Taught course

Medical Anthropology

Brunel University, London · Social Sciences, Media and Communications

Entry requirements

A UK first or second class Honours (2.2) degree or an equivalent internationally recognised qualification.

Applicants with other degrees that have relevant experience will be considered on an individual basis.

Applicants will be interviewed either in person or by telephone.

Months of entry


Course content

The MSc Medical Anthropology degree aims to equip students with a broad, general understanding of anthropology and how it might be applied to medical and health-related problems. Through the close study of key texts in medical anthropology, the original fieldwork experiences of your lecturers, and through designing and undertaking (with our guidance) your own research project, you will also develop a deeper understanding of how people’s ideas about the world – as well as the structural constraints within which they find themselves – have an impact on their understanding and experience of often taken-for-granted ideas about health, sickness and disease. If you’ve wondered about some or all of the questions below – all of which are addressed in the degree – this could be the course for you:

  • How does poverty contribute to the profiles of diseases such as diabetes and tuberculosis?
  • Why are some diseases, such as leprosy or AIDS/HIV, feared and stigmatized?
  • Why do some biomedical interventions seeking to control infectious and non-infectious diseases work, and others fail?
  • What might stop some patients seeking conventional treatments for cancers and other other conditions – even when they are offered for free – despite the apparent efficacy of the medicines available?
  • How does one make the distinction between the healthy and the pathological? Is being ‘disabled’, for example, always a negative state, or might some consider it just another, equally valid, way of being?
  • What are the effects of political, economic and other social conditions on people’s experiences of what, from a biomedical perspective, might be considered the same diseases?
  • How and why is it appropriate to combine insights emerging from clinical and epidemiological research with ethnographic understandings of health, illness and disease?

The Brunel MSc addresses these issues and more in a lively and challenging way, through a programme of lectures, class discussions, and your own – personally directed – final dissertation research project.

Brunel was the first University in Europe to establish a Master's degree in Medical Anthropology, and since then we have continued to develop our programme to reflect the changing world in which we live. In short, Medical Anthropology can be described as the study of cultural beliefs and practices associated with the origin, recognition and management of health and illness in different social and cultural groups. Literally hundreds of students – doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, social workers and other medical professionals among them – can testify to the quality of our programme, having used it either to enhance their professional practice, to change career or to develop their research interests for future studies.

Anthropology at Brunel is well-known for its focus on ethnographic fieldwork: as well as undertaking rigorous intellectual training, all our students are expected to get out of the library and undertake their own, original research – whether in the UK or overseas – and to present their findings in a dissertation. Students take this opportunity to travel to a wide variety of locations across the world.

Full-time (one year), attendance for lectures is just two days a week. Part-time (two years) attendance for lectures is just one day a week. 24 weeks attendance per year.

Typical Modules (subject to change) include:

  • Ethnographic Research Methods
  • Medical Anthropology in Clinical and Community Settings
  • Anthropology of Global Health
  • Applied Medical Anthropology in the Arena of Global Health

Elective modules (subject to change) may include:

  • The Anthropology of the Body
  • Ethnicity, Culture and Identity
  • Anthropology of the Person
  • Kinship, Sex and Gender

Information for international students

International students are welcomed. We require IELTS 6.5 (min 6.0 in all sections) or equivalent. Please visit our dedicated web pages: www.brunel.ac.uk/international

Fees and funding

UK students
£7,500 full-time; £3,750 part-time
International students
£14,400 full-time; £7,200 part-time

Cecil Helman Scholarship Fund
Set up to honour the life and work of leading light in international medical anthropology Professor Cecil Helman (1944-2009), the Doctor Cecil Helman Scholarship Fund provides fieldwork support for between two and four students (up to £1000) on our MSc Medical Anthropology course. (Please check - to be confirmed each year.)

Read about funding opportunities available to postgraduate students

Qualification and course duration


part time
30 months
full time
12 months


AssessmentWhat kind of work will I be doing? (proportionally)
Written coursework / continuous assessment66
Dissertation34 (15000 words)

Course contact details

Brunel Course Enquiries