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Course overview

Every field in life sciences has been transformed by the use of computers. Bioinformatics is a rapidly developing field within life sciences focused on developing methods and software tools to understand biological data. The ability to develop and apply computational methods to large and complex datasets will be a key driver of biological innovation in the next decades.

MSc Bioinformatics at Nottingham is aimed at students with a background in biological sciences who wish to develop skills in bioinformatics and data skills for industry, future research careers and more. The course is not aimed at students with a background in computer science.

The study programme incorporates the areas of:

  • Computational biology, programming and practice
  • Evolutionary genomics and bioinformatics
  • Genomics
  • Cutting-edge research technologies and ideas in molecular biology
  • Advanced experimental design and analysis

If you are already in the employ of a company, you may be able to get sponsorship for our Bioinformatics Scientist (MRes) Degree Apprenticeship.

Why choose this course?

Record holders

Nottingham holds the record for longest DNA sequence read – highlighting our expertise.

Comprehensive studies

You will receive tuition in all aspects of bioinformatics to prepare you for any project.

International Research

95% of the School of Life Sciences research was deemed to be of international quality.

Research Excellence Framework 2014

9th for research power

The School of Life Sciences was ranked 9th for research power in our unit of assessment.

Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014

Gold-standard teaching

Our teaching is recognised as of the highest standard

Course content

You will learn:

  • a basic understanding of programming methods and best practice – our model language will be Python, but students will acquire the skills to learn any language
  • methods to analyse the biological content and scientific value of “big data” sets produced from multiple technologies
  • the best ways to extract biological meaning from disparate data
  • technical knowledge of sequence analysis including high throughput short and long read sequencing
  • methods and application of assembly and mapping
  • evolutionary genomics and phylogeny
  • bioinformatics pipelines and automation methods to simplify day-to-day analyses


Computational Biology, Programming and Practice 20 credits

In this module, students will learn the fundamentals of everything from for loops to functions and classes. As this MSc is practical in nature, you will be taught in the framework of a commonly used language, Python. However, the teaching will be focussed on developing tools and techniques to allow you to solve problems and continue your learning. Any language you learn now will be out of date within a few years at best. So, we will equip you with the tools to learn new techniques and methods as they appear.

This module is non compensatable and will be assessed through weekly progress checks and assignments.

Comparative and Evolutionary Genomics 20 credits

In this module students will learn the basis of evolutionary genomics and how to apply modern bioinformatics tools and methods to analysis of genome wide data sets. The course will cover phylogeny and alignment through to assembly and comparison of genomes. Students will be assessed through a mix of exams and practical assessments.

Advanced Experimental Design and Analysis 10 credits

This module explores the statistical basis behind experimental design and analysis. Students will be taught how to evaluate experimental design and analysis from the perspective of those analysing the subsequent data, a key step often overlooked. Assessment will be by examination.

Core Research Methods: Transferable Research Skills 10 credits

You will gain an understanding of how to plan, prepare and execute research in the field of molecular biology, microbiology immunology and genetics. As well as learning how to manage the various stages of research projects, you will gain experience presenting research data and preparing publications. This module will also enhance your ability to critically assess published literature and analyse data.

Project work – Group 60 credits

Students will complete two pieces of project work during the course. The first, the group project, is worth 60 credits and will consist of instructor lead group analysis of exemplar problems in bioinformatics analysis. Students will work on these projects in small groups with individuals taking responsibility for different components of the analysis and presentation. This allows students to learn from one another, to experience the working environment often found within real projects and develop and fine tune their skills. The project will be assessed with a group presentation and write up.

Project work – Individual 60 credits

After the group project, students will complete an individual project. These projects will be embedded within a working laboratory and will be co-supervised by the host laboratory as well as a bioinformatics domain specialist. However, although supervision will be available, the student will be expected to plan and deliver the work themselves. The project will be assessed by presentations and a project write up including reproducible data analysis where possible.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on Monday 12 April 2021.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

We are preparing your tutorials, laboratory classes, workshops and seminars so that you can study and discuss your subjects with your tutors and fellow students in stimulating and enjoyable ways. While we will keep some elements of online course delivery, particularly while Covid-19 restrictions remain in place or where this enhances course delivery, teaching is being planned to take place in-person wherever possible. This will be subject to government guidance remaining unchanged.

We will use the best of digital technologies to support both your in-person and online teaching. We will provide live, interactive online sessions, alongside pre-recorded teaching materials so that you can work through them at your own pace. While the mix of in-person and digital teaching will vary by course, we aim to increase the proportion of in-person teaching in the spring term.

  • Problem-based learning
  • Small group learning
  • Computer-based exercises
  • Project work
  • Lectures
  • Seminars

Teaching methods and module delivery are determined by content but it is anticipated that at least half of your time will be spent completing practical tasks in computer labs or active research projects. The teaching week is split into teaching days and days where you are free to complete assignments.

Most of the formal teaching will occur during the autumn semester with some in the spring.

How you will be assessed

All assessments in the 2021/22 academic year will be delivered online unless there is a professional accreditation requirement or a specific need for on-campus delivery and in-person invigilation.

  • Group project
  • Project work
  • Coursework

Students will focus on a group bioinformatics project during semester two with a final project running into the summer. Students are required to complete six compulsory modules (20 credits each), a group project (60 credits) and an individual final project (60 credits) on a topic relevant to bioinformatics.

The pass mark for the MSc is 50%. Students failing to achieve that grade may be given the opportunity to obtain a Diploma in recognition of work already completed if they achieve a grade between 40-49%. Diploma students do not undertake a final 60 credit project.

Contact time and study hours

As a guide, one credit equals approximately 10 hours of work. For the taught-stage of the course, you will spend approximately a third of your time (around 400 hours) in lectures, tutorials, workshops, practical classes, including the directed study which is necessary in preparation for workshops/practical classes. The remaining time will be completed as independent study. Tutorial sessions are built into the timetable and there are several group and individual meetings timetabled throughout the year. Additional meetings can be requested as needed.

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2021 entry.

Undergraduate degree2:1 in biological or related sciences – qualifications in other fields will be judged on an individual basis by the course lead.


Our step-by-step guide covers everything you need to know about applying.

How to apply


Qualification MSc
Home / UK £11,000
International £25,000

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland starting your course in the 2021/22 academic year, you will pay international tuition fees.

This does not apply to Irish students, who will be charged tuition fees at the same rate as UK students. UK nationals living in the EU, EEA and Switzerland will also continue to be eligible for ‘home’ fee status at UK universities until 31 December 2027.

For further guidance, check our Brexit information for future students.

Additional costs

One key focus of this course is the use of open access software and tools. As such, you do not need to consider costly software subscriptions. However, students are expected to provide their own laptops which will enable them to connect to central servers for data analysis. Recommended minimum specifications are available from the course director.

You should be able to access most of the books you'll need through our libraries, though you may wish to purchase your own copies or more specific titles as appropriate. The course relies heavily on on-line course materials which are free to access for the student.

We have designed this intensive taught course to deliver a wide range of bioinformatics skills grounded in a solid understanding and appreciation of the underlying biology sciences. Graduates of the course are equipped with the skills to pursue employment or further study in a variety of areas.

We anticipate that many of our graduates will go on to undertake PhDs applying their bioinformatics skills to a wide range of problems and questions. In addition, we anticipate students will go on to a wide range of bioinformatics careers in industries such as healthcare and basic science research.


There are many ways to fund your postgraduate course, from scholarships to government loans.

We also offer a range of international masters scholarships for high-achieving international scholars who can put their Nottingham degree to great use in their careers.

Check our guide to find out more about funding your postgraduate degree.

Postgraduate funding


We offer individual careers support for all postgraduate students.

Expert staff can help you research career options and job vacancies, build your CV or résumé, develop your interview skills and meet employers.

More than 1,500 employers advertise graduate jobs and internships through our online vacancy service. We host regular careers fairs, including specialist fairs for different sectors.

Graduate destinations

We have designed this intensive taught course to deliver a wide range of bioinformatics skills grounded in a solid understanding and appreciation of the underlying biology sciences. Graduates of the course are equipped with the skills to pursue employment or further study in a variety of areas.

We anticipate that many of our graduates will go on to undertake PhDs applying their bioinformatics skills to a wide range of problems and questions. In addition, we anticipate students will go on to a wide range of bioinformatics careers in industries such as healthcare and basic science research.

Two masters graduates proudly holding their certificates
Play video

MSc Bioinformatics: An overview talk with Course Director, Dr Mary O'Connell

Dr Mary O'Connell, the course director, talks us through what Bioinformatics is, and how we approach the subject at the University of Nottingham

The University has been awarded Gold for outstanding teaching and learning (2017/18). Our teaching is of the highest quality found in the UK.

The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is a national grading system, introduced by the government in England. It assesses the quality of teaching at universities and how well they ensure excellent outcomes for their students in terms of graduate-level employment or further study.

This content was last updated on Monday 12 April 2021. Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, but changes are likely to occur given the interval between the date of publishing and course start date. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply.