations between people with different ‘protected characteristics’.

The University seeks to attract applicants of the highest quality and potential, regardless of background. Decisions on the admission of students will be based on the individual merits of each candidate as assessed against the entry requirements.  

1.2 Academic requirements

UABs must only admit applicants who can evidence a strong academic record. The minimum academic requirement that applicants must meet in order to be considered for admission as a research student is a strong upper second-class UK bachelor’s degree with honours, or equivalent qualification. This standard may not be lowered, but it may be alternatively demonstrated. For example, alternative evidence of real academic strength and aptitude for the research programme in question may be demonstrated by a strong degree at master’s level; relevant professional experience may also be accepted as an alternative for some subjects. The power for waiving the formally stated minimum academic requirement lies with divisional boards which may delegate this power to UABs. Academic waivers must be approved by the appropriate authority at divisional or UAB level, usually the Director of Graduate Studies.

1.3 English language requirements

The University’s English language requirements for individual programmes of study, set either at the Higher level or at the Standard level (as specified in the Graduate Prospectus) must be met in full. The requirement for certification of either the Higher level or the Standard level may be waived if there is suitable alternative evidence of the candidate having met the required standard of English language proficiency. The grounds and procedure for granting such a waiver are set out in full in the English language test waiver policy. The power to waive the requirement for certification lies with divisional boards which may delegate this power to UABs. Language waivers must be approved by the appropriate authority at divisional or UAB level, usually the Director of Graduate Studies.

1.4 Information for applicants

A UAB must ensure that information relating to postgraduate research programmes is clear, accurate and of sufficient detail to enable applicants to make informed choices. It should contain the following as a minimum:

  1. The criteria for assessment of applicants to the research programme including: measures of academic ability (degree level etc); English language requirements; other qualifications and/or experience required; supporting materials required;
  2. Deadlines for receipt of applications;
  3. Supervisors’ research interests and/or projects;
  4. Steps applicants should take having identified a potential supervisor i.e. whether it is appropriate to enter into correspondence with the supervisor at this stage or not;
  5. Course structure and content, for example: nature and type of qualification; course duration; pattern of teaching, learning and assessment; study and residence requirements;
  6. The arrangements that will be put in place for supervising the graduate’s work;
  7. The induction arrangements;
  8. The workspace provided;
  9. IT support/ library facilities/ experimental facilities available;
  10. Provision of research seminars;
  11. Access to research funds;
  12. Costs of any associated fieldwork, research trips, or other equipment costs;
  13. Provision of formal graduate skills training;
  14. Opportunities for developing teaching skills;
  15. Opportunities for work experience and internship;
  16. Dept/Faculty social facilities;
  17. Dept/Faculty arrangements for pastoral and welfare support;
  18. Specific requirements such as approval from the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS), health clearance, immunisation.

Additionally, the University provides the following information:

  • Fees and living costs;
  • Funding opportunities;
  • Visa requirements;
  • University accommodation, and general information relating to college accommodation;
  • Careers advice.

Having made an offer, UABs should inform prospective students of any significant changes to supervisory arrangements or to the programme made between the offer of a place and the start of the course, and the options open to the student in these circumstances. The UAB is also responsible for drawing to the attention of the prospective student any information which should be studied, or courses taken, between the time of offer and time of arrival, and where they might be accessed e.g. English language courses, preparatory reading.

1.5 Making an application

All applicants must submit the following materials in order to be considered for admission to a research programme:

  1. A fully completed application form
  2. Three academic references
  3. Transcript(s) of previous higher education
  4. CV/résumé
  5. Statement of research interests/research proposal
  6. The application fee

Applicants may also be required to supply additional materials with their application, depending on the requirements of the course, as specified in the Course Guide.

The applicant is responsible for providing these materials in sufficient time to meet the published deadlines for applications. Applicants must include in their applications details of all periods of study at university level, and all qualifications attempted whilst at university.

Applicants must ensure that any information or statement provided on the application form is true, accurate, current and complete, and any supporting material is entirely their own original work, except where clearly stated otherwise.

Exceptions to the requirement to supply all of items 1-6 above may be made where students who are already on the register of graduate students, and holding the status of student for another degree, apply to read for a research degree (or exceptionally apply to transfer from their current status to PRS status). Details of the application process for these students are set out in full on the Graduate Admissions website. In all cases the UAB, before making an offer of a place, must ensure that the student meets the required academic standard for admission as a research student.

Applicants for full-time study who, if admitted, would be concurrently registered at another institution are not eligible for admission to Oxford. Exceptions may only be made where such registration is part of a formal collaborative arrangement between the University and the other Institution. Such arrangements must have the approval of the division and Education Committee.

1.6 Selection procedures

The UAB should ensure that:

  • Admissions procedures are clear and consistently followed by all staff;
  • Entry requirements are reviewed annually;
  • All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved on behalf of the UAB by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee;
  • Recommendations not to accept may be made by one or more members of staff with relevant experience and additionally must be approved on behalf of the UAB;
  • Persons external to the University and its colleges are not involved in admissions recommendations and decisions except where formal agreements, approved by Education Committee, specifically provide for this;
  • Admission offers make clear what the applicant must do: a) to take up the offer, b) to request deferral of entry, or c) if they fail to meet any conditions specified in the offer, including conditions set by the college.

In making an offer of a place, the UAB must ensure:

  • that the candidate is well-fitted and well-qualified to conduct work for a research degree;
  • that appropriate supervision is available for the expected duration of the research programme, and willingness to supervise has been assured;
  • that in accepting this student, the supervisor’s supervisory load is in line with divisional guidelines; and
  • that appropriate working space and facilities are available to enable the research to be undertaken.

1.7 Training requirements for admissions

UABs must ensure that admissions panels or committees include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training e.g. the Graduate Admissions Assessors and Admissions Staff Guidance online course. UABs are responsible for briefing all those assessing applications on the admissions procedures and the entry requirements.