About the course
The MSc in Applied Cancer Science is a one-year, full-time course, designed to develop cancer research scientists of the future, whether that be in academia or in industry.
High-quality understanding of fundamental cancer science is the bedrock of future cancer innovations. The main aim of this course is to provide you with an in-depth understanding of the principles of DNA damage and repair processes, the tumour microenvironment, and tumour immunology and to discuss how this science is used in cutting-edge research towards future therapies.
The course is based on a series of overarching learning outcomes, which you will be able to demonstrate on completion of your studies:
- Critically analyse the importance of understanding the DNA damage repair response for cancer research and treatment
- Evaluate how in-depth knowledge of tumour characteristics can be utilised in targeting cancer therapy
- Critically discuss the application of principles of immunology when studying and developing treatments for cancer
- Conduct, and explain the principles behind, essential experimental techniques required in modern cancer science
- Demonstrate originality in the application of existing knowledge and established techniques to create and interpret new developments in cancer science
- Critically discuss the challenges of translating new discoveries in therapeutics for clinical use
- Apply the scientific method to address research questions within the field of cancer science
You will take eight compulsory modules, which are delivered in two-week blocks, following on from each other:
- Genome Regulation
- The Cancer Cell
- The Tumour Niche
- Cancer Immunology
- DNA and Cellular Targeted Therapies
- Tumour Microenvironment Targeted Therapies
- Immunological Therapies
- Translational Research Methods and Applications
Modules one to four are delivered in Michaelmas term and cover the underpinning principles of cancer biology, starting at the level of the DNA before covering the behaviour of individual cancer cells, then tumours, and extending out to discuss the interactions between cancer and the immune system by the end of the term.
Modules five to eight are delivered in Hilary term and cover the application of the underpinning principles of cancer science from the previous term to the development of therapeutic strategies to target different characteristics of cancer.
Balance of teaching
You can expect to receive seven to eight lectures and three to four tutorial or practical classes per module. There will also be preparatory reading, independent study tasks, and formative assessments set throughout the course, to be completed in the non-contact hours. Alongside the module specific tutorials, you will also attend a series of compulsory Directors’ Tutorials throughout the year. These cover overarching themes such as critiquing a scientific paper, or essay writing skills, and help to prepare you for specific assessment methods, including the dissertation.
The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Department of Oncology and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department of Oncology.
You will be assigned a Director of Studies from the course team, who will help you review your progress, and discuss any concerns you have; your Director of Studies and the course administration team will usually be your first port of call for any queries about your studies. You will also have an advisor at your Oxford college, to whom you can turn if you feel you need to discuss your progress, or anything else pertinent to your study, away from the course team. During the research project you will be allocated a project supervisor who will be responsible for your supervision and training. It is recommended that you arrange meetings with your supervisor on a regular basis, at least every two weeks.
Taught modules are assessed by a mixture of submitted coursework, presentations, and timed assessments such as examinations. The taught modules are assessed at the end of the term in which they are delivered. The dissertation is assessed by a written thesis and a poster presentation at the end of the academic year.
You will have the opportunity to submit formative assignments to develop your writing and presenting skills and receive feedback prior to completing your summative assessed work.
This course is new for 2023/24 but based on other MSc degrees in the Department of Oncology approximately 40-50% of our graduates go on to study for a doctoral level qualification (DPhil/PhD). We expect that many graduates from this particular course will go on to use their skills within scientific industry roles.
Changes to this course and your supervision
The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic, epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
Entry requirements for entry in 2024-25
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in a biological or medical science subject.
Entrance is competitive and most successful applicants will have a first-class degree or the equivalent.
For applicants from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- Peer-reviewed publications are not requirement for the course, but will be viewed positively
- Students will be required to complete a DBS check and enhanced security screening for certain research projects. This is completed while on course and will not affect admission, but will affect the research projects available
English language proficiency
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
†Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.
Declaring extenuating circumstances
If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.
You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Applicants will be shortlisted based on the quality of the application, including relevant professional experience, which will be assessed against the entry requirements for the course.
Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process. It is expected that interviews will be scheduled in January, and will normally be held by video conference. The interview panel will consist of a minimum of three academic staff. The purpose of the interview is to:
- establish your level of interest, motivation and potential to benefit from the course of study
- clarify any uncertainties about compliance with requirements
- ensure that you are fully informed of the standard of the achievement and level of commitment required by the course of study; and
- answer any questions you may have.
You will be notified of the outcome of your interview within four weeks.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading.
References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process. Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed.
Shortlisting and selection
Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:
- socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
- country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
- protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.
Initiatives to improve access to graduate study
This course is taking part in a continuing pilot programme to improve the selection procedure for graduate applications, in order to ensure that all candidates are evaluated fairly.
For this course, socio-economic data (where it has been provided in the application form) will be used to contextualise applications at the different stages of the selection process. Further information about how we use your socio-economic data can be found in our page about initiatives to improve access to graduate study.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
Other factors governing whether places can be offered
The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
- the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
- minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.
Offer conditions for successful applications
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about offers and conditions.
In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
The Department of Oncology is located in the Old Road Campus Research Building, which includes a large communal atrium containing seating and a cafeteria, and houses the Knowledge Centre, one of the Bodleian Health Care Libraries, which offers workspaces, Wi-Fi, IT and printing facilities and subject collections. Students will have access to all of the University’s Bodleian libraries, including the online service SOLO, the University’s online library, which provides access to both e-books and peer-reviewed journals.
Students within the department have access to the Oncology Education Hub, which includes dedicated lecture and tutorial rooms at the heart of the department, alongside an open plan, unassigned seating workspace for masters and first year DPhil students.
There is a regular programme of departmental seminars and poster presentation events, which are open to staff and students. Additionally, the Oncology Student Network coordinate a programme of student only activities, including both academic and social events.
The Department of Oncology has an established graduate training programme for science graduates and clinical research fellows under the leadership of Professor Mark Middleton.
It is one of the largest departments in the University of Oxford’s Medical Sciences Division. It houses over 400 staff and graduate students, both clinical and non-clinical, and brings together research and clinical groups from across Oxford who are based at the Old Road Campus Research Building (ORCRB), the Radiobiology Research Institute (RRI), the Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine (WIMM) and the NHS Cancer and Haematology Centre.
The Department of Oncology offers promising graduates a broad range of multidisciplinary and translational cancer research projects. As a result, its graduates come from a wide range of scientific backgrounds, including biology, medicine, engineering, mathematics, chemistry, and physics. The department prides itself on supporting and training the next generation of world leaders in cancer research to ensure its research continues over the long term.
The department ethos is to improve treatment of cancer patients by harnessing Oxford University’s scientific research prowess and translating this into an impactful benefit to cancer patients through our own clinical trials. Working together to achieve this aim, we have renowned experts alongside cutting-edge scientists that collaborate across the university to understand the biology of cancer and how to best adopt new therapeutic strategies in medical and clinical oncology.
Research in the Department of Oncology is focused on the biology of cancer and how to translate discoveries into better treatments for patients. The department research strategy centres around the three core themes of DNA (including DNA damage, repair, and replication), cell and tissue biology (tumour microenvironment), and immuno-oncology (including cancer vaccines and virotherapy). Details of individual research groups which work within each of these themes can be found on the department website.
The University expects to be able to offer over 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2024-25. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential.
For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.
Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:
Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the Medical Science Division website.
Annual fees for entry in 2024-25
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Information about course fees
Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs. However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2024-25 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,345 and £1,955 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. The current economic climate and high national rate of inflation make it very hard to estimate potential changes to the cost of living over the next few years. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2024-25, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of around 5% each year – although this rate may vary depending on the national economic situation. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.
Students enrolled on this course will belong to both a department/faculty and a college. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 43 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as societies and permanent private halls (PPHs).
If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. Before deciding, we suggest that you read our brief introduction to the college system at Oxford and our advice about expressing a college preference. For some courses, the department may have provided some additional advice below to help you decide.
The following colleges accept students on the MSc in Applied Cancer Science:
Before you apply
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance.
Application fee waivers
An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:
- applicants from low-income countries;
- refugees and displaced persons;
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and
- applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.
You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.
Completing your application
You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents.
For this course, the application form will include questions that collect information that would usually be included in a CV/résumé. You should not upload a separate document. If a separate CV/résumé is uploaded, it will be removed from your application.
If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.
Three overall, academic preferred
Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.
Academic references are preferred. One professional reference is acceptable, but in cases where more than one such reference is sought you should contact the department to explain why this is necessary.
Your references will be assessed for:
- your intellectual ability
- your academic and professional achievement
- your motivation and interest in the course and subject area; and
- your ability to work effectively both in a group and independently.
Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.
More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.
A maximum of 1,000 words
Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in.
Your statement will be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying
- your ability to present a coherent case in proficient English
- your commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
- your knowledge of the subject area and research techniques
- your capacity for sustained and intense work
- reasoning ability; and
- your ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace.