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V5K107 History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine MA Postgraduate Taught  2017


Degree MA
Mode of study Part Time + Full Time
Duration 1 year (full-time) or 2 years (part-time)
Start Date 02-10-2017
Location Durham City
Department(s) Website
Telephone +44 (0)191 334 6553

Course Content


This one-year programme (two years part-time) is designed to give a deeper understanding of historical, philosophical and cultural issues in science and medicine from antiquity to the present day. Research training includes historical methods, philosophical analysis and socio-cultural models, providing an interdisciplinary environment for those interested in progressing to a PhD or those simply interested in HPSM studies.

Former students have gone on to attract major doctoral funding awards and jobs in the media, government and NGOs. The core teaching staff are attached to the Department of Philosophy, the Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease (co-run with Newcastle University) and the School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health. Modules are taught via lectures, seminars, personal tutorials and workshops. The diversity of staff research interests allows you to focus your research on a wide variety of topics, including historical, philosophical and/or cultural aspects of biology, biomedical ethics, the body, the environment, gender, medical humanities, medicine, and the physical sciences.

Programme Structure

Core Modules

Optional Modules

Students choose a total of three optional modules, with at least one from List A and one from List B. The module titles below are those offered in 2016/17. Not all the modules will necessarily run every year.
List A
List B

Course Learning and Teaching

The MA in the History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine (HPSM) provides the opportunity for in-depth engagement with historical, philosophical and cultural issues in science and medicine from antiquity to the present day. In the process, students develop critical abilities and independent research skills in an interdisciplinary environment that prepare them for further postgraduate study and for a wide range of careers where such skills are highly prized.

Students select three topic modules from two lists of usually five historical and five philosophical options. They are also required to take a Research Methods in the History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine module and to complete a double-module dissertation in the Department of Philosophy, the Department of History, or the School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health.

Topic modules are typically taught via seven two-hour seminars, two one-to-one tutorials, and a workshop at the end of the module. Seminars incorporate staff-led discussion of topics, student presentations and small group discussions, in the context of a friendly, supportive environment. Seminars serve to (i) familiarise students with topics, positions and debates, (ii) help them to navigate the relevant literature, (iii) refine their oral and written presentation skills and (iv) further develop their ability to independently formulate, criticise and defend historical and philosophical positions. Students are expected to do approximately four hours of reading for each seminar. In consultation with the module leader students decide upon an essay topic, and the most appropriate supervisor available for their topic is allocated. At this point, they begin a more focused programme of reading and independent study, and also benefit from the one-to-one supervisions with the expert supervisor. These supervisions provide more focused teaching, tailored to a student’s chosen essay topic. Supervisions further enable students to develop and refine their own historiographical or philosophical positions, convey them clearly and support them with well constructed arguments. In the workshop students present a draft of their essay and receive further feedback from their peers as well as staff.

The core modules of the programme are the Research Methods module and the double-module Dissertation. The former consists of nine seminars, each of 2 hours duration and a feedback session. They introduce students to relevant methodologies and approaches in the history of medicine, history of science, philosophy of science, and medical humanities, as well as to HPSM resources in the University Library, research tools, MA-level essay composition and format, and other research-related matters. They also include focused advice and discussion concerning dissertation proposals, which students are required to submit as part of this module.

Having completed the three topic modules and the research methods module, students start work on their dissertations. The nature of the dissertation will vary depending upon the topic studied and the department in which the module is undertaken. Students are offered up to six one-to-one tutorials of up to an hour each, with a supervisor who will be an expert in their chosen field. The supervisions help to further refine skills acquired during the academic year (such as presenting and defending an argument in a clear, structured fashion) and to complete a substantial piece of high quality independent research.

In addition to this core teaching, students benefit from a range of activities, including an MA Dissertation Workshop, research seminars of the Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease, and regular meetings of EIDOS, the Philosophy Department’s postgraduate society. They are welcomed as full participants in the Department’s research culture, and are thus strongly encouraged to attend a range of other events, including weekly Research Seminars, and occasional Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures, conferences, workshops and reading groups. The programme director remains in regular contact with the students throughout the year and is available to discuss any issues that might arise (personal or academic). 

Admissions Process

Subject requirements, level and grade

Upper second class (2:1) undergraduate degree in an appropriate humanities, science or social science subject or successful completion of four years of medical studies at an approved medical school.

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply

Fees and Funding

Full Time Fees

EU Student £6,900.00
Home Student £6,900.00
Island Student £6,900.00
International non-EU Student £16,500.00

Part Time Fees

EU Student £3,800.00
Home Student £3,800.00
Island Student £3,800.00
International non-EU Student £9,100.00

Note: Fees are subject to review and change in-line with inflation.

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and funding

Career Opportunities

Department of Philosophy

For information on career options and employability, including the results of the Destination of Leavers survey, student and employer testimonials and details of work experience and study abroad opportunities, please click here.

Open days and visits

Pre-application open day

Overseas Visit Schedule

Postgraduate Visits


Department Information

Department of Philosophy


The Department provides a welcoming, supportive, friendly and stimulating research environment for all our students, which stresses the diversity, openness and interdisciplinarity of our approaches to philosophy. Postgraduate students participate in reading groups, research seminars, working groups, Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures, and conferences organised by the Department and its associated research centres. We also run a postgraduate philosophy society, Eidos, the journal Philosophical Writings, and frequently organise conferences.

Departmental research is organised in five clusters: Aesthetics, Applied Phenomenology, Ethics, History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine and Mind, Language and Metaphysics. The diversity of our staff research expertise allows our taught and research postgraduate students considerable flexibility in the topics they work on. Complementing the Department’s academic strengths is our location: occupying two charming former townhouses and surrounded by cafés, pubs and restaurants and just a few minutes’ walk from the scenic banks of the River Wear.

The Department provides our postgraduate students with comprehensive training, designed to support their research and professional development, which is integrated into its broader research environment. Students are assigned to a research cluster and a supervisory team.

Our students participate in bi-annual research group workshops, where they give presentations on their ongoing research and receive detailed feedback and advice from academic staff with relevant expertise. In some areas of research there are weekly research group with staff participation, or reading group meetings. These serve to create collaboration among PhD students as well as opportunities for co-authored publications. They also present their work at conferences in the UK and abroad, with financial support from the Department.

This supportive environment ensures that our graduates are well placed for academic employment, and our placement record is correspondingly strong, with many of our PhD students going on to lectureships and postdoctoral fellowships in the UK and abroad.


Changes to History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine (2017)

Date Change
Removal of module 'Gender, Medicine and Sexuality in Early Modern Europe' as this will not be offered for 2017/18 - as per email from the department on 03/10/16

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