MSc in Musculoskeletal Sciences | University of Oxford
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MSc in Musculoskeletal Sciences

About the course

The part-time MSc in Musculoskeletal Sciences provides practising clinicians with an academic training in the sciences underlying musculoskeletal diseases, promoting an understanding of the ways in which research can be used to improve knowledge and treatment of musculoskeletal diseases.

Applicants are strongly advised to visit the Medical Sciences Graduate School website to help them identify the most suitable course.

The course is designed to complement any graduate clinical teaching that you may be receiving as part of a specialist training programme. 

Completing the course will provide a firm foundation for students wishing to progress to full-time doctoral research. The programme consists of five modules, studied part-time over two years.

Attendance at the University is required for short residential sessions of three to five days that take place ten times over the two years.

Modules include:

  • Scientific Aspects of the Musculoskeletal System
  • Scientific Aspects of Musculoskeletal Diseases
  • Research, Statistics and Epidemiology
  • Advanced Orthopaedics
  • Advanced Rheumatology.

Teaching methods include lectures, small group sessions, problem-based learning scenarios and evaluation of academic papers. In addition, you will be expected to undertake a considerable amount of self-directed learning in your own time, to build on the information provided in the teaching sessions.

There are a number of formative and summative assessments throughout the two-year course which include literature review, two MCQ papers and two short answer written papers. In the final year, students are required to  submit a research proposal in the form of a 'mock' grant application. In addition throughout the course students will be required to give a number of formative and summative oral presentations. 

Graduate destinations

The course has been running since 2008 and a small number of cohorts (10-15%) have been undertaking further post-graduate training in the form of PhD or DPhil. However, as most students were from clinical background, the majority have continued with their clinical duties (~85-90%).

The department's Director of Graduate Studies follows the paths of each student - to date, 100% of attendees indicated that they thoroughly enjoyed the programme and that they would recommend the course to their peer groups.

The department is currently working on a specific alumni newsletter and website and this information can be formally collated and shared with other colleagues and departments.

Related courses

Changes to the course

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. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2018-19

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in biological sciences and/or related topics.

The department also considers applicants from medically qualified individuals. In special circumstances, applications from other medically related subjects (eg nurses, and/or allied health professionals) will be considered for the MSc. Although it is not essential, preference will be given to applicants who have had recent publications and/or awards from various funding bodies.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.75 out of 4.0.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Short-listing will depend on the references, personal statement of the candidate as well as their motivation and commitment to the programme. Usually over 75% of applicants are short-listed for interviews. Interviews are likely to be held one to two weeks after the application deadline, in person, in the presence of at least three senior academics and the MSc Administrator. In exceptional circumstances, interviews may be conducted by Skype.


It would be advantageous for you to have published peer-reviewed articles in the relevant journals. 

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Research or working experience may be an advantage. Where applicable, evidence of your employer's support will be required.

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Medical Sciences Division and NDORMS to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Medical Sciences Division and NDORMS 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 Medical Sciences Division.

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 sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.


As a student on the course you will have access to extensive library facilities within Oxford, namely Girdlestone Memorial Library (located at Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre), the Cairns Library (based at John Radcliffe Hospital), the Knowledge Centre (at the Old Road Campus) and the Radcliffe Science Library (based at South Parks site).

You will be encouraged to develop a range of transferable skills, including use of research software applications such as EndNote, written and oral communication skills, working as part of a team, using literature databases (such as PubMed, MedLine, Cochrane), data analysis, evaluation of scientific papers, research grant writing and critical reasoning. Skills courses run by the Medical Sciences Division will be highlighted and you will be encouraged to attend, where appropriate.

You will be allocated two academic advisors who will be responsible for your progress throughout the two-year programme.

The department has a very active student committee, which arranges social events for students, and a Communications Officer, who disseminates relevant communications.


There are over 1,100 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

Full funding opportunities are available for all Medical Sciences Graduate School programmes, whatever your nationality. The Medical Sciences Graduate School website provides further details of these, as well as information about external funding opportunities.


Annual fees for entry in 2018-19

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

(including Islands)

The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; for courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Tuition and college 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 tuition and college fees).

For more information about tuition fees, college fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Additional information

Please note that this course requires that you attend in Oxford for teaching, and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. Further, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Depending on your choice of 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.

Living costs

In addition to your tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2018-19 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,015 and £1,555 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. 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.


The following colleges accept students on the MSc in Musculoskeletal Sciences:

How to apply

Prior contact with an academic member of staff is not required. 

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

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 CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Personal statement:
Up to two pages

Your personal statement should explain your scientific experience, background and motivation for wishing to undertake the course, and should indicate your future career plans.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability
  • ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace.

Your statement should focus on your reasons for wishing to undertake the course rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, of which at least two must be academic

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.

One professional reference is acceptable, though your other two references should be academic and should comment specifically on your academic ability.

Your references will support a desire to undertake a further degree, intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, ability to work in a group as well as capable of self-driven distance learning.

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