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Biomedical Sciences

Keble is strongly committed to Biomedical Sciences and has in-house tutor expertise to match this diverse and vibrant course. Oxford is extremely strong in biomedical subjects taught from a physiology point of view, especially in Neuroscience and its modern developments. The emphasis on human and mammalian physiology appeals to many applicants, in contrast to the more general biology in Biological Sciences. Compared with Biochemistry it is a shorter course, yet offers a broader range of options. It can lead into laboratory research or one of Oxford’s excellent MSc courses in Neuroscience or Pharmacology or Integrated Immunology or Research methods in Psychology. It also prepares people for far wider fields such as Sports Science, Law or Management, and these days is an excellent launch point for the highly competitive Graduate-Entry medicine courses.

Advantages of Keble

The Biomedical Sciences is a relatively new degree, replacing the previous Physiology course. We are keen to foster a vibrant Biomedical community within the college and take a minimum of three freshers each year – more than practically any other college, and currently have ten Biomedical Scientists in residence. All Keble rooms have an ethernet network point, to enable convenient use of electronic bibliography searching, email, and other Web-based resources. There is substantial contact and a vigorous camaraderie between the year groups enhanced through the student-led College Biomedical Society. This is a highly active forum for the discussion of science with termly speaker meetings and various social events including the Hiliary term dinner. Keble is very conveniently located for Biomedical Science students: we are the closest undergraduate College to the Medical Sciences Teaching Centre and to the Department of Physiology Anatomy and Genetics, and to the University's Hooke Lending Library. The Radcliffe Science Library, whose Director is a Fellow of the College, is directly across the road from us. The College Library is well stocked with books for Prelims, Part 1 exams and Finals.

Course structure

Complete and up-to-date information on the course can be found at the subject's page on the University admissions site. The first year comprises courses in:

  • Numerical and scientific skills (Mathematics and Statistics, Chemistry and Physics)
  • Systems (Behaviour, Brain and Body)
  • Molecules and Cells (including Genes)

Prelims at the end of this year require you to sit exam papers in each of these three subjects.

During your first year you’ll choose your Finals course from two possibilities: CELLS & SYSTEMS BIOLOGY or NEUROSCIENCE, each of which allows you great flexibility on the emphasis you’d like to place on specific areas.

The first two terms of the second year comprise courses offered by the five main departments: Anatomy, Physiology and Genetics, Biochemistry, Experimental Psychology, Pathology, and Pharmacology. They lead to the Part 1 examination towards Finals. Suitable choices from among these prepare you for the Advanced Options in the third year. These take you to the advancing edges of a speciality such as Neuroscience (which will incorporate options from Psychology). If your path is Cells and Systems Biology you’ll pick one Major and one Minor option from Infection and Immunity or Myocardial, Vascular and Respiratory Biology or Signalling in Health and Disease (these are the Options that Keble tutors teach directly themselves) or Molecular Medicine. Both Finals courses require study-in-depth in areas of your choice, plus an integrated (“synoptic”) view of your chosen Option. A main feature is the compulsory research project and dissertation. This is normally done in an Oxford lab (almost anywhere that has bioscience relevance) but it can alternatively be done as part of a SOCRATES/ERASMUS project to Europe - a Keble student who is now an independent research scientist once went to Barcelona to do her Dissertation. There is also an extended essay: this forms part of the general development of your skills in critically reading scientific papers (on which you will be examined). Additional study, for instance of the History and Philosophy of Science, is encouraged as a Supplementary Subject.

Typical pattern of teaching

For Prelims you are taught by a combination of lectures, practicals and tutorials (in pairs; up to 2 per week). In the second and final year of the course you receive more specialists tutoring from world experts in the field of study. Obviously we are particularly glad if Keble biomedical scientists choose the options that are specialist interests of the Keble tutors (see above). This is the best reason for you to prefer one college over another.

Qualities sought for entry

We are interested in people who can think quickly, clearly and critically, and who can connect different pieces of evidence with their background knowledge. The interviews include assessments of your academic potential to benefit best from the style of education we provide here as well as of general personal qualities. The selection criteria include: intellectual curiosity: keenness to understand the reason for observations; problem-solving; critical thinking analytical approach; ability to work with others in a tutorial group; communication in a tutorial context; motivation: a well-informed and strong desire to study Biomedical Sciences.

We abide by the faculty’s selection criteria and entrance requirements. Although A2 level Biology (or equivalent) is not mandatory, in the past nearly all successful candidates have included Biology as one of their subjects. Non-Biologists are required to do supplementary reading in Biology before they start their course. A-level conditions will commonly be A*AA.

Written Work, and Test: All Biomedical Sciences applicants must sit the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT). This, together with a review of your academic performance stated on your UCAS form, provides the basis for short-listing for interview.

Also see the Biomedical Sciences page on the University of Oxford Prospectus.


Approximate yearly intake Keble: 3
Department Website Medical Sciences


Via the College Office.


Dr Simon Butt MA PhD, Tutorial Fellow in Neurophysiology, has overall responsibility in directing college teaching for Biomedical Science. He is a University Lecturer in Neurosciences in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics.

Dr Ulrike Gruneberg BSc PhD, is a Tutorial Fellow in Experimental Pathology and holder of an MRC Senior Research Fellowship. She provides tutorial teaching towards the Cells, Molecules and Genes Prelims paper and FHS Molecular Medicine option.

Prof. Neil Herring BM BCh MA DPhil, is a Fellow by Special Election. He is Senior Registrar in Cardiology at the John Radcliffe Hospital and researches the autonomic innervation of the heart, and its involvement in heart disease. He teaches all aspects of Physiology and Pharmacology.

Dr Rhys Evans BM BCh MA DPhil,Fellow by Special Election, College Lecturer in Physiology and former Senior Scholar and Junior Research Fellow of the College. He is Consultant in Anaesthetics in the Oxford Radcliffe hospitals. He teaches General Physiology and metabolic biochemistry to the undergraduates, and researches lipid metabolism especially in heart muscle.

Dr Ann Dowker BA PhD, College Lecturer in Experimental Psychology, University Research Lecturer at the Department of Experimental Psychology. Her main interest lies in language development; the development of ‘theory of mind’ and its relationship to other cognitive abilities; cultural and linguistic influences on cognition; and mathematical development and cognition.

Other Fellows in related subjects include Prof Rob Klose (Professor of Genetics), Prof Martin Farrall, BSc, MB BS, FRCPath (Fellow in Cardiovascular Genetics). and Dr Stephen Kearsey, MA DPhil (Molecular Genetics).