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Course content

The MPhil in Health, Medicine and Society is a full-time one year course run jointly by the Departments of History and Philosophy of Science, Sociology and Social Anthropology. It introduces students from a range of backgrounds to research skills and specialist knowledge relevant to their research interests, and provides them with the opportunity to carry out focused research under close supervision by senior members of the University. Students will develop a critical and well-informed understanding of discourses of history, philosophy, sociology and anthropology of health and medicine, and those intending to go on to doctoral work will learn the skills needed to help them prepare a well-planned and focused PhD proposal.

Students complete three essays over the course of the year, working closely with supervisors to address a range of topics covered by the core and optional modules. They will also write a dissertation on a topic of their choice, refined in consultation with their supervisor. A dissertation workshop gives students the opportunity to gain experience of presenting their own work and discussing the issues that arise from it with an audience of their peers and senior members of staff.

Learning Outcomes

Graduates of the course will have developed a deeper knowledge of their chosen areas of history, philosophy, sociology and social anthropology of health and medicine and of the critical debates within them. They will have acquired a conceptual understanding that enables the evaluation of current research and methodologies in these disciplines, and formed a critical view of interactions between health, medicine and society.

By the end of the course, graduates will also have acquired a range of technical and transferable skills. They will have acquired or consolidated methodological, linguistic, technical and ancillary skills appropriate for research in their chosen area. They will also have demonstrated the ability to make independent judgements based on their own research, presented their own ideas and arguments in a public forum and learned to contribute constructively within an international environment.


There are four core taught modules for this course, and eight optional modules. Each module consists of four 1.5 hour seminars. All students are expected to attend all four core modules, which run in Michaelmas Term, and at least two optional modules, which run in Lent. Core modules provide advanced introductions to their disciplines:

  • History of Medicine
  • Medical Anthropology
  • Medical Sociology
  • Philosophy and Ethics of Medicine

Optional modules address a range of topics, which vary from year to year and reflect current staff research interests, from different disciplinary perspectives. Past topics have included reproduction, global health, public and environmental health, epistemology of medical research, and anthropologies of food and nutrition.

Students are also encouraged to participate in the research seminars and reading groups that run across the three Departments, and receive regular supervision on their written work. They can expect two hours of supervision on each of the three essays they complete, and four hours for the dissertation.

Each student receives general support and guidance throughout the year from the Course Manager, who takes responsibility for day-to-day oversight of the course and liaison with staff and students. Students also choose a 'home subject', and the Manager for that subject can guide them in formulating a programme of study, including identification of topics and supervisors for the essays and dissertation. Students work with supervisors on individual pieces of coursework.


Students receive independent reports from two assessors on each of their three essays and the dissertation, and have the opportunity to discuss this feedback with the Course Manager, Subject Manager and their supervisors. They will also have access throughout the year to the Course Manager and the other staff involved in delivering the course. There is the opportunity for informal feedback from staff and peers on the direction and progress of dissertation research during the dissertation workshop.



Students submit a dissertation of between 10,000 and 15,000 words, on a dissertation topic approved by the Degree Committee, at the end of Easter Term. The dissertation accounts for 60 per cent of the final mark for the course. A viva is not normally required, but may be requested by the Examiners.


Students submit three essays over the course of the first two terms, on topics set by the seminar leaders for the core and optional modules. The first essay is up to 3,000 words and is formative, meaning its assessment does not contribute to the final mark. The second and third essays are up to 5,000 words each, and each account for 20 per cent of the final mark.

Funding Opportunities

Visit the funding opportunities page on the course website to find out about potential sources of funding.

Apply using the Applicant Portal

The Apply Now button on the right will take you to the Applicant Portal, where you can create and submit your application and supporting documents, and request references.

An application is only complete when:

  1. you have submitted your application and supporting documents via the Applicant Portal
  2. you have paid the £60 application fee
  3. your referees have provided their references.

If you miss the deadlines specified in this section, you will not be able to submit your application.

Selection Process

We have a rolling admissions process for this course: applications are considered as they are received. You can expect to hear whether you have been successful within 8 weeks of submitting your completed application and required supporting documents.

Please note that we may close the admissions round early if we allocate all our places before the final deadline. We therefore strongly recommend that you apply no later than 15 February. If you try to apply after this date you may find that the course has already closed.

Admission is subject to an interview with a senior member of academic staff. The interview may be conducted in person, by phone or online.

Further information on How To Apply

Visit the MPhil in Health, Medicine and Society page on the University of Cambridge website for more details!