DPhil in Cancer Science Programme


With its first intake confirmed for 2020, the DPhil in Cancer Science Programme at the University of Oxford provides research-based doctoral training for cancer researchers from clinical, biological, engineering, mathematics and statistics backgrounds.  Successful applicants will receive a world-leading research training experience that integrates an education initiative spanning cancer patient care, tumour biology and research impact; on- course and post-programme mentorship; and a specialised, fundamental, subject-specific training programme that is tailored to individual research needs. 

Submit your DPhil Projects for our Programme – Deadline 26 July 2021

Project submissions from Oxford-based PIs is now open.  For the 2022 intake of DPhil in Cancer Science students, we are looking for project submissions from across medical, physical, engineering and mathematical sciences. We typically advertise 35-45 projects to prospective students, who can apply for their preferred projects from between September 2021 and January 2022 (examples of previous projects can be found in the Project Booklet tab below).

Cancer researchers from across the Oxford University and Oxford University Hospitals Foundation Trust who are interested in supervising a student/fellow are invited to submit their project ideas.

Please read the application guidance and fill in the necessary documents in our application pack. Downloadable here.

Deadline for submissions is no later than midday on 26 July 2021. Email your documentation to cancer@medsci.ox.ac.uk.

The Course

The Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre awards around 12 full-time positions on the DPhil in Cancer Science Programme each year for researchers looking to start their academic career at one of the world’s leading research organisations.

The programme is unique and distinctive in offering integrated training across the following themes: Immunity, Infection & Inflammation; DNA Damage Response & Radiation Biology; Cancer Genetics & Epigenetics; and Cancer Big Data. It builds on Oxford’s outstanding research record in these areas, spanning both the University and Hospital Trust.

Students participating in the scheme will be offered:

  • a choice of interdisciplinary cutting-edge cancer research projects (see the Project Book tab for examples of the type of projects offered).
  • the ability to gain a working in-depth knowledge of the fundamentals of cancer biology and cancer patient care through advanced level seminars.
  • a world-renowned research environment that encourages the student’s originality and creativity in their research.
  • opportunities to develop skills in making and testing hypotheses, in developing new theories, and in planning and conducting experiments.
  • an environment in which to develop skills in written work, oral presentation and publishing the results of their research in high-profile scientific journals, through constructive feedback of written work and oral presentations.

At the end of the course, programme students will:

  • have gained a thorough knowledge of the basic principles of cancer research including the relevant literature and a comprehensive understanding of scientific methods and techniques applicable to their own research.
  • be able to demonstrate originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in their field.
  • have the ability to critically evaluate current research and research techniques and methodologies.
  • be able to act autonomously in the planning and implementation of research.
  • be prepared for a career in cancer research.

The scheme caters to researchers form a wide range of backgrounds and there are three types of application welcomed are described below.

  • Application Type 1 – Clinical Trainees. Qualified doctors at all stages of training (from foundation to higher specialist training).
  • Application Type 2 – Medical Undergraduates. Medical students who are currently undertaking a primary medical qualification (MBBS, MBChB or equivalent). At entry, we will be looking for evidence of completion of at least the first two years of a primary medical qualification and achievement at the level of an upper-second or first-class honours degrees (or iBSc).
  • Application Track 3A – Non-Clinical/Fundamental Scientist. Science graduates that hold (or be predicted to achieve) the equivalent of a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in biological, medical, or chemical science, as appropriate for the projects offered.
  • Application Track 3B – Non-Clinical/Fundamental Scientist.  Science graduates that hold (or be predicted to achieve) the equivalent of a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in engineering, mathematical/data, or physical science, as appropriate for the projects offered.  Science graduates that hold

All offered places are fully funded at the home rate. This includes salary/stipend, University and College fees, and a research consumables budget of £13k p.a.. Salary and stipend provisions are summarised below:

  • Track 1 – 3 years of salary at Grade E63 or E64 Clinical Researcher
  • Track 2 – 3 years of stipend at the rate of £19,000 per annum.
  • Track 3A – 4 years of stipend at the rate of £19,000 per annum.
  • Track 3B – 4 years of stipend at the rate of £19,000 per annum.

Applications from international candidates will be accepted, however funding at the home level is only available for this programme and therefore international applicants would need to either source further funding or support themselves financially for the remaining fees. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

How to Apply

The process for allocating studentships and fellowships for the 2021 intake is now closed. Applications for the 2020/2021 intake opened on 5th October 2020. The timelines for this process is below.

  • 5th October 2020Project Booklet released and opening of scheme to applicants
  • 8th January 2021 – Deadline for applying to the 2021 intake (with up to 3 ranked projects from the 2021 project list).
  • Late January 2021 (estimate) – Interviews
  • February-March 2021 – Award announcements


Interviews for the top-ranked applications will be held in late January (estimate), with the results being announced shortly afterwards. All applicants will be judged on the following;

  • Evidence of a prior interest in the area of research proposed is likely to advantage your application.
  • Prior publications are not required, but research experience and a track record demonstrating an interest in research may be an advantage.
  • It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.
  • Commitment to and passion for a career in cancer research.
  • Reasoning ability and academic curiosity.

If you are thinking of applying to the scheme, useful advice can be found here. If you have any further questions about the programme or the application, please email cancercentre@oncology.ox.ac.uk.

Open Day 2020/2021

Thank you to all those who attended our 2020 Open Day on Friday, 16 October 2020.

If you have any more questions about the DPhil in Cancer Science or applications, you can contact us on cancercentre@oncology.ox.ac.uk and we will direct your question to the most appropriate person.

Open Day Podcast Series

As this year’s event was virtual, we made the decision to pre-record 20-minute speaker podcasts. These podcasts provide details of the application process.

Prof Mark Middleton – Introduction to the DPhil in Cancer Science & the CRUK Oxford Centre

Prof Rob Gilbert – Cancer Research Training in Oxford

Dr Catherine Swales – Incorporating a DPhil into your undergraduate medical studies

Prof Chris Pugh – Incorporating a DPhil into your postgraduate clinical training

DPhil Project Book

The Project Book for the 2021 intake is now available to view here.

This project book contains details of the projects available to prospective DPhil students applying for the 2021 DPhil in Cancer Science intake. Applications close on the 8 January 2021 and can be made through the University Course Application Portal here.

Examples Project Books from previous admission rounds are available below