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Course length

9 months full-time, 18 months part-time



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Course details

This exciting and challenging online course applies the knowledge and insight of the humanities and social sciences to gain a deeper understanding of what is meant by health and illness outside of a medical context and, in particular, to analyse how our thoughts and physical experiences become recognised as symptoms. 

The course provides Masters-level education across four modules and leads to a postgraduate qualification in nine months full-time or 18 months part-time. It is suitable if you studied subjects such as Anthropology, English, Geography, Law, Modern Languages and Cultures, Philosophy, Sociology, and related disciplines at undergraduate level. You may also benefit if you have a background in health and social care and are looking to bring humanities and social sciences perspectives to bear in your professional practice.

You will study two core modules from the Medical Humanities MA: Concepts and Frameworks in the Critical Medical Humanities, and Reimagining Health Research, with the remaining modules chosen from a number of options.   

As you progress through the course you will learn about key health challenges, focusing on debates about the wider social, political and economic environments in which health, illness and medicine are situated. You will also develop advanced skills in interpreting and using different kinds of data, from textual and material sources to data gathered through qualitative methods.

The course is led by the University’s Institute for Medical Humanities and the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, and you will be taught by specialists from across the University. The interdisciplinary nature of the course  provides a fascinating and comprehensive introduction to the wide range of approaches to health taken by different academic disciplines.

Upon completion, you may have the option of applying to the MA, where you will research and write a dissertation.

When you enrol on this course, you will become a member of the Postgraduate and Early Career Researchers (PGECR) network in Medical Humanities, which organises regular seminars, conferences and social events.

Course structure

Core modules:

Concepts and Frameworks in the Critical Medical Humanities provides advanced training in the interdisciplinary field of critical medical humanities and strengthens your understanding of both its development from the less complex context of initial medical humanities study and its distinct contribution to health research and current challenges. This module will also build your knowledge of concepts, theories and approaches essential to research in the critical medical humanities.

Reimagining Health Research: Methodologies in the Critical Medical Humanities equips you with the advanced knowledge and skills needed to critically appraise key health research methodologies used in the critical medical humanities. This module will enhance your ability to assess ideas and evidence from a variety of sources and then choose, justify, or critique work done across key disciplines. It will also encourage you to be reflective and review your own existing competences as well as nurture your ability to work across disciplines.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Illness as Narrative Practice
  • Contemporary Issues in Medical Law
  • Neurodiversity and the Humanities


Teaching is delivered entirely online through lectures, workshops and scaffolded learning assignments – the latter format being where large-scale topics are broken down into smaller units which are delivered online with subject experts and discussed collaboratively with peers.

For some modules you will also form online study groups with other students to work on group projects. You will also be supported through a number of in-person meetings with your tutor.

Assessment of the Postgraduate Diploma comes in a variety of formats and is designed to challenge you. You will be expected to produce essays, annotated bibliography entries, critical commentaries, a project proposal and Student Devised Assessments (SDA) when you will deliver your study findings using creative and context-appropriate methods.

It also includes assessed group work. The module in research methods includes a presentation followed by written peer reviews evaluating your own and other project proposals.

Entry requirements

At least one of the following:

  • A 2:1 undergraduate degree
  • Active enrolment on an intercalated UG/PG medical degree programme
  • At least three years work in a professional environment with relevance to health and/or medicine (e.g. clinical, NGO, policy, care work, etc)

A 500-word personal statement which should include the following:

  • An outline of your interest in a Postgraduate Diploma in Medical Humanities
  • What skills and knowledge you would bring to the course
  • What skills and knowledge you would hope to acquire

Two professional and/or academic references from people who are familiar with your work, commenting on your suitability for the programme.

English language requirements

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £8,600 per year
EU students £18,200 per year
Island students £8,600 per year
International students £18,200 per year

The tuition fees shown are for one complete academic year of study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and Bursaries

We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities. 

Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries

Career opportunities

Faculty of Arts and Humanities

There is an array of career options possible that include professions in national, international and local government agencies, sustainability management, policy research, corporate responsibility and sustainability, environmental journalism and writing, environmental tourism, environmentally-oriented NGOs and charities and conservation work. The MA in Environmental Humanities also offers enhanced suitability for business graduate programmes in sustainability.

Employers often value Masters graduates in arts and humanities for their understanding and ability to communicate, flexibility, as well as their analytical and synthetic competence.

Department information

Faculty of Arts and Humanities

This programme is led from the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, bringing in modules from that Faculty but also building on modules from other Faculties that will serve the wider suite of programmes. We are proud that our Faculty of Arts & Humanities is recognised as a world leading Faculty, and our work is intended to enrich, shape and transform lives. We nurture thoughtful, critical and engaged citizens for a rapidly changing and complex world.

For more information on our Faculty and the Departments within it, see our webpages: Faculty of Arts and Humanities - Durham University


Arts & Humanities subjects ranked 33rd in the World top 50 in the Times Higher Education Rankings by Subject 2023

  • English Department – 4th in The Complete University Guide 2024 and 3rd in The Guardian University Guide 2024
  • History Department – 4th in The Complete University Guide 2024
  • Philosophy Department – 8th in The Complete University Guide 2024
  • Geography Department – 5th in The Complete University Guide 2024
  • Anthropology Department – 8th in The Complete University Guide 2024


Find out more:

Apply for a postgraduate course (including PGCE International) via our online portal.  

Visit Us

The best way to find out what Durham is really like is to come and see for yourself!

Join a Postgraduate Open Day
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
Find out more
Self-Guided Tours
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 16:00
Find out more

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