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Summer Doctoral Programme

Summer Doctoral Programme

The annual Summer Doctoral Programme (SDP) brings together outstanding doctoral students from around the world for a fortnight of study at the world-leading University of Oxford.

The programme is structured around daily lectures, seminars and tutorials with leading academics in the field of Internet Studies, and provides an academic framework in which to share and discuss students’ current research.

Since 2003, hundreds of doctoral students have been brought together for two weeks of intensive teaching and learning. The international networks established endure over the years and deliver concrete examples of collaboration.


Key Information

Details in brief

Unfortunately we will not be running the Summer Doctoral Programme in 2024.

Details for future years will be announced in due course on this page.

Each year in July, the OII Summer Doctoral Programme (SDP) brings together up to 30 advanced doctoral students engaged in dissertation research relating to the Internet and other digital technologies. By sharing their work, debating topics of mutual interest and learning from leading academics in the field, we hope that participants can enhance the quality and significance of their thesis research. Our multi-disciplinary approach means that students are exposed to new ways of thinking about their topics, whilst the strong focus on diverse methodologies encourages renewed focus on effective research design.
The programme’s emphasis on generating positive interactions and providing safe spaces to talk through research problems also serves to create a tightly-knit peer network of excellent junior researchers, many of whom go on to collaborate academically, or just to support each other as friends.

The course was established in 2003 as the OII’s first foray into teaching, and was intended to help us think about where we could add value in developing our own graduate degree programmes, as well as providing an early opportunity for our faculty to teach. It remains one of the highlights of the OII academic year and we are proud to have worked with the hundreds of wonderful alumni who have passed through the programme, many now in tenure-track positions as field-leading academics.

The Summer Doctoral Programme will build upon the research strengths of the OII, involving many of our faculty from across multiple disciplines as well as bringing in excellent guest speakers from other institutions. It will emphasise methodological innovation and good practice in research design and will expose students to the benefits of discussing their research in a multi-disciplinary teaching environment. There will also be an opportunity to connect with several alumni from previous years, ensuring that the benefits of the OII SDP network are passed on to this year’s cohort.

How to Apply

Up to 30 places are available and will be awarded on a competitive basis. Only students at an advanced stage of their doctorate who have embarked on writing their thesis will be eligible to apply. All teaching will be in English, so all applicants should be able to demonstrate their competence in this language.

All applications must also be supported by at least one academic reference. This should usually be provided by a dissertation supervisor, but we can also accept references from other faculty with close knowledge of your work. Similarly, students should be able to clearly explain how their doctoral studies will benefit from the programme.


Fees and Funding

The cost of the course is £1,950, and includes accommodation and breakfast at Christ Church College Oxford, in July, and all course tuition fees. There are also some places available on the course without accommodation included. Travel to and from Oxford is not included in this fee. Lunch will be provided on week days, and several dinners and social events are also included.

The OII offers two partial SDP scholarships. All applicants will be considered automatically and need not submit any additional information.

Who should apply

SDP students in front of the Radcliffe Camera, Oxford.

The three main criteria for acceptance onto the SDP are academic excellence, overlap with the OII’s areas of interest, and a likelihood that the student will benefit from undertaking the programme. Bear this in mind when you put together your application to ensure that you provide clear evidence on each count.

  1. We really need to know about your thesis research, as one of the primary aims of the programme is to help improve students’ dissertations. So make sure that your thesis abstract is clear and compelling. Remember that although the research is very familiar to you, we will never have heard about it before, so make sure you spell out the broad topic, research questions and likely contribution as simply as possible. Practice this ‘elevator pitch’ on your peers to see if they can understand what your research is really about.
  2. CVs are a great way to show off your strengths, so if you have given presentations, won prizes or undertaken relevant research or teaching experience, make sure you highlight this.
  3. Have a clear understanding of what you want to get out of the SDP, and make sure your reference is aware of this as well.  It’s helpful to know if you have a particular problem with your survey structure or your theory chapter, so that we can see where we can add some value. Obviously, the networking is an excellent reason to attend, but the best experiences are had by students who know what they need to work on whilst they’re with us.

In the words of a past SDP student: “Be honest about your research. Think about the strengths of your PhD: what’s the gap in the literature that you want to fill and how are you going to achieve this? Remember that your readers might not be familiar with your theoretical background so be clear and concise in addressing the literature. Don’t forget to justify your methods and what you expect to find. If some things are still unclear about your research, that’s normal. Don’t be shy in articulating your expectations from SDP. You won’t find all the answers there but lots of useful hints and advice that will help you keep going.”

SDP students come from a wide variety of disciplinary and methodological traditions; what they all share is a genuine intellectual curiosity and a willingness to consider these different perspectives.


Can’t find an answer to a question? Then ask us a question and we will get back to you. Please also see SDP Alumni blogs for information about the programme from past participants.

The OII’s research covers a vast range of topics and disciplines: law, economics, politics, digital humanities, etc etc. How do I know if I will fit into the mix?

The most fundamental requirement is that our SDP students must be writing a thesis or dissertation about some aspect of life with the Internet. Beyond that, it’s the place to be if you have an open-minded approach to how best to study the Internet. Our typical cohort includes students from a wide variety of disciplinary and methodological traditions, and what they all share is a genuine intellectual curiosity and a willingness to consider these different perspectives.

How much am I expected to know (or care) about other disciplines? What is the benefit of (for example) a law student, or economist engaging with people and ideas from outside their own discipline?

The simple answer is that you’re not expected to know about other disciplines, but you are expected to be interested in their possible contribution to your research field. One of the perks of running SDP is seeing all the water-cooler conversations striking up outside the formal seminars. So, for example, we’ve previously taken students focused on online privacy, some studying it from a sociological perspective, others from a regulatory one. Each may have knowledge of a common core of literature, but can still learn from the other’s expertise. Or in another case, students may not share a common disciplinary or even topic approach but could have similar interests in applying a particular method. In each case, there has to be a basic willingness to step back from your own work and see how others might understand it.

Do you accept candidates who study the Internet from outside the social sciences (eg the sciences and humanities)?

Yes, we certainly do, but with the proviso that most of our teaching will draw on social science theories and methods.

Do I have to study ‘the Internet’, or could my thesis research involve other ICTs?

We interpret the Internet in a very broad way, as a ‘network of networks’ that incorporates the use of many ICTs. We do have faculty who have focused specifically on the use of particular technologies e.g. mobile phones, or grid computing, but in each case, the interest stems from the fact that they are ‘wired’.

Should I have a clear idea / plan of what I want to get out of the programme?

Yes, this is really vital. First of all, the programme is going to cost you or your sponsor quite a bit of money and you have to be sure it’s worthwhile. But more importantly it will help to frame your application and your participation. For example, everyone who attends will benefit from the peer network established, but only those who have a genuine motivation to learn and a sense of their work’s weaknesses will be able to use the two weeks to really make progress on their thesis.

When is the ideal point in my doctoral studies to apply to the programme?

Applicants should be at an advanced stage of their doctorate and have started writing their thesis.

I haven’t decided on a thesis title yet: is that a problem?

We will give priority to those who are more advanced in their doctoral study. If you don’t have a final title yet, at least give us a provisional one.

If my application is not accepted, can I still apply for subsequent year(s)?

Absolutely! We always have more good applicants than we can accept, and sometimes an application is stronger when the applicant’s work becomes more advanced.