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The Wider Context of Nanotechnology

Key facts

TypesOnline and Distance Learning
Professional Development
Summer Schools -
DatesMon 13 Oct to Sun 30 Nov 2014
Subject area(s)Nanotechnology
CATS points10
FeesFrom £2400.00
Application statusApplications being accepted
Course codeO14C519F2Y
Course contactIf you have any questions about this course, please email nano@conted.ox.ac.uk or telephone +44 (0)1865 286954.


Nanotechnology is the identification, application and use of novel behaviour that occurs at the nanoscale to solve real-world problems. The discipline requires a breadth of understanding that is much wider than just the equations and scientific principles that underlie that behaviour. This introductory course gives an overview of the current state of nanotechnology as well as introducing the implications of these new technologies for safety, regulation, and innovation. The course provides an overview of the societal and environmental implications of nanotechnology.

The Wider Context of Nanotechnology online course can be taken alone, with or without academic credit, or as part of the Postgraduate Certificate in Nanotechnology.

Please send me an email about future The Wider Context of Nanotechnology courses.


Module 1 Image

Nanotechnology has received much attention from scientists and journalists in the last few years raising hopes of revolutionary developments in a wide range of technologies on an increasingly small scale, dramatic improvements to standards of living, and solutions to a variety of environmental, medical and communications problems. These have gone hand-in-hand with fears that a new technology will disrupt the markets of existing business sectors and that machines are running out of control.

The result has been a high degree of confusion at all levels of society as to the ethics, safety and business implications of this emerging series of technologies. The course addresses these issues and others in emphasising the interdisciplinary nature of nanotechnology. This is important because students who specialise in nanotechnology must be trained to appreciate a range of issues beyond the confines of pure science. Nanotechnology has applications in a broad range of fields and sectors of society. A student trained in electrical engineering, for example, who goes on to specialise in nanotechnology, may undertake a research project developing nanosensors that will be implanted in human subjects. He or she will therefore need to develop new skills to appreciate the broader ethical, societal and environmental implications of such research.

The development of interdisciplinary skills involves not only learning methods of reasoning and critical thinking, but also gaining experience with the dynamics and development of effective multi-disciplinary function. Technologists must become comfortable addressing various issues as an integral part of doing advanced research in a team that might draw upon the expertise of not only engineers, but also biologists, doctors, lawyers and business people. As the project evolves knowledge of the place of nanotechnology in business becomes increasingly important. This course teaches an understanding of the basic workings of how nanotechnology innovation is exploited, together with an understanding of the dynamics of entrepreneurship.

Programme details

Nanotechnology Programme Brochure

The Wider Context of Nanotechnology course begins in October and runs for ten weeks online. The course comprises two parts: a one-week induction period followed by nine weeks of study, including a reading week. There will be live online tutorials, normally once each week.


The online Induction week enables students to confidently maximise their online learning experience. We appreciate that students starting any new course may face some challenges, perhaps if you have not studied at postgraduate level before and/or are combining this part-time study with working full-time, and The Wider Context of Nanotechnology course has been designed with these considerations in mind.

Our Induction module aims to help you to ease yourself into The Wider Context of Nanotechnology course by allowing you to familiarise yourself with the online environment and to introduce yourself to the other participants. The Induction also contains practical resources to provide guidance while you prepare for the units that follow and throughout your time on the course. These materials will be available for the duration of your study, so that you can dip into them on a ‘need to know’ basis.

Ethical, social and business considerations for nanotechnology

The second part of the course looks at the ethical, societal and business considerations that are necessary to understand nanotechnology. In particular, the module focuses on the following themes:

  • Ethics and nanotechnology;
  • Society and nanotechnology;
  • The health and environmental impact of nanotechnology;
  • Business and nanotechnology.

The course emphasises and addresses the interdisciplinary nature of nanotechnology. Students completing the course will gain a good in-depth understanding of the numerous issues facing nanotechnology today.

Most students should expect to spend an average of between 10 and 15 hours per week on independent study in addition to the timetabled tutorials.


  • The course is taken part-time so students can complete it whilst continuing to work full-time;
  • The course is taught online and can be taken from anywhere in the world;
  • An induction week helps to ease students into the course and familiarise themselves with the online course environment, also enabling them to introduce themselves to other participants;
  • Tutors provide online support and replicate electronically the famed Oxford tutorial system;
  • The course has a dedicated tutor, course director and administration team accustomed to supporting students undertaking distance learning courses;
  • Students have access to staff at the University of Oxford’s Begbroke Science Park, particularly the Course Director, Dr Christiane Norenberg;
  • Throughout the course, students can use the University of Oxford’s unrivalled electronic library resources to enable them to complete the assignment tasks.



Dr Christiane Norenberg

Role: Director

Christiane is the Nanotechnology HEIF Manager at the University of Oxford's Begbroke Science Park. She received her DPhil in Materials Science...more

Dr Keith Simons

Role: Tutor

Dr Keith Simons, a chemist by training, is an independent innovation consultant who works as an interim manager in business development and...more

Course aims

The overall purpose of the course is to:

  • Acquire a basic understanding of the current state of the development of nanotechnologies;
  • Explain the safety issues concerning naturally occurring nanoparticles and those arising from the development of new products relying on nanotechnolgies;
  • Explain the interrelation of nanotechnologies and the environment – by providing a reference framework for risk assessment of nanotechnologies in the context of current and possible future disassociated technologies used for end life processing of materials in which nanotechnologies are incorporated;
  • Provide an overview of the interrelation of nanotechnologies and health;
  • Acquire an understanding of innovation in the nanotechnology sector;
  • Acquire an understanding of the regulation that applies to nanotechnology products and companies;
  • Acquire a basic understanding in the societal implications of nanotechnologies.


Sample certificate PDF document.

Short course participants who do not wish to undertake the assessed work required for academic credit but who do satisfy the course participation requirements will receive a certificate of completion. The pdf sample above is an illustration only, and the wording will reflect the course and dates of study.

Those successfully completing the couse with academic credit can apply to receive a CATS point transcript.

Assessment methods

Assessment will be based on submission of two set written assignments, including a short essay and a written report, totalling not more than 2,500 words in length. The assignments are submitted online.

Academic credit

Those wishing to may apply to take the course with accreditation. The University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education offers Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) points for the course.

Students wishing to complete The Wider Context of Nanotechnology course with academic credit will satisfactorily complete the coursework assessments. Attendance of a minimum of 70% of the live online tutorials is required. Students also need to actively participate in the online conversations via the course forums to the satisfaction of the course director. Students fulfilling these requirements are eligible to earn credit equivalent to 10 CATS points which may be counted towards a postgraduate qualification.

IT requirements

This course uses the Department’s online assignment submission system and online courseware. In order to participate in the course, and to prepare and submit your course assignments you will need access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification. Students of this course may use the student computing facilities provided in Departmental buildings.


The course fee includes:

  • Tuition;
  • Full online course materials through our bespoke virtual learning environment (VLE);
  • Access to the Bodleian Libraries e-Resources.

Before making your application for this short course, please ensure that you have read the terms and conditions which can be found towards the bottom of this page.

Please see the Postgraduate Certificate in Nanotechnology page for more information regarding fees when taking this course as a part of the PGCert Programme.


Details of funding opportunities, including grants, bursaries, loans, scholarships and benefit information are available on our financial assistance page.

Fee options

Programme Fee
Short course in nanotechnology: £2400.00

Apply for this course

The Wider Context of Nanotechnology course can be taken:

How to apply

This course is part of the Postgraduate Certificate in Nanotechnology. If you would like to apply for the Postgraduate Certificate in Nanotechnology please visit the Programme page.

To apply for a module as a short course please use the documents below.

Application deadline: 22 September 2014

Places on the course are limited, so early application is strongly recommended. Your application will require a copy of your CV, and if you wish to take the course for credit, a reference. Once we have received your completed application it will be considered by the admissions panel.

Application form

You can apply for this course in the following ways:

Apply by post, email or fax
Short course application form PDF document.

Short Course Terms and Conditions (important: please read before applying) PDF document.
PGCert Terms and Conditions (important: please read before applying) PDF document.

Programmes including this module

This module can be studied as part of these programmes:

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