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Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Medical humanities MSc

This taught Master's pathway brings together approaches from history, the visual and performing arts, literature, cultural studies and the social sciences to examine the roles of medicine, related biosciences and healthcare in human life. As an interdisciplinary course that highlights small-group, interactive learning, it provides an opportunity for students to reflect on what modern medicine is all about; how it has evolved over time; and how medical practice is influenced by, and responds to, public and patient perceptions and experiences.

The course may be taken by medical students as an intercalated MSc, or as a stand-alone MSc by other students. It does not require a medical background, only a strong interest in the history and cultural contexts of medicine, healthcare, and the life sciences.

Study in Medical Humanities offers transferable skills in research, interpretation, critical writing, presentation, discussion and debate. Interactive lectures, seminars and tutorials will enable you to develop these skills through exploration of the ethical, cultural, political, social and historical contexts of medical practice. The course also aims to develop skills in observation, analysis, empathy, and self-reflection – skills essential for practicing and understanding medical care.

The taught course combines a general introduction to medical humanities and the history of medicine with a range of more specialist studies, such as the historical development of medical technologies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

For the independent study component, you may produce either a dissertation based on original research, or a portfolio of creative work (e.g. poetry or fiction). All studies will be supervised by experienced subject specialists.

Pathway co-ordinators

MSc Medical Humanities is formally a pathway within the MSc in History of Science, Technology and Medicine, but features extensively tailored content. It is managed by Dr Carsten Timmermann, CHSTM, and Dr Sarah Collins, Manchester Medical School. For further information, please contact us at:

Course aims

  • To consider social, historical, political, cultural and global contexts of personhood, illness, and health service provision;
  • To gain insights into a range of disciplines in arts, histories, culture and humanities and their applications to medicine;
  • To promote empathy, respect, self-awareness and reflective practice;
  • To develop understanding of personal and patient perspectives of illness and health care;
  • To explore therapeutic uses of arts and humanities in medical practice;
  • To promote understanding of the responsibilities doctors carry toward themselves, their peers, and their patients;
  • To promote transferable writing, debating and presentation skills.
  • To pursue original, independent research on a topic of your choice, or to develop a portfolio of your own creative work

Course structure (full-time)

The full-time version of the course covers one year, from September to September. In Semester 1 (September to January), all students study the following taught course units, consisting of lectures and seminars:

In Semester 2 (February to May), students study the following:

Beginning in Semester 2 and across the summer, students work independently under supervision on a larger project:

  • Dissertation or creative portfolio in medical humanities (60 credits)

Course structure (part-time)

Part-time students study alongside full-timers, taking half the same content each semester over two years.

In semester 1 (September to January of the first year), all students take Major Themes in Medical Humanities (30 credits).

In semester 2 (February to May), all students take Medicine, Science and Modernity (30).

In semester 3 (September to January of the second year), students take two smaller courses:

In semester 4, students take one optional course unit from CHSTM, or 30 credits of course units from an affiliated programme.

Across the second year and during the summer, students work independently under supervision on a larger project:

  • Dissertation or creative portfolio in medical humanities (60 credits)


All students have the opportunity to choose 30 credits of optional taught courses. CHSTM itself offers two courses in history of science and technology:

and there may be opportunities to choose a combination of 15-credit options offered as part of the Science Communication MSc.

Alternatively, students may (subject to approval) select from among a wide variety of course units in allied subject areas in the University, including Humanitarian and Conflict Response Studies; Health Care Ethics and Law; English, American Studies and Creative Writing; History; Social Anthropology; Art History and Visual Cultures; or Drama.

Other programme activities

In addition to formal coursework, you will maintain a journal and build up a portfolio of coursework, which will allow you to reflect on your learning in Medical Humanities, and facilitate your continuing professional development. Likewise, throughout the year evening events will offer you further opportunities to put your work into practice, by participating in discussions about books, films, and art, by performing or presenting your own work, and by debating social and ethical questions about medicine.


Medics taking this MSc as an intercalation have taken a variety of paths in medical practice, drawing on the improved writing, speaking, and thinking skills acquired in their degree. Areas where the skills and knowledge acquired may be applied include: patient care; legal and ethical concerns; institutional and public policy making; academic research and administration; cross-cultural and disability awareness; media involvement and writing for or speaking to the general public.

Non-medics taking the course as a stand-alone Masters may apply it to fields including museums, science engagement and teaching, arts theory and practice, policy work, advocacy, journalism, public relations, management and administration, and librarianship.

Entry requirements for intercalating medics

The MSc is available for intercalation to medical and dental students who have successfully completed their third or fourth year of study. Intercalating medics study the same course content as non-medical students. Medical and dental students from outside the UK who have permission from their home institutions to intercalate are also welcome on the course; please contact the co-ordinators for further details and application procedures.

Entry requirements for stand-alone Master's study

The MSc is also open to students who have completed undergraduate degrees in courses such as history, English, the arts, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. We normally require an Upper Second-class (2:1) honours degree in the United Kingdom, or the overseas equivalent. Applicants should provide transcripts or study plans indicating specific performance on the most relevant course content.

An applicant may also be exceptionally accepted based on evidence of previous advanced study, research or professional experience, provided this meets the University’s central requirements.

Fees and funding

The fees for September 2018 admission will be:

  • Home/EU students: £9500 (full-time) or £5000 (part-time, first year)
  • International students: £18 000 (full-time) or £9000 (part-time, first year)

A limited range of grants and studentships is available, mainly for students aiming to go on to full-time research. For full details, see the postgraduate taught funding page.

How to apply

Intercalating medics should apply through their own institutions, or contact the co-ordinators for further advice.

Applicants for direct entry should see how to apply for further details.

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