MSc by Research in Pharmacology | University of Oxford
Microscope
Muscle biopsy under a microscope
(Image Credit: Rob Judges / Oxford University Images)

MSc by Research in Pharmacology

About the course

The MSc by Research in Pharmacology offers a very wide range of topics from calcium signalling to cardiovascular pharmacology and neuropharmacology.

In the first instance, applicants are strongly advised to visit the department's website to identify potential supervisors based on their research area of interest. Selecting the correct research project is a hugely important first step, so it is recommended that you contact potential supervisors directly to discuss possibilities before you apply online for a place on the course.

You will be admitted directly to a particular research area led by departmental members who will be appointed MSc by Research supervisors. Students who have been admitted to a particular research supervisor will not normally do laboratory rotations. You will be based in a research lab and undertake research on a subject agreed with your supervisor.

There are no taught courses examined by written papers, but you will have access to a wide range of lecture courses at a taught master’s level and foundation or preliminary level, as appropriate. If you have changed fields, this will enable you to fill in gaps in your background knowledge. There is also a wide range of courses and workshops you will be able to attend to acquire skills that will be necessary for the pursuance and presentation of your research, as well as your professional development as a research scientist.

You will begin your course as a probationary research student and near the end of your first year you will apply for transfer to a MSc by Research status. To transfer your status, you must apply formally, submit a research report and statement of future research plans, and take an independent assessment by two assessors. Continuation in the programme is subject to the student passing the transfer of status exam.

If you wish, you may attempt to transfer to DPhil status instead of MSc by Research status at the end of your first year. To transfer to DPhil status, you are required to follow the same procedure as probationary research students on the DPhil in Pharmacology and must have supporting statements from your supervisor(s) and college.

Supervision

MSc candidates will be assigned to two supervisors, one acting as the main day-to-day research supervisor and the second as an additional academic mentor. The allocation of graduate supervision for this course 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.

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.

Graduate destinations

On completion of their MSc by Research, many students go on to apply for a DPhil. Others become research assistants or work in clinical trials or pharmaceutical companies, or go on to further studies in health.

According to the department's last survey, 100% of MSc by Research students have either gone on to continue their education or are in employment. Departmental academics follow their alumni with interest.

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 Pharmacology

Pharmacology MSc by Research

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 or chemical science, but applications from high calibre candidates with mathematical and physical science backgrounds are welcomed.

However, entrance is very 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

The department does not seek Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

  • Research or work experience in your research area may be an advantage. Evidence of your employer's support is required, if applicable to your circumstances.
  • Previous publications are not a condition but would advantage an application. 
  • It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.

English language requirement

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. 

Detailed requirements - standard level

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

IELTS Academic 7.0Minimum 6.5 per component
TOEFL iBT100

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced185Minimum 176 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency185Minimum 176 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.

Applicants will be considered for interview in shortlisting meetings are chaired by the Director of Graduate Studies and include supervisors from all applicants' chosen research areas. You will be assessed on your academic results, enthusiasm for and knowledge of the area of research requested for your MSc by Research study plus your academic references. Interviews are held in person and there will be a minimum of two interviewers. Skype (preferably with video) interviews will only be considered in exceptional circumstances.

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.

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 Tier 4 visa. Further information can be found on our Tier 4 (General) Student visa page. For some courses, the requirement to apply for an ATAS certificate may depend on your research area.

Resources

The Department of Pharmacology offers excellent IT facilities and support. 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.

Experimental facilities and laboratories are available with study space for you. 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.

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£26,405

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.

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 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

It is strongly recommended that you contact potential supervisors directly to discuss possible projects and laboratory space before you apply.

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.

Research proposal:
Two pages

You should submit a detailed outline of your proposed research, written in English, covering areas such as the background to the research, methodology, expected results and the contribution to the field of learning. It is advisable to liaise with your chosen supervisor when submitting your proposal.

The overall page count should include any bibliography.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • the coherence of the proposal
  • the originality of the project
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course (a maximum of four years)
  • commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques
  • 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.

Your proposal should focus on academic rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, all of which 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.

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

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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