MSc by Research in Musculoskeletal Sciences | University of Oxford
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MSc by Research in Musculoskeletal Sciences

About the course

The MSc by Research in Musculoskeletal Sciences is intended to provide clinical and non-clinical graduates with a wide variety of research skills, in-depth knowledge, understanding and expertise in specific musculoskeletal-related fields of research. As part of your training on the course you will be exposed to a range of topics, such as critical appraisal, epidemiology and medical statistics.

Applicants are strongly advised to visit the Medical Sciences Graduate School website to help them identify the most suitable course and supervisors.

You will develop your research skills through a range of research training in your first year, including compulsory attendance at basic musculoskeletal modules and selection of three topic-related modules. You are also encouraged to work with their supervisors on your research-specific literature review and to develop study design for your theses within the two terms of training.

You will be required to attend and present at termly graduate seminars, not only to develop your presentation skills but also to benefit from the feedback, support and interaction from their University peers and senior academics. In addition the department runs weekly seminars by internal and external speakers on various clinical and non-clinical musculoskeletal topics, which will provide further opportunity for you to broaden your knowledge in the field.

You are also strongly encouraged to attend skills training courses run by the Medical Sciences Division as well as experiencing teaching/supervising final year undergraduate students, to enhance your skills.

Your attainment will be monitored regularly via:

  • completion of a termly report by you and your supervisors;
  • submission and presentation of a 500-word report within the first three terms of training; and
  • confirmation of your ability to submit your thesis within the required maximum 12 terms. 

Your termly and 3,000-word reports will be assessed by independent senior academics to ensure you are provided with the necessary guidance (if required).

Graduate destinations

According to the department's records, 100% of MSc by Research in Musculoskeletal Sciences alumni are employed, across a wide range of clinical (eg rheumatology, orthopaedics or physiotherapy) and non-clinical related professions (eg postdoctoral research, teaching, pharmaceutical and marketing). A number of alumni set up their own businesses (eg in editing) or changed paths completely into banking and medical writing; a group which constitute 1% of the total number.

The Director of Graduate Studies follows the department's alumni to establish the long-term career paths of past students. The department is currently working on preparing an alumni-specific website and newsletter.

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 2017-18

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 biological sciences and/or related topics. The department also considers applicants from medically qualified individuals. In special circumstances, applications from other medically related subjects (eg nurses, and/or allied health professionals) will be considered for DPhil/MSc by Research. Although it is not essential, preference will be given to applicants who have had recent publications and/or awards from various funding bodies.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.75 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).

In exceptional circumstances an applicant could be considered if he/she has has substantial professional experience in a musculoskeletal-related field.

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

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.  

All shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in person or by Skype or video-conference (depending on the applicant's native country). The interview will be conducted by four senior academics and it will last a maximum of 45 minutes. Those shortlisted for interviews will be notified three to four weeks prior to the interview date.

The shortlisted applicants will be required to give a 10-15 minute presentation on their previous research or that proposed to be undertaken for the MSc by Research.


Previous publications are not a requirement; however, they would be advantageous to your application.

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 employer's support will be required.

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 Medical Sciences Division and NDORMS 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 Medical Sciences Division and 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.

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.

It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.

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


You will have access to a wide range of resources within the department and University, including the following facilities.

IT support

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, significant information on the University student gateway, career courses and libraries online.


You will have access to local libraries: the Cairns Library based in the John Radcliffe Hospital and musculoskeletal-related topics at the Girdlestone Library located at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre. 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 over 70 DPhil and MSc by Research students. There is an active student committee which organises monthly pub nights, 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.


There are over 1,000 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 2017-18

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).

Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.

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 on the impact of the result of the UK referendum on its membership of the European Union.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this programme 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.

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 2017-18 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £1,002 and £1,471 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

You are encouraged to make contact with the academic member of staff with whom you wish to undertake research in order to to ascertain the suitability of the project to your experience. Details of potential supervisors can be found on the NDORMS website.

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.

Research proposal and personal statement/covering letter:
Up to two pages, as a single combined document

You should submit a detailed outline of your proposed research, written in English. You are also encouraged to include a personal statement and/or a covering letter with your application, as a combined document with your research proposal. The overall page count should include any bibliography.

The research proposal should be no more than two pages in length and should include details of the background/rationale of the research, hypotheses, methodology. It should explain the originality/novelty of the work and outline how a commitment to complete it within six academic terms can be achieved.

The statement or covering letter should address your motivations for applying to the course and your relevant skills and experience.

The personal statement/covering letter should include, and will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • motivation for the area of study
  • capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability
  • ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace.

It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment.

References/letters of recommendation:
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 will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, ability to work.

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