About the course
The aim of the taught MSc in Pharmacology course is to provide students with the necessary theoretical and practical training to enable them to integrate post-genomic molecular biology with biological function.
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, seminars 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 organism 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. This material will be examined in a three-hour written paper.
During the following weeks, students attend a series of seminars 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 critical essay writing.
The work covered in the five modules is examined in a written paper where students are required to answer three essay questions from five different modules, thus allowing them to specialise in options for revision.
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. At the end of the term, students submit the dissertation and produce a poster presenting their research project. The latter forms the basis for an final oral examination.
Every year one or two students are selected to perform their research projects abroad at the University of Queensland in Australia. Students may also have the opportunity to conduct their research in a pharmaceutical company.
Applicants are advised to visit the Department of Pharmacology website to obtain further information on research and training relevant for the course.
MSc students wishing to continue their studies apply for DPhil places in the UK and overseas. Others carry on to medical school, work for pharmaceutical companies and health services around the world or as research assistants and clinical trials co-ordinators.
Other career destinations include positions as medical writers, patent lawyers, regulatory affair officers and medical sales representatives.
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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 2019-20
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 a biological or chemical science, but applications from high calibre candidates with mathematical and physical science backgrounds may be considered.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.
However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.
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:
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.
Applicants will be considered for interview. Shortlisting meetings are chaired by the Director of the MSc course and include a minimum of two members 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. Telephone or Skype interviews (with or without video) are normally held and will include at least two interviewers.
Publications are not required.
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.
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 Department of Pharmacology 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 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.
- Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department of Pharmacology.
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.
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.
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.
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 the latest scientific equipment including a transmission electron microscope, robots for protein crystallisation and structure determination, and facilities for proteomic studies, confocal 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.
There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course 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 applicants to this course, whatever your nationality. The Medical Sciences Graduate School website provides further details, as well as information about external funding opportunities.