Microbiology and Infection MSc

Start date
MSc – 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught

£10,260FT (UK students)
£24,480 FT (International Students)
More detail



Our Microbiology and Infection MSc provides you with sound theoretical and hands-on laboratory experience in cutting-edge microbiology. The course is set within the context of the Institute of Microbiology and Infection at the University of Birmingham, the largest grouping of microbiologists in the UK.


Please rest assured that we will make all reasonable efforts to provide you with the courses, services and facilities described. However, it may be necessary to make changes due to significant disruption, for example in response to COVID-19.

Information for future students and applicants

This MSc programme is built on the combined expertise in microbiology and infection that has been assembled through the establishment of the Institute of Microbiology and Infection at Birmingham.

It draws on the internationally recognized expertise of members of both the College of Life and Environmental Sciences and College of Medical and Dental Sciences to provide a course that will be attractive to aspiring biomedical scientists and clinical microbiologists worldwide.

Students graduating from this course can look forward to gaining a thorough grounding in this important area, with job opportunities throughout the public and private sector, as well as in research settings. 

This course will provide graduates in the Biosciences with a sound theoretical background and hands-on laboratory experience in leading-edge microbiology. Students will gain specialist knowledge and insight in key aspects of bacterial infection.

The course will enable students to develop basic abilities and skills on which to build professional capability in a healthcare or related microbiology or biomedical research setting.

One of the best things about the MSc course at Birmingham is the Institute of Microbiology and Infection which collates experts in the microbiology field. It is a research focused University and the lecture material reflects that always including the most recent discoveries.

Helen Wrigley

Why Study this Course?

The course provides a foundation in the fundamental molecular microbiology that underlies the ongoing and increasing challenge of bacterial infectious disease in healthcare, diagnosis and treatment. The course will equip you to progress to employment in biomedical science, or to embark on a postgraduate research degree in a related field.

The course is set within the context of the Institute of Microbiology and Infection at the University of Birmingham which brings together experts in areas of microbiology from fundamental science of model organisms to translational research on key pathogens of medical and veterinary importance.

Continuing developments in infection including increasing resistance of pathogens to antibiotics and the emergence of ‘superbugs’ such as Clostridium difficile and E. coli O157, and the increasing problem of tuberculosis as a worldwide killer disease, emphasise the need for experts in this field now and into the future.

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1. Core concepts and skills in Microbiology

This module acts as a refresher on the fundamentals of molecular and cellular microbiology. You will have the opportunity to develop key quantitative, analytical and critical analysis skills. It will also include important aspects of working in the laboratory and how to handle microorganisms safely.

2. Medical Microbiology

The module will introduce you to pathogenic microorganisms that cause human diseases including bacterial, viral and fungal diseases, and diseases caused by eukaryotic microorganism. The module will take a systematic approach looking at diseases of the respiratory system, urinogenital system, gastrointestinal tract, and at skin, wound and blood-brain infections. Additionally, the module will build on research strengths in the Institute of Microbiology and Infection by highlighting examples such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and enteric diseases. While emphasis will be on the mechanisms, diagnostics and prevention of microbial disease, the module will also cover clinical components of medical microbiology including hospital acquired infections, and the clinical aspects of drug resistance taught by practicing clinical microbiologists from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

3. Antibiotics: past, present and future

The module will begin with a look into the historical perspectives of both the discovery and use of antibiotics in the clinic. The module will then cover the current situation of global antibiotic usage and how misuse and over prescription has lead to the emergence of antibiotic resistance. A series of lectures will cover modern techniques and methodologies that are used to both discover and develop new antibiotic compounds into the next generation of drugs. In this regard, students will gain hands-on practical experience of screening antibiotics and novel natural product extracts (of their own choosing) against a panel of bacterial species. Students will have access to state-of–the-art High throughput Screening facility in the IMI.

4. Principles of Host-Pathogen Interactions

In this module you will be introduced to several key concepts in understanding host-pathogen interactions, including: virulence, the evolution of virulence and the Red Queen hypothesis, pathogen lifestyles, such as intracellular parasitism and latency and genetic variation in hosts and pathogens

5. Antibiotics, Microbial Surfaces and Surface Interactions

This module will cover the key elements present at the microbial surface, and relate these in part to antibiotic targets. The threat of antibiotic resistance will be covered in detail and provide the student with a thorough understanding of both drug target and resistance mechanisms.

6. Omics of Pathogens

Our understanding of Microbes has been revolutionised by our ability to sequence their genomes and by other ‘omics’ techniques. This module will cover sequencing technology, genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metagenomics and explore how these have advanced our understanding of microbial pathogens. You will consider issues which arise from the need to analyse large data sets and will gain hands on experience.

Recent examples of project titles offered to MSc Microbiology and Infection students

  • Characterization of a cell‐wall hydrolase from Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Implementation of the CRISPR‐Cas9 to tag genes in yeast
  • Promoter organization in bacteria
  • Sepsis and other clinical outcomes in burn trauma: applying metabolism to understand sepsis and clinical outcomes
  • How does metabolism differ in different human samples (biofluids and tissues)?
  • Enzyme‐responsive nanomaterials to deliver antimicrobial peptides
  • A multidisciplinary approach to studying the behavior of bacterial communities in artificial cellular environments
  • Turning gene regulation inside out: prevalence of promoters within genes in bacterial chromosomes
  • Interaction of the partitioning proteins KorB and IncC with DNA and other protein partners
  • Transcription rate variability and gene regulatory network dynamics
  • Probing the structure and function of the Bam complex, the Gram negative bacterial outer membrane protein folding machinery
  • Retrograde lipid transport in E. coli
  • Using novel methods to purify a membrane protein complex
  • Towards a structure for the neurodegeneration protein Cln3
  • Individual‐based modelling of biofilms
  • Transfer of antibiotic resistance carrying plasmids in spatially structured multispecies communities
  • High throughput determination of substrate affinity in a microfluidic device
  • Gene regulation in bacteria
  • Understanding the pH sensing mechanism of E. coli
  • Understanding the link between genotype and phenotype in laboratory‐evolved strains of stress‐resistant bacteria
  • Understanding and manipulating mupirocin and thiomarinol biosynthesis to create novel biologically active molecules
  • Dissecting plasmid host range determinants
  • Regulation of antibiotic production in marine bacteria
  • Phenotypic characterisation of exopolyphosphatase‐deficient mutants in Mycobacterium smegmatis. Elucidating the role of ppxs genes in phosphate metabolism
  • Isolation of interacting proteins of the MmpL3 transporter from Mycobacterium tuberculosis using the Yeast Two‐Hybrid (Y2H) system
  • Structural bioinformatics for the reengineering of the mupirocin and thiomarinol antibiotic biosynthesis pathways
  • Sequence and structural comparison of ketosynthase domains from trans‐AT polyketide synthase systems
  • The behaviour of lab‐evolved stress resistant strains of bacteria under fermentation conditions
  • Cloning and expression of the lectinolysin gene from Streptococcus mitis


Standard fees apply - This programme is in Fee Band 3a (Laboratory)

2020/21 Fees 

  • UK students £10,260 FT (£5,130 PT) 
  • International students £24,480 FT only

Learn more about fees and funding 

Scholarships and studentships
International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government. 

Find out about scholarships for international students.

For further information contact the School directly or get in touch with the Funding, Graduation & Awards via the online enquiries system.

For EU students applying for the 2020/21 academic year

The UK Government has confirmed that EU students will continue to be eligible for 'home fee status' for entry in September 2020, and will continue to have access to eligible financial support via the Postgraduate Masters or Doctoral loan for the duration of their course. For more information visit the gov.uk website.

You can also visit our EU Referendum information page for more information and updates.

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How To Apply

International students requiring visas

Thursday 1 July 2021 is the application deadline for international students who require a visa to study in the United Kingdom. We are not able to consider applications for 2021 made after this date; a new application will need to be made for September 2022.

Home/EU students (and International students NOT requiring visas)

Friday 10 September 2021 is the application deadline for Home/EU students and international students who do not require a visa to study in the United Kingdom. We are not able to consider applications for 2021 made after this date; a new application will need to be made for September 2022.

Applications for 2021 entry are now open.

Making your application

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

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Our Standard Requirements

Minimum lower second class (2.ii) Honours degree in a Biosciences subject (or equivalent overseas degree), PLUS

  • 20 credit basic microbiology module, and
  • 20 credit advanced microbiology, and
  • 20 credit biochemistry or molecular biology module

Learn more about entry requirements

International Requirements

International Students

English language requirements

Standard English language requirements apply (IELTS: 6.0 overall with no less than 5.5 in any band)

IELTS 6.0 with no less than 5.5 in any band is equivalent to:

  • TOEFL: 80 overall with no less than 19 in Reading, 19 in Listening, 21 in Speaking and 19 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 51 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced – minimum overall score of 169, with no less than 162 in any component

The taught modules will be delivered through a combination of lectures, workshops and laboratory teaching. The Institute of Microbiology and Infection infrastructure provides high level capabilities for laboratory teaching at module level, while leading research groups offer opportunities for innovative and challenging research project opportunities.

Assessment Methods

In-course assessments will be varied in format, to include written assignments such as essays, assessed laboratory notebooks and reports, group work; some modules will also include class tests or end of module examinations. Formative assessments are incorporated into the course so that you feel well prepared for the summative ones.

The project will be assessed by a combination of a substantial written report and assessment of your performance in the laboratory; you will also give an oral presentation at the end of the project.

The course will give you a thorough grounding in this important and topical area of biomedical science, enabling your entry into employment in health-related positions including hospital and public health laboratories, industry (biotechnology, pharmaceutical and other sectors) and regulatory or quality assurance functions in the public sector or industry. It will also prepare you to work in a research setting, perhaps studying for a PhD as the next step on a research-based career path.

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