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Cancer Studies

MSc / PGDip / PGCert

Department of Nursing

This MSc course offers an innovative interdisciplinary perspective on the study of cancer.

Three core modules encompass biological and social sciences. These equip you to apply key theories and concepts critically, and to develop the skills required to engage in debates about the impact of cancer on the individual, the family and society.

A wide range of additional modules offers the opportunity to examine aspects of cancer in greater detail from different perspectives, ranging from professional practice to historical perspectives, from epidemiological and medical research to biotechnology.

Available start dates

January 2018 / September 2018 / January 2018 / September 2018

Teaching location

Headington Campus / Headington Campus, Marston Road site / Wheatley Campus

Course length

  • Full time: MSc: 12 months. For PGDip and PGCert contact the Programme Administrator.
  • Part time: MSc: up to 3 years

UCAS Postgraduate code


For full application details, please see the 'How to apply / Entry requirements' section.

  • Our lecturers maintain excellent practice links in their specialist areas locally, regionally and nationally.
  • The department hosts the prestigious HRH Prince Sultan Chair in Cancer Care and the Cancer Care research group.
  • In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, 98% of our research in Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy was rated as internationally recognised, with 82% being world leading or internationally excellent.
  • You will be undertaking advanced study in Oxford, which has a new Cancer Centre and a range of expert practitioners working in the cancer field.
  • "Students on this course will gain important insights into the nature of cancer research and its broader implications." Sir Paul Nurse.

This multidisciplinary course will appeal to a wide range of individuals who wish to gain an understanding of cancer and its impact from a range of different perspectives. They include:

  • social science and humanities graduates
  • science graduates who do not wish to pursue a laboratory-based career
  • doctors
  • nurses
  • allied health professionals
  • science and medical journalists
  • people working for medical charities and in the pharmaceutical industry
  • individuals who have been affected by cancer (either themselves or a family member).

The unique features of this course include:

  • interdisciplinary, cross-university teaching in epidemiology, public health, applied biology and history.
  • a range of optional modules to support and complement individual interests and needs
  • links with the local hospital and community trusts and The Oxford Cancer Centre. 

This approach aims to equip you with an understanding of the impact of cancer on the individual, family and society, and to apply key theories and concepts to these topics.

The course is modular in structure with four compulsory modules:

  • Living with Cancer in Contemporary Society provides an insight into how the preoccupations of late modern society shape perceptions and experience of cancer at the social, cultural and individual level. Key themes include heightened perceptions of cancer risk and increasing surveillance, self-monitoring and self-regulation; cancer as a challenge to personal identity; cancer narratives and biographical reconstruction; the cancer journey and survivorship; the good death and the meaning of mortality; and media representations of cancer. You will have the opportunity to interview a cancer survivor, carer or health professional and to engage in debates about contemporary issues in the experience of cancer. 
  • Tackling Cancer: UK and International Perspectives explores the ways in which societies and social institutions have attempted to understand, manage and control cancer. Topics include defining and describing cancer and its distribution in populations; risks, causes and prevention of cancer (individual and environmental approaches); cancer treatments and the organisation of treatment services; ethical and legal issues in cancer care and research; diagnosis and cancer policies. An international and comparative approach will be taken throughout with case studies drawn from different historical periods and cultural traditions. 
  • Applied Cancer Biology offers you the opportunity to develop an in-depth understanding of the biology of cancer. It explores the molecular mechanisms of cancer biology, how those mechanisms are manifested as disease, and current applications of cancer biology research. The aim is to enable you to engage in activities where a sound knowledge of cancer biology is required. You will have an opportunity to see how cancer research is conducted in a laboratory.  
  • Research Methods modules are intended to equip you with skills to find, appraise and use research, as well as plan and design a small-scale research study. It will help you define a suitable research question and to use this as a basis for identifying appropriate research methodologies  for your dissertation. These modules are not laboratory-based.

You will also have the opportunity to select an additional two optional modules to suit the individual focus of your studies. Optional modules (20 level 7 credits) you may choose include:

  • Evidence-based Practice
  • Planning and Managing Clinical Trials
  • Leadership in Health and Social Care
  • Epidemiology
  • Genome Science
  • Advanced Molecular Techniques
  • The Hospital in History
  • Independent Study.

200 hours study per module.

As the MSc is interdisciplinary, you will have considerable scope for defining your dissertation topic and choosing an appropriate research methods module from the fields of biology, health care, history, sociology, business, education, and law.

The final award depends upon the number of modules you take. A PGCert requires the successful completion of three modules and the PGDip requires the successful completion of six modules. The MSc requires the successful completion of nine modules, which must include an advanced research methods module and a dissertation (triple module).

Please note: as courses are reviewed regularly as part of our quality assurance framework, the list of modules may vary from that shown here.

Teaching and learning

You will be given opportunities to be involved in all aspects of your programme, its management and delivery.

Different students will bring varied experiences and cultures and will be encouraged to share these with each other. You will be expected to take responsibility for your own learning and also to contribute to the learning of your fellow students. 

The programme includes a taught element, informed by relevant national and international research and evidence-based literature, designed to be a starting point for critical reading and reflection. Mutual support between students enhances the learning experience and will be strongly encouraged.

In order to make the most of the range of experience, skills and knowledge within the group, a variety of teaching and learning strategies will be employed.

  • Lectures introduce you to new areas of study and provide the context for further independent reading and practical work.
  • Group activities (eg seminars, workshops, presentations) are used as a means of sharing knowledge and experience, developing critical skills, and emphasising the inter-disciplinary nature of the course.
  • Presentation skills are developed through student-led seminars, presentations to your fellow students for some of the assessments.
Studying on this course will give you in-depth knowledge of cancer from the molecular level to the personal, social, societal and international levels. In doing so, you will draw on knowledge from life sciences, psychology, sociology, history, and the health care professions. This means that the course requires a flexible mind and a willingness to see familiar subjects in challenging new ways.

This course does not provide a specialised clinical training in medicine or any other health profession, but it does provide professionals with an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the nature of cancer.

Approach to assessment

Assessment is designed to ensure that you develop and demonstrate the required knowledge and skills to successfully complete your programme. Types of assessments within your programme are varied and appropriate for individual module and programme learning outcomes and content, the academic standard expected and different learning styles.

Assessment is mainly by essay writing, helping you to develop high levels of critical analysis, original thinking and clarity of expression.

Assessments are used to give you an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge as well as the critical and reflective analysis required for professional practice. You will be given the opportunity to submit draft work for feedback and formative assessment. 


Sir Paul Nurse (Nobel Laureate and former chief executive of Cancer Research UK)

"Students on this course will gain important insights into the nature of cancer research and its broader implications. As the influence of science on society continues to grow, such insights are as important to scientists as they are to the wider public."

Jon Snow (Journalist, broadcaster and former Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University)

"Cancer and how it is dealt with needs to be seen in its wider social and political context. Oxford Brookes University provides a great environment in which students can engage with these issues."

Attendance pattern

Most modules on the programme involve attendance in the classroom once a week over a 12-week semester period.

We also offer a range of short courses in Cancer and Palliative Care. Find out more about available courses in this field.

Programme changes

On rare occasions we may need to make changes to our course programmes after they have been published on the website. For more information, please visit our Changes to programmes page.

Tuition fees

Home/EU - full time fee: 2017/18: £1,000 per single module 2018/19: £1,000 per single module

Home/EU - part time fee: 2017/18: £1,000 per single module 2018/19: £1,000 per single module

International - full time: 2017/18: £13,500 2018/19: £13,770

International - part time fee : 2017/18: £1,460 per single module 2018/19: £1,490 per single module

Where part time fees are quoted the fees will increase by 2% each year

Please be aware that some courses will involve some additional costs that are not covered by your fees. Specific additional costs for this course, if any, are detailed in the 'This course in detail' window above.

Questions about fees?
Contact Student Finance on:
+44 (0)1865 483088

Funding and scholarships

Entry requirements

  • You must normally hold a UK honours degree or equivalent overseas degree from a recognised institution.
  • If you do not hold an honours degree or equivalent, you will be required to submit work which will be taken into account as part of your application.
  • If you have not previously studied Biology above A-level (or equivalent), you will be asked to complete an online study package in Cancer Biology before you take the Applied Cancer Biology module.

You may be eligible for transferred certificated credit, if you can produce transcripts of equivalent study in one or more modular areas. If you wish to transfer credit you will be required to produce transcripts, so are advised to make initial enquiries through the Course Leader.

Note: the University offers a pre-master's programme which has been designed to fully prepare you for your future master's course if:

  • your undergraduate qualifications do not meet the level required for postgraduate study
  • you wish to take a master's in a subject that is different from your undergraduate degree
  • you need to improve your study skills and use of academic English.

Go to the main Oxford Brookes website for more information.

Please also see the university's general entry requirements.

English language requirements

If your first language is not English you must demonstrate that your level of English is appropriate for study at postgraduate level. An IELTS 6.5-7.0 overall, or equivalent is required for this course.

Please also see the university's standard English language requirements

English requirements for visas

If you need a student visa to enter the UK you will need to meet the UK Visas and Immigration minimum language requirements as well as the university's requirements. Find out more about English language requirements.

International applications

Preparation courses for International and EU students

We offer a range of courses to help you to meet the entry requirements for this course and also familiarise you with university life. You may also be able to apply for one student visa to cover both courses.

  • Take our Pre-Master's course to help you to meet both the English language and academic entry requirements for your master's course.
  • If you need to improve your English language, we have pre-sessional English language courses available to help you to meet the English language requirements of your chosen master’s.

If you are studying outside the UK, for more details about your specific country entry requirements, translated information, local contacts and programmes within your country, please have a look at our country pages.

How to apply

You apply for this course through UCAS Postgraduate.

Through UCAS Postgraduate, you should use the UKPASS portal to make your application, which will then be forwarded directly to our Admissions Office. You should send supporting documentation to us directly using the email addresses on the UKPASS application form.

Applications received electronically through UKPASS will be forwarded directly to the Programme Administrator. Supporting documentation should be forwarded using the email addresses indicated on the UKPASS application form.

International applicants will:

  • need to apply early to allow enough time for obtaining visas if offered a place
  • be asked to pay a deposit of £1,000 to secure a place on the course.

Applications are dealt with on a first come, first served basis, so please act early to avoid disappointment.

Terms and Conditions of Enrolment

When you accept our offer, you agree to the Terms and Conditions of Enrolment. You should therefore read those conditions before accepting the offer.

How this course helps you develop

You will be given opportunities to develop your academic abilities at master's level, including critical reading and writing skills, digital literacy, communication and teamwork skills. Your contact with other students from different disciplines will provide you with networks that may be of value to you in the development of your future career. 


You will be provided with additional knowledge and expertise to enable you to pursue your chosen career, whether this is in the biological, social sciences or humanities. 

Free language courses for students - the Open Module

Free language courses are available to full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students on many of our courses, and can be taken as a credit on some courses.

Please note that the free language courses are not available if you are:

  • studying at a Brookes partner college
  • studying on any of our teacher education courses or postgraduate education courses.

How Brookes supports postgraduate students

Supporting your learning

From academic advisers and support co-ordinators to specialist subject librarians and other learning support staff, we want to ensure that you get the best out of your studies.

Personal support services

We want your time at Brookes to be as enjoyable and successful as possible. That's why we provide all the facilities you need to be relaxed, happy and healthy throughout your studies.

Research highlights

Cancer research is a key focus and the department hosts the prestigious HRH Prince Sultan Chair in Cancer Care. This is a very exciting addition to our portfolio, as it enables us to play a leading role in research development and education to improve the experience of patients undergoing cancer treatment and palliative care.

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, 98% of our research in Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy was rated as internationally recognised, with 82% being world leading or internationally excellent. The university has been careful to nurture emerging research strengths, and the international standing achieved by subjects allied to health demonstrates significant progress since 2008.

For more details about our research portfolio, visit our department website and follow us on Twitter.