Applying for a PhD (DPhil) in a Neurotheory Lab in Oxford


Labs in Oxford usually do not have funds for individual PhD (called a DPhil at Oxford) projects. Instead, there are several different programs through which you can apply to a (funded) PhD in theoretical neuroscience at the University of Oxford. Once you have been accepted and awarded funding (these are sometimes separate processes), you are free to choose an eligible lab. The programs you can apply for to get into a neurotheory labs are the following:

  1. DPAG 3 year DPhil Program
  2. Wellcome Trust 4 year MSc+DPhil program
  3. Doctoral Training Centre / Programs

Before your start the application process, please contact the PIs or labs you may be interested in, to see if they are eligible for the various programmes, and if they would take in any students in the foreseeable future.

Almost all applications require you to create an online account here

Once you have an electronic ID, you can create the following applications.


DPAG application - Course code: RD_PYAG1

The Department for Physiology Anatomy and Genetics (DPAG) program accepts about 3 - 5 funded students each year, and usually only one overseas student. Applicants will usually already know what lab they want to join. They submit a research proposal and will have to interview before the department commitee to be accepted. There is obviously competition between the labs of the department to win funded students, but thanks to a large selection committee, distribution of student funding is fair and merit based.

Deadline: Early January (8th January 2018)

Documents needed:

(check complete list in the online system)

Interview: if you are shortlisted, there is an interview (in 2017 it could be done via Skype, but travel cost will be reimbursed - up to £300 in 2017, and it is advised to come in person) with a 5 minute presentation about a previous work.


Wellcome Trust application - Course code: TM_NS6A1

This is one of the most competitive programs to get into at the University of Oxford. There are generally about 60+ applicants for any funded position, but quantitatively educated applicants are rare and generally fare well. The Wellcome Program accepts about 5-8 funded students each year, with no preference for nationality or overseas status.

Applicants will not be expected to know what lab they want to join. They submit a statement of interest and will have to interview before a selection committee. Accepted students will do two lab rotations in labs of their choice throughout their first year and make a decision of where to do their DPhil at the end of their MSc.

Deadline: Early January (8th January 2018)

Documents needed:

(check complete list in the online system)

Interview: If you are shortlisted, the interview has to be in person. It lasts 30 minutes and you have to give 10 minute presentation about a previous or current research project.
They will reimburse most of the travel costs. (The amount varies by country of residence and amounted to up to GBP600 in 2017)
**Note for overseas (i.e. Not UK or EU) check funding details: they do not cover Overseas rate University fees, so if you do not get an award from the university you might have to pay the difference (about £10,000 per year)


Doctoral Training centre (DTC) applications - Course codes: 18SABSCDT, R5_1, R2_1

You can also apply to the DTCs (funding only available for UK/EU applicants), without the need to pay another application fee. Check the "Applying to more than one course" section here. The DTCs provide 6 months of taught courses on a variety of topics such as Biology, Maths, and Computer Science (this is not an MSc course). Following this, you typically undertake 2 three month research projects in 2 labs of your choice (you choose these labs during your first 6 months on the course). After the first year, you then start your PhD research in a lab of your choice (typically one of the labs you did a short project in). Appropriate DTCs to apply for are:

Deadline: Late January (19th January 2018 and 9th March) (although there are sometimes additional deadlines set in the Spring).

Before submitting an application, you are requested to submit your Curriculum Vitae to the program administrator to assess your suitability for the course.

Documents needed:

(check complete list in the online system)

Interview: If you are shortlisted, interviews are typically in person and they last about 30 minutes. There are normally 3 people on the interview panel, the head of the DTC program you applied for, an expert in your previous/current field of work (e.g., if you studied applied maths previously, you are likely to have an applied mathematician on your panel), and a member of the DTC administration team. If you have done a substantial research project previously (such as an MSc project), you will likely be asked several questions about this.


Additional information on various topics

English Requirements

You only need to worry about this if you are not from an English-speaking country. Even if you are not, there are circumstances where you can get this requirement waived (e.g. you have studied in an English-speaking country before).

All these applications require a higher level. But if you miss it for just some points, you might get a waiver, send a message to the responsible secretary to talk about it.

Additional funding resources: