MSc in Radiation Biology | University of Oxford
Microscope work
Microscope study in the laboratory
(Image Credit: Zachary Domach / Graduate Photography Competition)

MSc in Radiation Biology

About the course

This one-year, full-time, taught course leads to an MSc in Radiation Biology, which comprises a five-month theoretical lecture-based syllabus followed by a six-month research project. 

The five-month core theoretical course covers the emerging areas of fundamental radiation biology for oncology and its treatment by radiotherapy, along with the hazards associated with radiation exposure. Lectures will also introduce students to key areas of research and innovative developments in treatment.

The modules are:

  • Physics and Chemistry of Radiation Action
  • Molecular Radiation Biology
  • Cellular Radiation Biology
  • Normal Tissue and Applied Radiation Biology
  • Whole Body Exposure and Carcinogenesis
  • Radiation Epidemiology
  • Imaging Technologies
  • Tumour Microenvironment
  • Applications of Radiation Therapy
  • Translational Radiation Biology
  • Clinical Radiation Biology
  • Radiation Protection

Each module is delivered over a period of one or two weeks and together the 12 modules comprise the core content of the course. Lectures will be led by local, national and international experts, with time allocated for questions and informal discussion. These lectures are supported by additional tutorials, practical sessions and demonstrations given by local staff to provide a wide knowledge and understanding of radiation biology.

The high-quality laboratory research project in basic or clinically applied research lasts approximately six months and projects are hosted by active research groups. Specific training and guidance is provided to enable students to complete the research project.

To complete the MSc you need to submit the following summative assessments that contribute to your final degree:

  • Qualifying examination (December)
  • Extended essay and written examination (March)
  • Dissertation (August)
  • Viva (September)

Full details of the syllabus, schedule and assessments can be found on the course webpage on the Department of Oncology's website.

This MSc is designed for individuals who are interested in a career in academic research in radiation biology, radiation oncology or a career in professions that require knowledge of radiation biology (eg academic personnel associated with radiation protection issues). The MSc provides excellent training and experience for students interested in studying academic research at a PhD/DPhil level and forms the first year of training for students enrolled on the DPhil in Radiation Oncology (1+3).

Applicants are recommended to visit the Department of Oncology website to review the range of radiation research undertaken within the department before they apply.

Supervision

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.

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

Graduate destinations

Many of the Department of Oncology's former students have continued academic studies towards a PhD/DPhil, applied to study medicine or returned to finalise their clinical training or become academic professionals in the area of radiation protection. 

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. 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 sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information, please see our page on 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.

All graduate courses offered by the Department of Oncology

Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21

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, medical, chemical, mathematical and physical science background.

However entrance is highly 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

Publications are not required, but they may benefit an application.

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.

Detailed requirements - higher level

The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are:

IELTS Academic7.5Minimum 7.0 per component
TOEFL iBT110

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced191Minimum 185 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency191Minimum 185 per component

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. For more information about the English language test requirement, visit the Application Guide

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.

It is expected that interviews will be scheduled in early February 2020 and will normally be held by Skype/videoconference.

Shortlisting meetings to consider applicants for interview are chaired by the MSc Course Director and will include a minimum of two academic members of the department. Applicants will be assessed on their academic results, relevant experience, enthusiasm and academic references.

The format of the interview is a discussion of the applicant's research experience or recent scientific project, followed by a question-and-answer session designed to investigate the applicant's:

  • experience or potential
  • knowledge of field
  • interactive skills
  • analytical skills
  • experimental design
  • scientific motivation
  • career plan
  • proficiency in English at the University’s higher level.

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. 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. 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, 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

Students will be taught in a classroom, either within or in close proximity to the Old Road Campus Research Building (ORCRB) for the five-month theoretical part of the course. Students will have access to quiet areas for further study in the ORCRB and will also have access to the department's IT support services and the University’s library services.

Students will be invited to the weekly seminar held in the ORCRB and will be made aware of any other seminars taking place across the Medical Sciences Division. Students will be welcome to attend the Medical Sciences Skills Training programmes.

During the six-month research project all students will be matched with a supervisor who is responsible for their scientific training. The University has a code of practice for supervision of research under which supervisors must:

  • advise, guide and support students in all aspects of their research project
  • identify a clear plan of research
  • draw up a timetable for research
  • have regular meetings
  • report on students' progress
  • identify students' training needs
  • encourage students to participate in the wider Oxford community.

Students benefit from the extensive complementary and transferable skills training freely available to all researchers within the University. The University has a well-developed skills training portfolio which is in accordance with the UK Research Councils Joint Statement on graduate skills. The divisional training provides for all research students and covers all aspects of research-related or technical skills, such as ethics, data analysis and statistics and bioinformatics; communications skills including scientific writing and oral and poster presentations, careers and personal development such as personal effectiveness and career planning; and finally academic practice including grant writing, teaching and intellectual property.

In addition, the Careers Service provides a full list of online courses, which are complementary to the divisional provision, and will advise on career progression and job applications. Other facilities and support are available through the Oxford University IT Services, Language Centre who offers bespoke courses for eligible students where English is a foreign or additional language and the Oxford Learning Institute for professional development.

Funding

There are over 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£7,970
Overseas£24,910

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 likely increases 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 dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) and living costs. However, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Please note that, 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 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 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 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 2020-21, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

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.

CV/résumé

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:
1,000 words

You should submit a personal statement explaining your scientific experience and background, your motivation for wishing to undertake the course and/or programme and to 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
  • commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques
  • capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability.

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

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, academic strongly encouraged

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 strongly encouraged, though one professional reference is acceptable provided that it is relevant to the course.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and ability to work in 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 plan your time to submit your application well in advance.

Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.

Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).

Application GuideApply

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