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DNA model in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History
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MSc in Pharmacology

About the course

The aim of the MSc taught course in Pharmacology is to provide students with the necessary theoretical knowledge and practical training that will enable them to integrate post-genomic molecular biology with physiological function and drug discovery.

The course is taught over one year from October to September, comprising three 10-week terms and a fourth summer term.

The first term covers core material using lectures, tutorials and practical work, and aims to ensure that all students achieve the core knowledge of the principles and practice of pharmacology. The subjects covered include cell and receptor pharmacology, tissue and organ pharmacology, and pharmacology of the nervous system. At the end of the term, students sit a computer-based qualifying exam; passing this exam allows them to continue the course.

At the start of the second term, students follow a short course in quantitative pharmacology, covering aspects of receptor pharmacology and pharmacokinetics.

During the following weeks, students attend a series of lectures organised into five modules:

  • Cardiovascular Pharmacology
  • Cell Signalling
  • Neuropharmacology I: Neurodegeneration
  • Neuropharmacology II: Psychopharmacology
  • Drug Discovery

Seminars are combined with weekly laboratory sessions, discussion forums, journal clubs and small group tutorials for critical essay writing.

Students are expected to spend 15 hours per week on independent reading throughout the first and second terms.

The third term is mainly taken up by a hypothesis-driven research project which is expected to involve four months of experimental work, extending throughout the term and into the long vacation term.

Applicants are advised to visit the Department of Pharmacology website to obtain further information on current research themes.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course, either within the Department of Pharmacology or other University departments, is the responsibility of the Department of Pharmacology and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Project supervisors may be found outside the Department of Pharmacology subject to approval from the department. 

In the case of students who require specific help to adjust to an academic programme or to a new range of skills, the Course Director will work with them to ensure that they have additional support.

Assessment

The short quantitative course, which takes place at the start of the second term, will be examined in a three-hour written paper.

The work covered in the five modules is examined in a paper where students are required to answer three essay questions from five different modules, thus allowing them to specialise in options for revision.

At the end of the third term, students submit their dissertation and produce a poster presenting their research project. The latter forms the basis for a final oral examination.

Graduate destinations

In the past three years, of the students who graduated from the course, around 60% pursued further postgraduate studies (PhD, MD/PhD and MBA) and 25% found employment in research positions either in academia or industry shortly after graduation.

Other destinations include positions as consultants, medical writers, patent lawyers, regulatory affair officers and medical sales representatives.

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 (including Covid-19), 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.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.

Other courses you may wish to consider

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

If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.

Courses suggested by the department

Pharmacology MSc by Research
Clinical and Therapeutic Neuroscience MSc

All graduate courses offered by the Department of Pharmacology

Pharmacology MSc by Research

Oxford 1+1 MBA programme

This course can be studied as a part of the Oxford 1+1 MBA programme. The Oxford 1+1 MBA programme is a unique, two-year graduate experience that combines the depth of a specialised, one-year master’s degree with the breadth of a top-ranking, one-year MBA.

Entry requirements for entry in 2022-23

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:

  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in a biological or chemical science, but applications from high-calibre candidates with mathematical and physical science backgrounds may be considered.

However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.

For applicants with a degree 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

  • Preference may be given to those who have studied in a biological or chemical science, but applications from high-calibre candidates with mathematical and physical science backgrounds are welcome.
  • Evidence of training or laboratory experience may be an advantage, and the relevance of the course to future career development plans may be considered.
  • Publications are not required.

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.

English language requirement

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.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.57.0

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

110Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*191185
C2 Proficiency191185

*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.

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

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.

Applicants will be shortlisted for a remote interview, which will be conducted by the Director of the MSc course and one member of the MSc Teaching Committee. You will be assessed on your academic results, enthusiasm, ability to solve a simple quantitative problem, and your academic references.

Supervision

Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. The After you apply section of this website provides further information about the academic assessment of your application, including the potential outcomes. Please note that any offer of a place may be subject to academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions may vary depending upon your individual academic circumstances.

Students are considered for shortlisting and 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. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

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.

After an offer is made

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer letter will give full details of your offer and any academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course.  In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will be required to meet the following requirements:

Financial Declaration

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.

Resources

The Department of Pharmacology offers excellent IT facilities and support, including a dedicated MSc room with computers for student use.

You will be able to access virtually all relevant journals through the University Library services. University libraries also stock many current textbooks relating to the study of Pharmacology.

The department is well-equipped with state of the art scientific equipment for electrophysiology, proteomic studies, confocal and live imaging, and molecular biology.

The department offers up-to-date lecture and seminar room facilities. Meeting rooms are also available for social and networking events organised by the department and its students.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2022-23. 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 college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages.

In addition, further information about funding for the course can be found on the Department of Pharmacology website

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2022-23

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home£11,770
Overseas£28,560

Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

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.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our detailed fee status information and the Oxford and the EU webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU.

Additional information

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.

Living costs

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 2022-23 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,215 and £1,755 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. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2022-23, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

College preference

All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). 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. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs). 

For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges. 

The following colleges accept students on the MSc in Pharmacology:

How to apply

It is not necessary to contact an academic member of staff before you apply.

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.

CV/résumé
Full instructions and link to standard CV creation form

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. You will need to upload a standardised CV to the graduate application form as part of your application. This standardised CV should be generated using the online form that requests certain information that you will likely have included on your CV. Once you have completed the form, you will have 15 minutes to download your CV as a PDF document. 

This PDF document will be in the same format for all applicants and you should not modify the document before you upload it, or submit your CV in a different format. 

Full instructions and a link to the standard CV creation form are provided on the Medical Sciences Division website. The instructions page contains links to example clinical and non-clinical CVs, with details of what to include and suggested answer formats.

If you require help or advice while generating your CV using the online form, please contact the Medical Sciences Graduate School for assistance (graduate.school@medsci.ox.ac.uk).

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A maximum of 800 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. 

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying to, and suitability for, this course;
  • evidence of motivation for , and understanding of, the proposed area of study;
  • commitment to the subject beyond the requirements of the degree course;
  • capacity for sustained and intense work;
  • problem solving ability; and
  • ability to absorb new ideas at a rapid pace.

Your statement should focus on academic rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, two of which 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.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and your ability to work as part of a group.

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.

Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.

Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and the deadline information in our Application Guide. Plan your time to submit your application well in advance - we recommend two or three weeks earlier.

Step 4: Check if you're eligible for an application fee waiver. Application fee waivers are available for:

Step 5: Start your application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, consult our Application Guide for advice at each stage. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application GuideApply

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