Cancer Sciences MRes

Start date
Full time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Combined research and taught, Taught

Annual tuition fee for 2024/25:
UK: £11,340
International: £27,360
More details.

MRes Cancer Sciences at University of Birmingham

The MRes in Cancer Sciences is a one year, full-time programme comprising three taught modules and an extended laboratory-based research project. This programme is specifically designed to offer postgraduate training to students interested in a career in cancer research, particularly those wishing to pursue a PhD.

Examining the entire range of cancer research from our fundamental understanding of cancer pathogenesis through to the development of highly targeted novel therapies, the programme is designed to provide life and biomedical science graduates with an in-depth understanding of cancer research through focussed taught modules and an extended laboratory-based research project.  We explore how modern cutting-edge techniques and big data analysis have led to our understanding of how cancer is driven at the genetic and epigenetic level, and how the tumour microenvironment impacts cancer development and treatment. We also examine how new successful therapeutic approaches have been used in patients and how they have impacted outcomes. The extended research project makes use of many of these research techniques, providing intensive training in modern laboratory-based cancer research.

The programme consists of three taught modules including ‘cellular and molecular basis of cancer’, ‘genomics and genome-based therapeutics’ and ‘immunology and immunotherapy’. The modules are led by leading experts actively involved in cancer research, clinical trials and patient treatment. The modules cover how genomic analysis is applied to translational research for diagnosis and treatment of cancers and how recent advances in our understanding of cancer immunology have been successfully applied to immunotherapy. The projects are generally laboratory-based and provide skills in designing, performing and communicating cancer research. A large range of research projects are usually available and can be on anything from cancer causes and diagnosis to treatment.

Students will gain practical skills and scientific communication skills that will benefit anyone wanting a career in academic, clinical or pharmaceutical research. Being able to discuss your research concisely, logically and effectively are skills that are taught throughout the programme.

Students will also gain skills in experimental design, control, data interpretation and analysis. An extended research project will afford you the opportunity to actually think about how to design an experiment and include all the appropriate controls to ensure the results are scientifically sound.

Why study this course?

  • Extended cancer research project and thesis generation - You will undertake a research project in an active cancer research group where you will become an active member of the group throughout the project duration. Here you will be trained in several key research methodologies that can be applied to any further research you go on to do in the future.

  • Intimate understanding of translational research - The modules have a bench to bedside ethos, so provide an understanding of fundamental research and how this has been interpreted and expanded to the development of treatments and furthermore, how novel treatments may fail.

  • Cutting-edge genetic and epigenetic approaches - These types of approaches are widely used in cancer diagnostics as well as our fundamental understanding of the disease development, drug sensitivity and drug development.

  • Physiologically-relevant cancer research models - Many studies are performed using ex-vivo human cancer cells rather than cell lines to ensure the results are truly representative of the cancer. Cutting-edge models such as organoids are used widely and are revealing novel insights into cancer development, genetics and drug sensitivities.
  • Understanding cancer microenvironment - The microenvironment can impact how the cancer grows as well as how the immune cells interact with the malignant cells and is particularly important in the era of immunotherapy.


You will study the introductory Cellular and Molecular Basis of Cancer module in association with MSc Clinical Oncology students; this will broaden your perspectives as you will be learning alongside students with clinical experience. You then take two additional modules designed specifically for the MRes Cancer Sciences students.

After consulting with potential supervisors you will select a 30 week research project. The project will generally be laboratory-based within one of the cancer research groups in the College of Medical and Dental Sciences.

Being an integral member of an active research group will give you the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to ongoing cancer research in Birmingham, and provide you with a real insight into how this research is conducted.



UK: £11,340
International: £27,360

Self funding students can choose to pay in instalments by direct debit. Learn more about fees and funding.

Postgraduate Loans for Masters students

You can apply for a government loan for postgraduate Masters study. This is a contribution towards the costs of study and whether the loan is used towards fees, maintenance or other costs will be at the discretion of the student. Find out more about the Postgraduate Loan.


International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government. Visit our website for information about scholarships for international students.

For information about all Home and International funding opportunities please visit the Postgraduate Funding Database.

How To Apply

Please note: we do not require applicants to provide a research proposal or to identify supervisors at the point of application, however you will need to put some text in the relevant box, such as N/A, so that it will let you progress to the next stage of the application.

How to apply

To apply for a postgraduate taught programme, you will need to submit your application and supporting documents online. We have put together some helpful information on the taught programme application process and supporting documents on our how to apply page. Please read this information carefully before completing your application.

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

A Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) in the life sciences or biomedical sciences. We normally expect this to be at the 2(i) level or higher, but will also consider promising students who have not quite achieved this level.

International Requirements

International Students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications, our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

English to IELTS 7.0 (with a minimum of 6.5 in each component).

If you need help with your English language skills then support is available. 

The English for Academic Purposes Presessional course is for international students who have a conditional offer to study at the University, but who do not currently meet the English language requirements. The course is tailored to your level of English and allows you to meet the English language requirements for your programme without retaking IELTS. The EAP programme runs throughout the year and offers different programme lengths ranging from 42 weeks to 6 weeks. The length of course you need depends on your future course, your existing IELTS score and the English level you need for your university degree.

Find out more about the English for Academic Purposes Presessional course.

As a Birmingham student, you will be joining the academic elite and will have the privilege of learning from world-leading experts, as well as your peers. From the outset you will be encouraged to become an independent and self-motivated learner. We want you to be challenged and will encourage you to think for yourself.

You will have access to a comprehensive support system that will assist and encourage you, including personal tutors and welfare tutors who can help with both academic and welfare issues.

Course delivery

We have two teaching semesters per year, semester one (mid-September to mid-January) and semester two (mid-January to mid-July). Term dates can be found on our website.

As a full-time student, you will take three modules in semester one before Christmas, followed by the research project and dissertation in semester two. You can typically expect 14-16 hours of classroom time per week with two or three weeks per module.

Each module represents a total of 100 hours of study time, including preparatory reading, homework and assignment preparation.

Assessment Methods

Assessment of the taught modules is by a written essay and short answer questions (SAQ) exam. The research project is assessed on the basis of a written 15,000 word thesis that describes the research performed, results, analysis and interpretation. The thesis is assessed by viva.


On completion of the MRes Cancer Sciences programme, students will have developed key research and presentation skills that are sought by many recruiters into further postgraduate study at PhD level. These skills will also be applicable to other career pathways in the biomedical and health sciences sectors.

Graduate destinations include: 

  • PhD
  • Clinical scientist (clinical immunology, regional genetics lab)
  • Research technician
  • Pharmaceutical industry researcher
  • Medical laboratory scientific officer in NHS
  • Medical analyst
  • Ecommerce
  • Clinical commissioning group

Careers support for postgraduate students

Careers Network – We can help you get ahead in the job market and develop your career

We recognise that as a postgraduate student you are likely to have specific requirements when it comes to planning for your next career step. Employers expect postgraduates to have a range of skills that exceed their subject knowledge. Careers Network offers a range of events and support services that are designed for all students, including postgraduates looking to find their niche in the job market. The Careers Network also have subject specific careers consultants and advisers for each College so you can be assured the information you receive will be relevant to your subject area. For more information visit the Careers Network website