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Course information for NDM doctoral students.


This handbook applies to students starting a DPhil course within the Nuffield Department of Medicine in October 2020. The information in this handbook may be different for students starting in other terms or years.

Version: 1.0 published 17 September 2020


If there is a conflict between information in this handbook and the Examination Regulations then you should follow the Examination Regulations. If you have any concerns please contact

The information in this handbook is accurate as at 9 September 2020, however it may be necessary for changes to be made in certain circumstances, as explained at If such changes are made the department will publish a new version of this handbook together with a list of the changes and students will be informed.

Useful department contacts

Your supervisors will be able to provide guidance and encouragement throughout your studies. Your supervisors will bear overall responsibility for the direction of your work. It is crucial that you contact your supervisors early on in order to establish communication with them. Every student in the Medical Sciences Division requires at least two supervisors; the details of the supervisory team vary depending on the nature of the project, the structure of the lab or group, and so on.

The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), Professor Rob Gilbert, oversees graduate studies in the NDM and can provide additional advice and support particularly where differences of opinion arise between the supervisor and student. Rob is also the Disability Lead for the Department. / 01865 76070 or 287535.

The Graduate Studies Manager (GSM), Ms Lettitia Derrington, will be able to deal with general enquiries about the Department, the course, and progress milestones. / 01865 287982.

The Deputy Director of Graduate Studies is Professor Julian Knight. Julian is a clinician and has a particular role supporting and advocating for clinician graduate students within the Department.

Due to the scale of the NDM there are also Graduate Advisors (Assistant Directors of Graduate Studies) in the different Units.

Key resources

Central university

Medical Sciences Division

Nuffield Department of Medicine

Buildings/Locations/Maps/ Access

The Department is structured around several scientifically autonomous sub-divisions made up of Institutes, Centres and Units in Oxford and abroad. Those based in Oxford are located in various research buildings, many of which are in the Old Road Campus site in Headington. The website for each building will detail access information, but this information can also be found on the Medical Sciences Access Guide.

Useful links:

Important dates

Dates of Term: Oxford's year is divided into three terms and three vacations. Within each term, a "Full Term" of eight weeks is the main teaching period.

Induction events

  • NDM induction (online): 5 October 2020 (09:00 - 11:00)
  • Medical Sciences Graduate School Welcome Event:
  • New starters welcome and NDM Prize award ceremony: tbc


As a doctoral student with the Nuffield Department of Medicine, you will carry out research in a laboratory for three to four years if studying full-time, or six to eight years if studying part-time. There is no standard period of rotation between laboratories. All doctoral students develop their skills through a range of research training and skills development in their first year of full-time study or first two years of part-time study, by attending compulsory and optional courses and lectures in laboratory techniques and generic skills, including scientific writing and statistics, while also working at the bench.

You will be encouraged to attend lectures and seminars related to your programme of research and make the most of the doctoral training and research methods provision available across the Medical Sciences division. The aim is to tailor this training to individual needs and bring all students up to satisfactory level in background knowledge. Later training is focused on the skills required for a successful career in independent research.

Course structure/description

Your career as a DPhil student is divided into stages and you are required to meet the requirements of certain milestones in order to progress to the next stage.

Dphil progression chart

Course structure/description table

These milestones require you to complete a Graduate Studies Office (GSO) form (please make sure that you download the MSD version where they exist).

The process for these forms for NDM students is summarised in this PDF flowchart.

You will receive an email from graduate studies about these milestones a term before they are due. You should then take this opportunity to discuss the next milestone with your supervisors and fill in the appropriate GSO form (remember to use the MSD version) and follow the process described in the flowchart above.

If you have any questions about any of these milestones or forms, please email the Graduate Studies Manager in the first instance.

Further information can be found:

Organisation of teaching and learning

Research suggests that one of the strongest predictors of postgraduate completion is having expectations met within the student-supervisor relationship and other key roles.

In NDM we define these expectations and responsibilities for the following roles below:

Guidance on submitting your thesis


Feedback on learning and assessment

You will be working very closely with your supervisory team and they will be providing regular informal and more formal feedback throughout your DPhil career. Within the NDM, students should meet with their supervisors at least once a fortnight, on average, across a year.

Upon arrival in the Department, each student should be allocated at least two supervisors; a primary supervisor within the Department and a second supervisor who will give additional support independently or in conjunction with, the first.

Each student will also have a Thesis Committee, consisting of two other academics who can provide a reference point for the student and guidance where needed additional to the core support given by the direct supervisory team. The Thesis Committee should meet once in the student’s first term at Oxford, to discuss the project, and at this meeting the student and the two advisors who are members of the Thesis Committee will be joined by the supervisor(s). The Thesis Committee will meet again for transfer of status,but this time without the supervisor; and a final time for confirmation of status, again without the supervisor(s) being present. However, a Thesis Committee can additionally meet whenever might be useful for a student and/or their supervisor(s).

Progress reports

You will be asked to submit a termly online progress report via Student Self Service.

Your self assessment report will be complemented by your supervisors own report on your performance in the current reporting period, and any concerns they have. GSR will alert you by email when your supervisor or DGS has completed your report and it is available for you to view.

Use this opportunity to:

  • Review and comment on your academic progress during the current reporting period
  • Measure your progress against the timetable and requirements of your programme of study
  • Identify skills developed and training undertaken or required (within the self-assessment report for taught programmes, and via the TNA form in GSR for research programmes)
  • List your engagement with the academic community
  • Raise concerns or issues regarding your academic progress to your supervisor
  • Outline your plans for the next term (where applicable)

Students and supervisors are reminded that having a positive student-supervisor relationship is an important factor in student success. Research suggests that one of the strongest predictors of postgraduate completion is having expectations met within the student-supervisor relationship.

Examination regulations

Examination regulations for this course are covered by Research Degrees in the Medical Sciences Division.

Good academic practice and avoiding plagiarism

You should familiarise yourself with the following documents and resources at the start of your course:

Skills and learning development

Academic progress

Academic progress is assessed and managed by passing milestones and working through the stages of your DPhil career.

Learning development and skills

As a member of the Medical Sciences Division, you will have access to the MSD Skills Training programme which provides courses, workshops and resources to support postgraduate research student and early career researcher development. The NDM also offers a full seminar programme.


You will receive induction information from around the University which is summarised on the New students page. You will also receive information from your college including details of matriculation.

At NDM you will receive:

  • An overview of the department and of your studies at the NDM Induction Breakfast
  • Health & Safety inductions to any labs and buildings that you will need access to
  • Access to labs and buildings
  • IT setup

NDM students are based in many different buildings in centres across the University and in overseas units, so you will need to contact reception at any of the buildings to arrange access if you haven't been contacted already.

Contact details can be found by following the links below:

About the Nuffield Department of Medicine

Institutes, centres & units

Research Buildings

Opportunities for skills training and development

Training is open to all Graduate Research Students. The Department and Division seek to equip all Graduate Research Students with a comprehensive set of transferable and research skills. The aim is to maximise each researcher’s potential, enabling participants to see beyond the day-to-day demands of their own research. Students build the foundation for a successful career through communication, networking and team-building as well as through excelling in their own research area. As a guide, the Research Councils recommend that graduate students spend 10 days a year on additional skills training.

Compulsory courses for NDM students

Within their first term, NDM Students must:

  • complete the online course on Avoiding Plagiarism (Weblearn)
  • complete your Training Needs Analysis (TNA) The TNA will be used to identify the skills you students wish to develop and explore during their research journey/career.

Over the course of their DPhil, the University expects its Graduates to develop skills in the following areas:

  • Research Skills and Techniques: an advanced knowledge of your field, critical analysis, the ability to recognise and validate problems, the development of hypotheses and concepts.
  • Research Environment: an awareness of context, rights and data protection, good practice, health and safety, funding and exploitation.
  • Research Management: understand project management, the use of information and other resources, and the use of information technology.
  • Personal Effectiveness: willingness to learn and acquire knowledge, creativity, innovation, self-awareness, self-discipline, motivation, thoroughness, recognition of boundaries and appropriate use of support, initiative and self-reliance.
  • Communication Skills: contribution to public understanding, support of others, defend results in public arena and viva, write clearly and appropriately.
  • Networking and Team Building: develop co-operative networks and good working relationships, understand the impact of our own behaviour, listen, give and receive feedback.
  • Career Management: Understand the need and show continued professional development, take ownership of career, transfer skills, present skills effectively

Training Needs Analysis

Students are required to complete a training needs analysis (TNA), in consultation with their supervisors, at various points during their studies. The purpose of completing the TNA form is to help students assess their skill level and identify training that is required. Students should complete the TNA form at the following points during their studies:

  • During the first term after admission
  • Transfer of Status
  • Confirmation of Status

TNA forms can be completed online using Graduate Supervision Reporting (accessed via student Self Service).

Language Skills

The University Language Centre offers a number of courses in various languages to students. Students may register for a variety of courses on English for Academic Studies at very low costs to the student. These courses are open to all non-native speaking members of the University.

For more information please visit the Language Centre’s website.

Employability and careers information and advice

The Careers Service at Oxford University reports that 6 months after leaving Oxford, postgraduate research students at NDM are on average earning £31,000 with 83.8% in employment and a further 11% in further study (e.g. Graduate Entry Medicine).

Our services for researches portal contains careers advice specifically for DPhil students.

Student representation, evaluation and feedback

Department representation

The NDM Graduate Student Committee is led by research students, for research students. All research students can notify their NDM Institute/Centre/Unit’s, or any, member of the student committee of an issue they wish to have raised. The student committee provides a forum for students to communicate more effectively with the departmental administration with the objective of improving service delivery for students.

The student committee was established in TT2017 and is still recruiting members.

Division and University representation

The DPhil student body will elect two representatives each year who will sit on the Departmental Graduate Studies Committee and the Divisional Joint Consultative Committee. These representatives will also act as Chairs for the NDM Student Committee.

Opportunities to provide evaluation and feedback

We welcome feedback from students at any time which can be submitted to the Graduate Studies Manager and/or your student rep. You are also encouraged to forward feedback, comments, suggestions etc to the Student Committee who can then bring this to the attention of the Graduate Studies Committee.

Who to contact for help

If you need advice or help, we are here for you and would strongly encourage you to talk to someone as soon as possible to ensure that it is dealt with quickly.

At NDM any of the following people are happy for you to contact them about any issues that you may have, academic or otherwise and if they can't help, will be able to advise you on who would be able to:

You can also access all of the central University services.

Complaints and appeals

Please email if you would like to make a complaint or appeal.

Student societies

When you start at NDM you will be added to local mailing lists where you will receive information about local events, clubs and societies. The central University has a guide and an A-Z of clubs and societies wider afield.

Policies and regulations

Ethical Clearance
All students conducting research involving human participants are expected to apply for Ethical Clearance.

Data Protection and Confidentiality Policy
NDM DPhil students are bound by the Data Protection policies of the Units where they are working. Students should discuss data protection and confidentiality policies with their supervisors, and ensure that they are aware of the policies that govern their research.

Health and Safety Inductions
NDM Students should attend a Health and Safety induction for each Unit where they will be working. The inductions are set up by your supervisor or Unit Administrator and are usually completed within the first month of your degree. If you have any issues with inductions or building access, please contact the Graduate Studies Manager in the first instance.

University Policy on Conflict of Interest
The University has a policy to address conflicts of interest so as to ensure that its activities and those of its staff and students are seen to be conducted to the highest standards of ethics and integrity.

Maternity and Paternity Policy
DPhil students are automatically entitled to suspend their studies for up to 3 terms (1 year) of maternity leave. Terms of maternity leave do not have to be taken consecutively when sharing parental leave, but do have to be taken within 12 months of the birth and any unused terms may not be taken at a later date.

Students who hold Research Council or other sponsoring body awards must align their periods of University and funding body leave. Where there is a conflict of interest between the two policies, the sponsoring body's policy will be followed.

Students based in NDM whose sponsor does not allow for payment of stipend during maternity leave are entitled to up to two terms' stipend from the Department.

Students should contact the Graduate Studies Manager for more information.

MSD Teaching Courses and Opportunities
Guidelines on teaching opportunities for DPhil students in the Medical Sciences Division.


Social spaces and facilities

Most of the buildings that you will be working in will have cafes and flexible spaces for relaxing and studying.

You will also be able to make use of the mobile bike repair services that are offered around the university including the Old Road Campus.


Workspace will be allocated according to individual circumstances. If undertaking experimental work, you will be provided with bench space in a laboratory. If undertaking theoretical research, you will have shared office space.


The Knowledge Centre on the Old Road Campus site has a range of books and journals in the fields of public health, cancer services and diabetes. The computer suite provides access to all the electronic journals and databases available on the University network. There is a space for quiet study and group discussion, in addition advice and help can be sought from the outreach librarians.

The Cairns Library is the largest branch of the Health Care Libraries and is situated in the John Radcliffe Hospital, a short walk away from Old Road Campus. Further information about the libraries can be accessed at

The Radcliffe Science Library is the main science reference library of the University of Oxford. It supports the teaching and research needs of the science departments across the University. The Library subscribes to many journals published overseas, most of which are in English. It holds strong collections of books and journals in the biological sciences, computing science, experimental psychology, history of science, mathematics, medicine and the physical sciences. Good provision is made of scientific reference books, bibliographies, dictionaries and encyclopaedias. Scientific doctoral theses submitted for degrees at Oxford are deposited in the library. There is a considerable amount of older material, especially from the 19th century contained in the library. Further information is available here:

There is a wealth of exciting materials available in the many gardens, libraries and museums around Oxford University for students and researchers. Digital collections are also available.


Your IT setup should be discussed as part of your building induction with each building having their own IT support team.

NDM research buildings

Getting started: IT information including your Single Sign On (SSO) and emails etc

Experimental facilities/laboratories

NDM is based across multiple local sites, including the John Radcliffe and Churchill Hospitals, and the University of Oxford’s Old Road Campus – one of the largest centres for biomedical research in Europe. With over £200M invested in capital projects and research infrastructure over the past decade, this rapidly growing campus provides a vibrant, highly interactive environment for research development, and career development for young scientists.

NDM research buildings

Research equipment/facilities search