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Course content

Physician associates first joined the NHS workforce nearly ten years ago and are now employed throughout the UK in increasing numbers.

Physician associates are permanent members of the medical team, responsible for performing physical examinations, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests and recommending therapy. The role of physician associates is increasingly important within the healthcare workforce and individuals with this qualification are in demand.

Our PGDip in Physician Associate Studies aims to develop the skills required to become an effective practitioner through a combination of teaching and practical placements.

You will be trained according to the medical model and will work in collaboration with doctors and other healthcare professionals to diagnose and manage a wide range of common and complex diseases,

A range of benefits are provided by the University to support your career development:

  • you may be eligible to receive some financial support during the course;
  • Year 2 provides you with an elective period and the opportunity to develop your skills through working abroad;
  • develop your skills with the help of our excellent tutors and state-of-the-art clinical teaching facilities;
  • integrated training in prescribing safety (in anticipation of prescribing rights for physician associates) and communication skills is provided;
  • the University will provide iPads with access to a range of online resources, which are essential during placements;
  • at the end of the course, our 'preparation for practice' placement allows you to specialise in a specialty of your choice.

On successful completion of the course and having passed the national examinations and fulfilled all required competencies, you will spend a further two years in clinical practice within the NHS by applying for a range of posts with primary and acute care providers.


You will develop:

  • intellectual skills in problem solving and enquiry, critical analysis, logical thinking, clinical reasoning and reflection;
  • your knowledge and understanding of relevant principles and practical approaches in the clinical, behavioural and social sciences;
  • patient-centred consultation skills;
  • advanced clinical skills;
  • a detailed knowledge of pharmacology and prescribing safety (in anticipation of changes to legislation to allow physician associates to prescribe).

Special features

Extensive clinical training

You will receive over 1,600 hours of clinical training, including placements across the full range of medical specialities at teaching hospitals and primary care providers.

Work abroad

You have the opportunity to develop your skills by working abroad in Year 2. Travel bursaries are available to support this.

Specialist course

This course has been developed as a stand-alone postgraduate taught programme with a graduate-entry ethos and a fully integrated course structure based on clinical presentations rather than body systems.

Excellent teaching  

We use a combination of problem based learning (PBL) tutorials, small group teaching and lectures to deliver a course with very high levels of staff-student contact time and excellent student satisfaction. The curriculum is delivered through a mixed methods approach incorporating early clinical skills training, reflective practice, clinical immersion, a short elective, distance learning, and a dedicated 'preparation for practice' block.

Coursework and assessment

We use a structured programme of formative and summative assessments to examine the knowledge and skills that you must develop. You will undertake written and OSCE examinations at the end of each year and will maintain a portfolio for personal and professional development (PPD).

Course unit details

The course is non-modular, providing you with an opportunity to develop and consolidate skills throughout each year of the course.

Taught content is delivered in blocks of study of increasing complexity alongside the two longitudinal themes of Personal and Professional Development (PPD) and Consultation Skills (CS), with assessment periods at the end of each year. Each taught block feeds seamlessly into the next and all components of the programme are compulsory.

You have the option of spending an elective period in a speciality of your choosing.

Course content for Year 1

The first year of the course begins with a four-month period of intensive study where you will develop your understanding of the essential basic and clinical sciences that facilitate safe and effective practice.

After this 16-week taught block, you will rotate through a series of medical and surgical placements, each incorporating a short period of university-based teaching.

The curriculum is built around a core content of common clinical situations that are then organised according to their relative complexity. The content of each taught block is delivered using a problem-based learning (PBL) approach through the study of clinical cases/scenarios.

Each case integrates elements of the taught content and you will learn about and reflect upon the related biomedical, behavioural and population sciences appropriate to the case.

PBL is supported by small group teaching, lectures and workshops to form a truly integrated curriculum with very high levels of contact time.

Course content for Year 2

The second year of the course provides more advanced specialist instruction in the core medical and clinical sciences alongside a comprehensive programme of clinical reasoning to prepare you to sit your national postgraduate examinations.

Course collaborators

This course is part of a wider collaboration across the north-west. We work in partnership with Health Education England and the Universities of Liverpool and Central Lancashire to develop the physician associate role across the region.

The three universities collaborate in interviewing applicants and you apply directly to the HEE North West physician associate programme, indicating your preference of university on the application form.


You will have access to medical facilities at the University (similar to students studying the Medicine MBChB course) with a focus on clinical teaching and highly advanced clinical simulation.

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Advisory and Support Service. Email: 

CPD opportunities

Elements of the course will be available for CPD in 2018. Please contact us for further information.

Visit the Physician Associate Studies (PGDip) page on the University of Manchester website for more details!




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