About the course
As an MSc (by research) Musculoskeletal Sciences student, you will spend up to three years (six years for part-time students) in one of the Botnar Research Centre’s many research groups, working on a research project supervised by one of the principal investigators and your supervisory team. You will take part in the extensive training programme specifically organised for graduate students within the department.
This MSc (by research) programme focuses on various musculoskeletal and/or musculoskeletal-associated disorders. Key research foci include immune mediated inflammatory disease (including rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease), mechano-inflammatory disease (including osteoarthritis and tendinopathy), various bone cancers, infections, epigenetics, metabolism, aging, microbiome, computational and systems biology, as well as tissue engineering, employing a range of approaches from experimental biology and clinical trials to epidemiology and data sciences.
You will develop your research skills during your first year, including compulsory attendance at the Department's fundamentals in biomedical research lectures. During the first term you will develop, in consultation with your supervisor, a training needs plan. Your training will be tailored to your specific project and personal requirements drawing from the vast range of courses available at Oxford and covering specialist scientific methods and transferable skills. Please note that there is no formal taught component of the MSc (by research) in Musculoskeletal Sciences; however, you will develop your research skills through a range of research training in your first year and by attending Departmental/institute journal clubs and seminar series. During the first term there is compulsory attendance at core lectures on a variety of research techniques and foci in the Department including immunology, inflammation, tissue engineering, clinical trial design, epidemiology, rheumatology, orthopaedics, and musculoskeletal diseases. During your first year, you will be expected to attend a minimum of three topic- related modules. Attendance on a two-day Data Analysis: Statistics Designing Clinical Research and Biostatistics course is compulsory to assist you with appropriate research design. As a component of your training, you will be expected to work with your supervisory team to write a research-specific literature review within the first year of your studies.
You will be required to attend and present at annual institute student symposia, not only to develop your presentation skills but also to benefit from feedback and interactions from your peers and senior academics, additionally you will have an opportunity to present at internal institute seminar series and/or journal clubs.
As a member of Medical Sciences Graduate School, you will be entitled to attend various workshops run by the Medical Sciences Skills Training programme which are run during term time.
Further academic and pastoral support will be provided for by the Departmental Graduate Studies Team and your college advisor. Applicants are strongly advised to visit the Botnar Institute website (also see Further Information and Enquiries) to help identify the most suitable research topic and related supervisors. Projects are available across a wide range of basic sciences, pre/clinical studies, data sciences and epidemiology in various musculoskeletal disorders.
As a part-time student you will be required to attend induction week, core and specialised lectures, departmental seminars, and workshops as well as individual/group research meetings with your supervisors. You will have the opportunity to tailor your part-time study in liaison with your supervisor and agree your pattern of attendance. Attendance is required for a minimum of thirty days per annum to be arranged with the agreement of your supervisor, for the period that you remain on the Register of Graduate Students.
Attendance in person will be required during term-time as determined by mutual agreement with your supervisor. This will solely depend on the nature of your studies (clinical or basic science) and the percentage of FTE that you will be conducting your research (no less than 0.5 FTE).
Attendance outside of term-time will be similar to that during the academic terms. Research protocol and experimentation should be planned and completed based on the available timeline for submission of various milestones set by the division.
You will also be required to attend termly meeting with your Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) to discuss your academic progress.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Medical Sciences Division and the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS) 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 Medical Sciences Division.
All students must have a core supervisory team of at least two supervisors. Members of the co-supervisory team may come from other departments in the University. At the beginning of your programme, you will meet with your supervisors regularly to finalise your project and agree on an initial programme of research. Within the first three months, you will complete an analysis of your training needs for the duration of your research (TNA) with your supervisor and submit it as part of your compulsory termly reporting.
Regularity of student/supervisor meetings will be agreed between the student and supervisors directly. Every student should meet their supervisors at least once per month. The Thesis Committee is an important second strand of supervisory support and is compulsory at the Botnar Research Centre; further information can be provided by the Graduate Studies Team.
Within the first six to twelve months (twelve to twenty-four months for part-time students) you are expected to complete a literature review on a topic relating to your area of research.
Your attainment will be evaluated via:
- Completion of termly reports by you and your supervisor(s) through Graduate Supervision Reporting (GSR);
- Transfer of Status, to be completed before the end of the fourth term (eighth term for part-time students). The process includes preparation and submission of a transfer report and presentation and assessment in a viva.
- Submission and defence of the final thesis by viva, no later than the ninth term (eighteenth term for part-time students - depending on funding duration).
Steps 2 and 3 will be assessed by two independent senior academics to ensure you are provided with the necessary guidance (if required).
According to the department's records, 100% of MSc by Research in Musculoskeletal Sciences alumni are employed, across a wide range of clinical professions (eg rheumatology, orthopaedics or physiotherapy) and non-clinical related professions (eg postdoctoral academic and industrial research, teaching, pharmaceuticals, marketing and scientific writing). A number of alumni set up their own businesses or changed paths completely into banking and medical writing.
The Director of Graduate Studies and Graduate Studies Assistant follow the department's alumni to establish the career paths of past students.
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
The requirements described below are specific to this course and apply only in the year of entry that is shown. You can use our interactive tool to help you evaluate whether your application is likely to be competitive.
Please be aware that any studentships that are linked to this course may have different or additional requirements and you should read any studentship information carefully before applying.
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 biological sciences and/or related topics.
The department also considers applications from medically qualified individuals. In special circumstances, applications from other medically related subjects (eg nursing, and/or allied health professions) will be considered for the DPhil/MSc by Research. If you fall into this category, please contact the Graduate Studies Officer.
You do not need to have a previous master's degree to be considered for this MSc (by research).
For applicants from the USA or China, 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
- Research or working experience in any field may be an advantage. For clinical applicants, evidence of your NHS or HSE trust support will be required.
- In exceptional circumstances an applicant could be considered if he/she has substantial professional experience in a musculoskeletal-related field.
- Although it is not essential, preference will be given to applicants who have had recent publications and/or awards from various funding bodies.
- It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.
English language proficiency
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's standard 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 standard level are detailed in the table below.
|Minimum overall score
|Minimum score per component
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)
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. 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.
All shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in person by video-conference. The interview will be conducted by up to six senior academics and it will last a maximum of 45 minutes. Those shortlisted for interviews will be notified 7 to 14 days prior to the interview date.
The shortlisted applicants will be required to give a 10 minute presentation on their previous research or that proposed to be undertaken for the MSc by Research.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements described 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.
Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)
Some postgraduate research students in science, engineering and technology subjects will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate prior to applying for a Student visa (under the Student Route). For some courses, the requirement to apply for an ATAS certificate may depend on your research area.
The Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS) is a large multi-disciplinary department including the Kennedy Institute and the Botnar and Kadoorie Research Centres with a broad range of sciences related to medicine. Research spans the translational research spectrum, from basic biological research through to clinical and epidemiological research.
The NDORMS is committed to training the next generation of scientists in biological and clinical sciences and has a large number of staff (over 400 people), approximately 100 postgraduate research students and a grant portfolio in excess of £150 million.
NDORMS has state-of-the-art research facilities across the spectrum of our research expertise.
There is student representation within the various departmental committees, providing student-led support as well as representing students’ interests in departmental decision-making.
You will have access to a wide range of resources within the department and University, including the following facilities.
You will have access to University IT services and Medical Sciences Division IT support. You will be allocated unique single-sign-on (SSO) credentials which will allow you to access numerous resources such as information on local seminars (Oxford Talk), other departmental and University information (WebLearn), the divisional skills training portal, Researchers' Toolkit, significant information on the University's student gateway, career courses and libraries online.
You will have access to local libraries: the Bodleian Library, the Cairns Library based in the John Radcliffe Hospital and musculoskeletal-related topics at the Girdlestone Library located at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre's Knowledge Centre on the Old Road Campus. Furthermore, through the central University library services, you will have access to a wide range of articles and publications.
Study and experimental space
Workspace will be related to and dependent on your individual circumstances. If undertaking experimental "wet" lab work, you will be provided with bench space in a relevant laboratory. If undertaking data analysis and computer-based research, you will be allocated an office space that may be shared.
Lectures and seminars
You will be notified by regular emails about seminar schedules within the department and you are encouraged to visit the Oxford Talk website to access other departments' and divisions' seminars and lectures.
NDORMS Student Committee
Currently there are approximately 100 DPhil and MSc research students. There is an active student committee which organises regular social events, a Christmas gathering with a band, and a picnic in the park during the summer. At least two students are represented at the department’s Graduate Studies Committee, the Athena SWAN Committee and the University's Graduate Joint Consultative Committee to express students' opinions, concerns and views.
Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences
The Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS) is a vibrant multi-disciplinary department focusing on musculoskeletal and immunological diseases, from bench to bedside.
NDORMS is the largest European academic department in its field and runs a globally competitive programme of research and teaching, supported by a grants portfolio worth £169 million.
The department, headed by Professor Jonathan Rees, comprises over 400 staff including 45 professors/associate professors, approximately 100 graduate students and, several university lecturers and senior researchers supported by prestigious awards.
NDORMS has two institutes, the Botnar Research Centre (led by Professor Jonathan Rees) on the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre (NOC) site, and the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology (led by Professor Fiona Powrie) on the Old Road Campus. It also has a number of world-renowned units, including the Centre for Statistics in Medicine (led by Professor Gary Collins), the Oxford Clinical Trials Research Unit and the Kadoorie Centre for Critical Care Research (led by Professor Matt Costa) and Education (based in the John Radcliffe Hospital).
The Botnar Research Institute provides a unique setting for basic science researchers, statisticians and clinical trials experts to interact with clinician scientists, and to translate new experimental medicines and surgical designs into successful treatments. The Botnar Research Centre is strongly connected to the internationally renowned NOC, providing crucial access to patients' samples and an overall capacity for clinical and surgical trials.
The Kennedy Institute carries out basic and clinical research in chronic inflammatory and degenerative diseases including arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. The Kennedy Institute is famous for its development of anti-TNF therapy to treat rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic debilitating disease. This treatment has improved the lives of millions of patients around the world.
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.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the department's website.
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
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 (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) 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.
Please note that you are required to attend in Oxford for a minimum of 30 days each year, and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. Also, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur further 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.
If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.
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 for full-time study on this course:
The following colleges accept students for part-time study on this course:
Before you apply
We strongly recommend you consult the Medical Sciences Graduate School's research themes to identify the most suitable course and supervisor.
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. You can use our interactive tool to help you evaluate whether your application is likely to be competitive.
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. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide.
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.
Readmission for current Oxford graduate taught students
If you're currently studying for an Oxford graduate taught course and apply to this course with no break in your studies, you may be eligible to apply to this course as a readmission applicant. The application fee will be waived for an eligible application of this type. Check whether you're eligible to apply for readmission.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
Before you apply, you should identify an academic member of staff who is willing to supervise you and has the resources to support your proposed research project. You should do this by contacting them directly. Details of potential supervisors can be found on the Botnar Research Centre website. You will also need to agree on a research project, a proposal for which should be submitted as part of your application, if you are not applying for an advertised project. Whether or not you have contacted a prospective supervisor will be considered at the shortlisting and interview stage.
General queries about the course can be directed to the course administrator via the contact details provided 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.
Proposed field and title of research project
Under the 'Field and title of research project' please enter your proposed field or area of research if this is known. If the department has advertised a specific research project that you would like to be considered for, please enter the project title here instead.
You should not use this field to type out a full research proposal. You will be able to upload your research supporting materials separately if they are required (as described below).
Under 'Proposed supervisor name' enter the name of the academic(s) who you would like to supervise your research.
Three overall, of which at least two 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.
One professional reference is acceptable, though your other references should be academic and should comment specifically on your academic ability.
Your references should support your intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and ability to work independently.
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 and research proposal:
A maximum of 500 words for the personal statement and 2000 words for the research proposal
All applicants should submit a personal statement. If you are not applying for specified studentships, you will also need to submit a research proposal.
Your statement of purpose/personal statement and research proposal should be submitted as a single, combined document with clear subheadings. Please ensure that the word counts for each section are clearly visible in the document.
Statement of purpose (a maximum of 500 words):
You should provide a statement of your research interests, in English, describing how your background and research interests relate to the programme. If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
The statement should focus on academic or research-related achievements and interests rather than personal achievements and interests.
This will be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying;
- evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study;
- the ability to present a reasoned case in English;
- capacity for sustained and focused work; and
- understanding of problems in the area and ability to construct and defend an argument.
It will be normal for students’ ideas and goals to change in some ways as they undertake their studies, but your personal statement will enable you to demonstrate your current interests and aspirations.
Research proposal (a maximum of 2000 words):
A research proposal should only be submitted if you are not applying for a specified studentship.
Your research proposal should comprise a detailed outline of your proposed research, written in English. The research proposal should include details of the background/rationale of the research, hypotheses and methodology. It should explain the originality/novelty of the work and outline how completion within nine academic terms (ie three years) can be achieved. The word count for your research proposal should not exceed 2,000 words, not including any bibliography.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.