Guillermo Casasnovas


DPhil Programme in Management Studies






Started in 2012

By Guillermo Casasnovas

Labels and meanings

Here in Oxford, traditions are important. That is why, among other things, we wear gowns for formal examinations, we say grace at dinner in Latin, or we refer to fall/winter, spring, and summer terms as Michaelmas, Hillary, and Trinity. When something has survived for 800 years, it is not that easy to change.

These labeling traditions also affect our doctoral programme. For example, we call DPhil what everyone else calls a PhD. But labels carry their own meanings, and if we call it DPhil instead of PhD it is probably for a good reason. In this case, I would say that it is to emphasize the distinctiveness of the Oxford approach to doctoral studies, and to university education in general. Here the ‘tutorial’ experience is very important, where faculty often have one-on-one meetings with students to review relevant papers or to discuss the next steps of their research.

Similarly, there is a tradition here for students to say that they ‘read’ instead of ‘study’ a degree. For example, I am reading a DPhil in Management Studies. Again, it could be just a label, but in fact it also reflects that reading is usually the main task in most of the degrees here. While in other universities students attend many lectures or group seminars, at Oxford the norm is to read, read, and read – and then of course discuss those readings with your tutors, colleagues, and supervisors.

A final label that is especially important for me these days is that first-year DPhil candidates are known as Probationary Research Students, and it is not until after they submit and successfully defend their research proposal that they are proper DPhil Students. I just applied for my Transfer, which I will defend soon in front of two assessors/examiners, so hopefully I will tell you about that experience in future posts. Again, although being called ‘probationary’ did not feel that good at the beginning, I certainly think that after this first year I am a much more mature and complete student (still with a loooong way to go), so the label has made sense to me after all.

At least, if the assessors say that they are looking forward for Hilary, I will know that they are eager to start the new term, and not expecting Mrs Clinton to be the next US President.

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