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The Wider Context of Nanotechnology

Key facts

TypesOnline and Distance Learning
Oxford Qualification - Part-time
Professional Development
DatesMon 10 Oct to Sun 27 Nov 2016
Subject area(s)Nanotechnology
CATS points10
FeesFrom £2550.00
Application statusApplications being accepted
Course codeO16C519F2Y
Course contactIf you have any questions about this course, please email nano@conted.ox.ac.uk or telephone +44 (0)1865 286955.


Purple Swirling Nano

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.


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

The Wider Context of Nanotechnology course begins in October and runs for seven weeks online. The course comprises two parts: a one-week induction period followed by six 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.

Entry requirements

To apply for this short course you should:

  • be able to demonstrate an interest in nanotechnology; and
  • be able to demonstrate a suitable level of English (if this is not your first language).




Dr Christiane Norenberg

Role: Director & Tutor

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 course 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
Stand-alone students: £2550.00

Apply for this course

Application deadline: three weeks before the commencement of the course.

We strongly recommend that you download and save files before completing to ensure that all your changes are saved.

This course requires you to complete the application form below, and submit it alongside a copy of your CV. If you are applying to take this course for academic credit you will also need to complete section two of the reference form and forward it to your referee for completion. Please note that if you are not applying to take the course for academic credit then you do not need to submit a reference.

Please ensure you read the guidance notes before completing the application form, as any errors resulting from failure to do so may delay your application.

If you have any questions about this course, please email nano@conted.ox.ac.uk.

All the Department's Online Short Courses are developed by our Technology-Assisted Lifelong Learning (TALL) unit. To learn more, please see the TALL website.

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