Funding your DPhil (or PhD) in Public Policy at Oxford

With less than three months to go until the main application deadline for our DPhil in Public Policy, it is definitely not too early to start thinking about how you could fund your studies with us! Applications are currently open for studies commencing in 2018: whilst you may apply for the course up until 9 March, the majority of places will be allocated in the earlier round of admissions, and you will only be considered for University funding if you apply by 12pm (noon) on 19 January – details of how to apply can be found on the central University website.

DPhil students with supervisors
2017 DPhil students with Professors Ngaire Woods, Paul Collier and Pepper Culpepper.

Earlier this month we welcomed six new DPhil students to the Blavatnik School community. This year’s intake join us from across the globe and will be conducting their research in a wide range of subject areas. However, they have one important factor in common – all have been successful in obtaining funding to support their DPhil studies! Committing to a minimum of three years of doctoral study can be a financially daunting prospect, and we appreciate that DPhil applicants are always grateful for a few extra tips on how to secure the necessary financial support. So, we spoke to the cohort about the challenge of securing funding and asked for their words of wisdom for those considering how to fund their own DPhil studies.

Jose Maria Valenzuela Robles Linares works on the challenges of energy systems transformation in response to social and environmental concerns. During his DPhil he expects to map the distribution of policy and regulatory roles that are relevant to the rapid transformation of energy systems to address climate change, with special emphasis on networks that are international in nature and their role for industrialized developing economies. His studies are funded through a scholarship from the Mexican government.

“I benefit from the funding of the Mexican government Conacyt-Sener Sustentabilidad Energetica scholarship for studies on sustainable energy. The scholarship is only available for Mexican citizens, but a key takeaway of my experience is that research grounded in social sciences is also relevant to sponsors working on areas that would normally be considered science and technology oriented.”

Joining us from his previous role as an Australian diplomat where he served in Kabul and Vienna, Vafa Ghazavi is developing a theory of moral responsibility for systemic global injustices. He is one of 2017’s recipients of the prestigious John Monash Scholarship, awarded to outstanding Australians with leadership potential, and is extremely grateful to the Foundation for supporting his DPhil studies.

James Walsh is from Ireland, and has worked as a Research Analyst in the World Bank’s behavioural science unit (eMBeD). His research will focus on applying behavioural economics to problems in international development with a particular focus of enhancing the agency of socially excluded groups. James has received funding through a partnership we were able to create between the Blavatnik School and Nuffield College.

“Because I applied before the January deadline, I was automatically eligible for and fortunately received financial support jointly from the Blavatnik School of Government and Nuffield College which covered all of my fees and provided a living stipend.”

The recipient of our own Government Outcomes Lab Scholarship is Christi Economy, who joins the School from the US where she worked as an Innovation Fellow with the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab (GPL).  She is based within our GO Lab research centre where she will be looking at how alternative commissioning practices can be used to improve government’s delivery of social services to vulnerable populations. Christi is fortunate to have had a fairly straightforward funding search, as she is supported by the GO Lab’s studentship.

Aaron Maniam was part of the MPP Class of 2013 and returns to the School from his career in Singapore’s administrative service, where he has most recently served as Senior Director (Industry) at Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry. Aaron is “grateful for the Blavatnik School of Government’s support in securing a University of Oxford Clarendon scholarship and is working on studying digital government and understanding the mix of structural, institutional and individual factors that make for success or failure in different cases.

Joining us on a scholarship from Pembroke College, Ranil Dissanayake has worked in civil services in Malawi, Tanzania and the UK. His DPhil investigates how organisational structures can mitigate the effects of behavioural biases and bad incentives on decision making in public policy settings.

“My advice is to talk to as many people as you can about funding avenues and eligibility – there are always opportunities that you will not find otherwise.”

As Ranil acknowledges, word of mouth is a powerful place to start, so make a list of any contacts you have who may know of an alternative source of funding or who may have ideas on how to approach potential funding bodies. No stones should be left unturned when it comes to exploring the options out there! A good place to start is of course the Graduate Funding site, where you can use the Fees, Funding and Scholarship search to determine which University of Oxford funding schemes you could be eligible for and details of how to apply.

We also have a wealth of information about potential external funding routes on our own website, along with more general guidance on the content, structure and application procedure of the DPhil programme itself. We would also recommend that you read our interview with our DPhil Co-ordinator Pepper Culpepper if you are planning on applying, as this will help you learn a little more about life as a research student at the Blavatnik School, and determine if the DPhil in Public Policy is right for you.

This post was co-written by our Admissions team, Sarah Randall and Natalie Turner.

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