Getting into Oxbridge for a doctorate straight after finishing a Bachelor's degree? Watch

Michiyo
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(I apologise if this question has been asked to death.)

So, my friend is currently in the first year of his BA degree at a Russell Group university.

Long story short, the question of what he wants to do afterwards came up and he mentioned he would like to go straight on to an Oxbridge DPhil/PhD right after he finishes his degree.

I thought a Master's was mandatory to get into a DPhil/PhD course? He has been doing really well in his degree, but I told him that I doubt it is possible due to the entry requirements for doctorates. He claims otherwise: that a Master's degree is just a stepping stone and can be skipped. I looked around a bit and found mixed responses, unfortunately, so I decided to ask you, my fellow TSRians.

Is it possible to do a doctorate at Oxbridge without a Master's? If so, what advice should I give him in order to make his application more competitive?

Thank you.
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capplicant
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It is possible. I have no idea on how to make the application competitive though.
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monkyvirus
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It's possible but a master's would help. The only person I know who went straight from BSc to masters was staying at his undergrad uni so was a known quanitiy for the supervisor and the school (basically they didn't need a masters to tell them he was capable and interested in research). His best bet is to ask their PG admissions about his chances / what they look for. He'll likely need a very strong application to compete against masters students unless they're offering a 1+3 course (though the guy I mention above didn't do a 1+3 either).
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threeportdrift
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(Original post by Michiyo)
.......
It's not mandatory, but depending on the general subject area and the specific PhD and funding source, it varies between never happening, and happening very occasionally. PhDs are generally very competitive (especially if they have funding) so you have to ask why/how an Undergrad degree holder is going to be more competitive than an Masters degree holder. So, it's possible, but unusual.
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OxFossil
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For the DPhil at Oxford, the short answer is that it depends on the subject. You will always need a First or a high 2:1 in your first degree, plus excellent academic references, but some subjects also require a Masters degree. You'll have to check the university website for which applies for your particular course.
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saster
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Oxbridge are not struggling to find high-quality candidates to start PhD programmes with them. A First class degree is the basic minimum and they'd expect PhD probationers to have a Distinction in their Masters as well. Just as 90% of people they reject for undergraduate interview get A*A*A, most of the people Oxbridge turn down for Masters and PhDs also have Firsts. Your friend needs to understand that it's not about him, it's about the level of competition. At that level, very few people are actually that special. If he wants to beat the field, he ought realistically expect to be an Oxbridge professor before he's thirty, like almost no-one ever does. He ought to have people beating a path to offer him funding for both Masters and PhD. And if he's that good, he might as well take the Masters.

I hope he's that good, because the world needs a few more geniuses. But if he's just another bright, ambitious person who works hard to do well, like the rest of us, then he needs to be realistic. Take the Masters, get a Distinction, and get funding. Oxbridge might then be interested.
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Michiyo
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(Original post by capplicant)
It is possible. I have no idea on how to make the application competitive though.
(Original post by monkyvirus)
It's possible but a master's would help. The only person I know who went straight from BSc to masters was staying at his undergrad uni so was a known quanitiy for the supervisor and the school (basically they didn't need a masters to tell them he was capable and interested in research). His best bet is to ask their PG admissions about his chances / what they look for. He'll likely need a very strong application to compete against masters students unless they're offering a 1+3 course (though the guy I mention above didn't do a 1+3 either).
(Original post by threeportdrift)
It's not mandatory, but depending on the general subject area and the specific PhD and funding source, it varies between never happening, and happening very occasionally. PhDs are generally very competitive (especially if they have funding) so you have to ask why/how an Undergrad degree holder is going to be more competitive than an Masters degree holder. So, it's possible, but unusual.
(Original post by OxFossil)
For the DPhil at Oxford, the short answer is that it depends on the subject. You will always need a First or a high 2:1 in your first degree, plus excellent academic references, but some subjects also require a Masters degree. You'll have to check the university website for which applies for your particular course.
(Original post by saster)
Oxbridge are not struggling to find high-quality candidates to start PhD programmes with them. A First class degree is the basic minimum and they'd expect PhD probationers to have a Distinction in their Masters as well. Just as 90% of people they reject for undergraduate interview get A*A*A, most of the people Oxbridge turn down for Masters and PhDs also have Firsts. Your friend needs to understand that it's not about him, it's about the level of competition. At that level, very few people are actually that special. If he wants to beat the field, he ought realistically expect to be an Oxbridge professor before he's thirty, like almost no-one ever does. He ought to have people beating a path to offer him funding for both Masters and PhD. And if he's that good, he might as well take the Masters.

I hope he's that good, because the world needs a few more geniuses. But if he's just another bright, ambitious person who works hard to do well, like the rest of us, then he needs to be realistic. Take the Masters, get a Distinction, and get funding. Oxbridge might then be interested.

Thank you all for the replies!

If it helps clear some things up, my friend is not going to apply for funding as he has the means to pay for the doctorate. He plans to publish articles, essays, and maybe even a book or a few in his subject area during university to compensate for his lack of a Master's degree, but I personally doubt the feasibility of that plan as well.

I think Oxford said applicants are 'normally expected to have a Master's', but that phrase is a bit ambiguous, so I am not sure if that means he needs a Master's or not.

To be blunt, I think he will not succeed, but I cannot do more than advise him on what to do. :getmecoat:
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MinimaMoralia
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Hi,

If the PhD/DPhil is in the Humanities, chances are your friend will have to do a masters even to be eligible for the course (at least in the UK). This was the case for every PhD application I've done. Whilst this wasn't always the case, research courses are often so competitive that just a BA will no longer be enough to be admitted. For example, to be in the run for funding, someone with an excellent BA and MA will often be rated higher in scholarship competitions than someone with just an excellent BA (this was at least the case for the Arts Faculty scholarship competition at Warwick last year).

Besides, my MA course made my writing and research skills markedly better. This is not to say that excellent BA work does not show one's aptitude for a research degree. But I found that my tutors expected a more sophisticated grasp on the existing literature/current research trends in my MA essays in comparison with my BA essays. That, and the fact that some BA courses are exam-heavy; postgraduate research courses tend to be geared more towards essays. In this case, sometimes you find that people flourish at postgraduate work despite struggling at undergrad and some very strong undergrads find research work more challenging (of course, undergraduates with strong marks also do very well at postgrad - top undergraduate marks help with funding applications - it's just worth bearing in mind that postgraduate degrees can be a different kettle of fish).

Oh and a funded masters can help with PhD funding applications - it shows that you are already attracting funding. However, funding at MA is increasingly difficult to obtain so this isn't a reason to do an MA in itself (and it's also an unfair way to judge people for PhD entry as there simply isn't enough money to give every fantastic masters student a scholarship). It just helps.

So, in short - the masters is indeed a stepping stone, but it's often a necessary evil.
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Michiyo
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(Original post by MinimaMoralia)
Hi,

If the PhD/DPhil is in the Humanities, chances are your friend will have to do a masters even to be eligible for the course (at least in the UK). This was the case for every PhD application I've done. Whilst this wasn't always the case, research courses are often so competitive that just a BA will no longer be enough to be admitted. For example, to be in the run for funding, someone with an excellent BA and MA will often be rated higher in scholarship competitions than someone with just an excellent BA (this was at least the case for the Arts Faculty scholarship competition at Warwick last year).

Besides, my MA course made my writing and research skills markedly better. This is not to say that excellent BA work does not show one's aptitude for a research degree. But I found that my tutors expected a more sophisticated grasp on the existing literature/current research trends in my MA essays in comparison with my BA essays. That, and the fact that some BA courses are exam-heavy; postgraduate research courses tend to be geared more towards essays. In this case, sometimes you find that people flourish at postgraduate work despite struggling at undergrad and some very strong undergrads find research work more challenging (of course, undergraduates with strong marks also do very well at postgrad - top undergraduate marks help with funding applications - it's just worth bearing in mind that postgraduate degrees can be a different kettle of fish).

Oh and a funded masters can help with PhD funding applications - it shows that you are already attracting funding. However, funding at MA is increasingly difficult to obtain so this isn't a reason to do an MA in itself (and it's also an unfair way to judge people for PhD entry as there simply isn't enough money to give every fantastic masters student a scholarship). It just helps.

So, in short - the masters is indeed a stepping stone, but it's also a necessary evil.
Thank you for the detailed repsonse!

I will forward this thread to him now
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