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 lectures in advanced pharmacology topics which represent the research expertise of academic staff in the department. The lectures are organised into five themes or modules
- Cell Signalling
- Cardiovascular Pharmacology
- Neuropharmacology I: Neurodegeneration
- Neuropharmacology II: Psychopharmacology
- Drug Discovery
Lectures are combined with weekly laboratory sessions, discussion forums, journal clubs and small group tutorials to promote critical analysis of primary research literature.
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.
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. Students are expected to meet their supervisors on a weekly basis during their research project.
The course director acts as academic supervisor and will meet termly with the students to discuss academic progress
If students 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.
The short quantitative course, which takes place at the start of the second term, will be examined in a written paper.
The material covered during the advanced pharmacology modules is examined in a two-part paper at the start of the third term. In this exam students are required to:
- demonstrate synoptic knowledge of advanced topics in writing;
- critically analyse a research article.
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.
In the past few years, of the students who graduated from the course, around 60% pursued further postgraduate studies (PhD, MD/PhD and MBA) and 15% found employment in research positions either in academia or industry shortly after graduation. The remainder embarked in careers in medical communications (10%) and in consultancy (10%). A minority chose careers in other sectors (5%), e.g. medical sales, patent lawyers and regulatory affairs.
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 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.
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, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. 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
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.
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 Pharmacology offers excellent IT facilities and support, 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.
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 of Pharmacology is one of the top preclinical departments in the country with excellent research and teaching facilities with a large and vibrant community of graduate students. Since 2019, the Department has been top of the QS World University Rankings for Pharmacy and Pharmacology.
In the 2021 the Research Excellence Framework (REF), research from the Department of Pharmacology was submitted to Unit of Assessment UOA5 along with Biochemistry, Biology (Zoology/Plant Sciences), The Dunn School of Pathology and DPAG. Within UOA5, Oxford's submission had the largest volume of world-leading research (overall 4*x submitted FTE) and scored 100% 4* for Environment.
The department has over 50 DPhil students and around 25 MSc taught course students at any one time who enjoy outstanding facilities. Students also benefit from having close proximity to colleges, libraries and other facilities in the University Science Area.
The department has a very active graduate student association and a Pharmacology Society, which arranges talks and social activities.
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.
In addition, further information about funding for the course can be found on the Department of Pharmacology 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.
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 Pharmacology:
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.
You are welcome to contact the MSc course director if you have specific questions using the contact details included on this page.
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, 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.
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.
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.