MSc by Research in Surgical Sciences | University of Oxford
Surgical Sciences
PhD student working on surgical sciences in a laboratory
(Image Credit: Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences)

MSc by Research in Surgical Sciences

About the course

The MSc by Research in Surgical Sciences is a full time research programme offering research training for both clinical and non-clinical graduates in your chosen area. The MSc by Research programme is of shorter length than a doctoral programme.

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

As an MSc by Research student you will focus on a specific research project. 

Projects can be chosen from across all areas of research in the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences (NDS), for example:

  • ageing and degenerative diseases
  • cancer
  • cardiac/cardiovascular sciences
  • cell biology and genes
  • clinical trials and epidemiology
  • diabetes
  • evidence-based medicine
  • immunology
  • musculoskeletal science
  • neurosciences
  • oncology
  • stem cells
  • translational medicine and medical technology.

You will work closely with an academic supervisor who oversees your studies, and you will produce a thesis that represents a significant and substantial piece of work. If you are a student in the experimental sciences you are also likely to collaborate with your supervisor on shared laboratory work as part of a research team.

There is usually no required coursework. However, the Medical Sciences Division skills training programme offers opportunities to develop your research and professional skills over the duration of your MSc by Research. It is recommended that you spend at least ten days a year on your graduate skills training.

Graduate destinations

After successfully completing an MSc by Research in Surgical Sciences, students typically progress to either further studies for a DPhil/PhD and an academic career or, for clinically qualified individuals, to further clinical training and/or clinician-scientist posts.

Other courses in this area

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 2019-20

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 an area of relevance to your research project.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a GPA of 3.7, a first-class degree or equivalent international qualification.

A previous master’s is not required.

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.

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.

Applicants who are shortlisted are interviewed as part of the admissions process. If you are located in the UK, this will take place in person; for applicants outside the UK, the interview will take place by telephone or Skype (preferably with video).

You will be asked to outline your educational background, interest in the degree, and how this applies to your future plans. You will also be asked to make a five-minute presentation on your research proposal, a previous research project or other relevant material. The interview will last approximately thirty minutes, and there will normally be a minimum of two academics on the interview panel.


Publications are not required but may be an advantage.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Evidence of a prior interest in, or experience of, the area of research proposed is likely to advantage 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 Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences 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 Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences 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 Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences.

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.


As a graduate research student at NDS you will have access to fully equipped and well-stocked laboratory facilities, office space, and seminar rooms. Workspace is related to individual circumstances: if you are undertaking experimental work you will be provided with bench space in a laboratory; if you are undertaking theoretical research you will have a shared office space.

Students have access to computers and IT support through the department, to all library facilities and available online resources of the University and other experimental facilities as appropriate. The provisions of other resources are specific to your project and should be agreed with your supervisor as part of the planning stages of the agreed project. You will also be given one-to-one specialist training in research and laboratory techniques as required for your project.

You will have access to seminars organised by the department or other departments within the University, individual research groups, or groups with a common area of interest. Some research groups within the department run research seminars or assessment schemes that offer the opportunity to present your work and receive feedback from senior members of the department.

The University of Oxford and the Medical Sciences Division provide a rich environment of transferable skills suitable for both researchers and graduate students through the Medical Sciences Division Skills Portal and other resources. The University has established a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), which supports the development of research students who wish to follow an academic career, including training in teaching skills.

As a member of the department you are invited to and involved in various social events, which are either organised by the department or ad hoc by the students themselves.


There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course 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 applicants to this course, whatever your nationality. The Medical Sciences Graduate School website provides further details, as well as information about external funding opportunities.


Annual fees for entry in 2019-20

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£7,665

The fees shown above are the annual course fees for this course, for entry in the stated academic year.

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. You may have seen separate figures in the past for tuition fees and college fees. We have now combined these into a single figure.

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.

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, 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 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 2019-20 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,058 and £1,643 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 2019-20, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

How to apply

Informal procedural enquiries should be made to the Graduate Studies Administrator in the first instance. It is strongly recommended that you identify and directly contact a potential supervisor(s) before you apply although it is not a prerequisite to applying.

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:
Up to 1,500 words

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. 

The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for:

  • 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 (normally within 2 years to a maximum of 3 years)
  • commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques.

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.

Academic references are required and professional references are not normally accepted. You should nominate referees who are capable of providing an informed view of your recent academic ability.

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

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Carefully read the entry requirements on this course page to make sure you meet all the criteria.

Step 2: Check above what documents are required and prepare to apply by reading our Application Guide.

Step 3: Apply as soon as possible. Consult the Application Guide for more information about deadlines.

Application GuideApply

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