There is no formal coursework required for the PhD in the U.K. (DPhil at Oxford). It is assumed that you have already chosen a field of interest and taken appropriate courses as an undergraduate or during a post-baccalaureate training experience. If the two co-mentors determine that it is in the your best interest to expand your foundational knowledge by engaging in specific training or education, opportunities are available in the U.K. or at the NIH through the FAES evening school courses, or other avenues, to accomplish this purpose. Students are required by the NIH to take mandatory training in travel security, lab safety and other general policy topics.
Division of Time Between the NIH and U.K.
The average length of time to degree in the program is 4 years:
- Approximately 50% of the time spent at the university and 50% at the NIH.
- The exact sequence of time spent at each institution is determined according to the needs of the research.
- Both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge have specific residency requirements that must be met in order to be awarded the degree.
- Exceptions to the 50% time allocation and residency requirements at the university and the NIH have to be agreed to by both mentors and the NIH and University Program Directors;
- NIH regulations require that at least 51% of the training period supported by the NIH be spent in the NIH training laboratories.
- NIH-Marshall Scholars and NIH-Rhodes Scholars are required to be in residence in the U.K. during the time that they are supported by the Marshall Commemorative Fund and the Rhodes Trust, respectively.
- Students participating in other scholarship programs, such as the Gates-Cambridge, must abide by the residency and requirements of those scholarships.
Research Proposals, Examinations, and Progress Reports
During the first two-month introductory period (August and September) and with the guidance of the co-mentors, you will be required to prepare your research proposal.
- After that first year, you must submit a three to five page research progress report to the NIH OxCam Office.
- The progress report contains the current status of the research project and a timeline for completing the degree.
The U.K. universities require either a “first year report” or “transfer report” in order for you to be transferred from probationary status to doctoral candidate status.
- This typically occurs after the first year at the University.
- Each university and department has their own specific requirements; the university mentor will be able to direct you in the format and completion of these reports.
- You will “defend” this proposal during an oral examination designed to determine if you are qualified to submit a thesis for the PhD (DPhil) examination at the end of the your tenure.
- Upon passing this exam, you are then “transferred” into full status as a doctoral student at the University.
- If you are not considered to be on track for a PhD within the normal time limits, the assessors may recommend discontinuation or registration for a lower degree and the time frame for completion will be abbreviated as appropriate.
Guidance and Procedures at the University
You will need to be sure to follow certain university guidelines and procedures. Each university has a different requirement for students that “work away,” which is what you will be doing during the time that you are at the NIH. It is important that you complete an application for “Leave to Work Away” and alert your College of when you plan to leave the U.K. and go to the NIH.
When you and you co-mentors agree that you have completed a substantial body of work, you will prepare a written thesis and submit it to the University.
- The University chooses an internal and an external examiner with expertise in the your area of research and you will give an oral defense in a private meeting with the examiners in the U.K. called the Viva.
- The examiners submit written evaluations to the University, where a committee then decides whether to grant the degree.
- The committee members evaluate the extent to which you demonstrate mastery level knowledge of the field and that you have developed a substantial body of original work.
- A more detailed description of the process is available from each university.
The University criteria for graduation are the sole standard used to determine whether or not a degree is to be conferred by the University. However, the NIH OxCam Program has the ability to enforce its own standards of achievement in order for you to remain in good standing in its program. The NIH OxCam Program requires that all enrolled students maintain excellence and integrity in their research, and comply with all NIH guidelines and policies for intramural research.
It is up to you to take responsibility for completing all necessary paperwork and other tasks required by your university and the NIH program in a timely manner in order to maintain continued progress towards completing your degree. It is also your responsibility to seek help and advice if there are any issues. If any issues arise, the NIH OxCam Office, Managing Director, Class Dean, Academic Dean, and Program Directors are always available to help.