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

The one-year, full-time, taught course in radiation biology leading to an MSc awarded by the University of Oxford. The MSc in Radiation Biology comprises a five-month core theoretical course covering the emerging areas of fundamental biology for oncology and its treatment by radiotherapy and a six-month high-quality basic laboratory research project.

You are recommended to visit the Department of Oncology website to see the range of radiation research undertaken within the department before you apply.

The MSc can form the first year of training for students prior to academic research at DPhil level.

It will also provide a MSc degree for individuals who wish to continue in academic research in radiation biology at other universities or to start a career in other professions that require knowledge of radiation biology, eg academic personnel associated with radiation protection issues.

Fundamental radiation biological science is taught in the first term (Michaelmas) and the first half of Hilary term, over a series of 12 modules. 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 given by local, national and international experts, supported by additional tutorials, practical sessions and demonstrations given by local staff. Sessions using distance learning material will complement these and give you a wide knowledge and understanding of radiation biology.

The remaining six months is allowed for a high-quality laboratory research project, where specific training and guidance will be provided to enable you to complete the research project.

Five short essays and a series of journal clubs will be assessed to provide formative assessment of your progress. You will sit a qualifying examination in week nine based on modules one to six of the course. This examination will normally be in the form of multiple choice questions (MCQ). Students must pass this examination to proceed with the course. In week six of Hilary term you will submit an extended essay, followed by a written exam in week nine, based on modules one to twelve. Following the high-quality laboratory project, you will submit a research dissertation of approximately 10,000 words based on your project and will be examined on the dissertation, an associated oral presentation and a short viva voce.  

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. 

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 a biological, medical, chemical, mathematical and physical science background.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 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.

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

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.  

Shortlisting meetings to consider applicants for interview are chaired by the Director of the MSc course and include a minimum of two members of the MSc Committee. Students will be assessed on their academic results, enthusiasm and academic references. 

Interviews will be held either person or by Skype/videoconference. The format of the interview is a discussion of your research experience or recent scientific project, followed by a question-and-answer session designed to investigate your:

  • 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.


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

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 Oncology 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 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.

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.

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.


Students will be taught in a classroom on the Churchill Hospital site, Headington, Oxford for the five-month theoretical part of the course. Students will have access to quiet areas for further study in the Old Road Campus Research Building (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.


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

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 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 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.

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:
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 you may use up to one professional reference provided that it is relevant to the course.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and ability to work in a group.

Was this page useful?*