Frequently asked questions

Atomic and Laser Physics: Graduate admissions FAQ

Can I do a masters degree in atomic and laser physics at Oxford?

At graduate level we mainly offer the D.Phil. research degree (equivalent to Ph.D.). In very exceptional cases, it may be possible to do a M.Sc in research. We do not offer a graduate taught masters course.

What is a D.Phil.? What does PRS mean?

In Oxford, a Ph.D. is given the name "D.Phil." (it stands for Doctor of Philosophy). PRS stands for "probationary research student". A student will spend the first year as a PRS before applying for full DPhil status (see the next question).

What happens in the first year of a D.Phil.?

Our graduate students are admitted as probationary research students (PRS) and continuation, leading to submission of a D.Phil. thesis, is dependent on attending all parts of the graduate course. This includes attending lectures and seminars, carrying out original research and writing a research report. Examination of the report is by viva at the end of the first year and this is used to assess suitability for transfer to D.Phil. student status. Satisfactory completion of the first year graduate course is also a factor. Topics covered in the graduate course include group theory, experimental techniques and data analysis techniques. Many opportunities exist to attend training courses outside the sub-Department.

How long does the D.Phil. course last?

The normal period is three years.

Are there taught courses in the D.Phil programme?

The D.Phil programme is a research degree and you normally start working on your main research project as soon as you arrive. But in parallel with that, you will be expected to attend a taught course in atomic and laser physics in the first year, comprising lectures and discussion classes at a graduate study level. Depending on your level of knowledge, we may also require you to attend lectures in the final-year (masters-level) undergraduate course at Oxford.

What research title should I enter on the application form in section C1(iii)?

We don't expect a specific research proposal and title. We suggest you enter "Atomic and Laser Physics", optionally followed by specification of a general project type, appropriate for the research groups you would consider joining.

What should I write in the research proposal section of the application form?

According to our selection criteria, we are looking for people who are able to study atomic and laser physics at a high academic level, and who can provide evidence of interest in atomic and laser physics and motivation to study it. You should certainly describe any research project that you have been involved in (e.g. an undergraduate atomic and laser physics research project) or give any other evidence of your motivation and commitment to studying atomic and laser physics. You should also thoroughly review the information on our web pages, and if you have a specific interest in any area you should describe why. It may help to contact potential supervisors if you are interested in a specific project, but we do not expect you to know precisely in which project area you would like to work. If you are interested in a particular area, you need be no more specific than the general area.

Do I need to submit any additional written material?

No, we do not require any additional work.

How do I choose which college I will be a member of?

On the application form you will have the opportunity to express a preference for an Oxford college, although you can leave this open if you have no clear preference.

When will the outcome of my application be known?

The outcome of your application will be communicated to you before the next deadline, and as soon as the funding position is known. The question of college admission will then follow automatically. (Note: you may waive your choice of College in order to expedite linked funding where appropriate.)

My undergraduate degree has been obtained in the U.S., will I be at the right level for starting a research degree?

We have a number of current graduate students who studied at U.S. universities. We look carefully at each individual application and try to assess whether you are suitably qualified to start a research degree. You should apply following our standard procedures, giving as much information as you can, and we will assess your application on its individual merits.

My first language is not English, but I have studied at an English-speaking university. Do I need to provide proof of proficiency in English?

We require you to provide recent proof of competence in spoken and written English, as given in the selection criteria. This is likely to be required by your Oxford college as well as the physics department. We can waive this requirement only under exceptional circumstances, please contact us if you feel you have good reason for not being able to provide the required certification.

What are Clarendon bursaries and ORS awards?

For overseas students there is also the possibility of either a Clarendon Bursary or an Overseas Research Award (ORS) [Scholarships not restricted by region: Oxford University Graduate Studies Prospectus]. The former provides bursaries up to the full cost of a studentship while the latter offers a reduction in the University fees. With these awards in mind, overseas applicants should apply by the second deadline.

Clarendon bursaries will be considered by the department and MPLS divisional panel deadline after the second University deadline with offers following shortly after. For an ORS award, you should simply tick the appropriate box on the University application form. The last opportunity for ORS consideration will be the second University deadline. Please note that it is a condition of a Clarendon Bursary application that an ORS application is also made. [See ORS awards]

What selection criteria are used in admitting candidates to graduate study?

Please see our selection criteria.

Where can I find more information about applying to Oxford?

Where can I find more information on funding for International Postgraduate Students?

Where can I find more information on the likely cost of studying in Oxford?