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Medical Anthropology MSc

Subject area: Anthropology

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Mode of study

1-year full-time; 2.5 years part-time

PG Code

L620PMEDANTH

Start date

September

Medical Anthropology MSc

Overview

Recent webinars

Click here to watch a recording of our most recent Anthropology postgraduate webinar.

Postgraduate Loans: From 1 August 2016, students who live in England will be able to apply for a Postgraduate Loan in academic year 2016/17 of up to £10,000. Find out more

About the course

Brunel was the first university in Europe to establish a Master's degree in Medical Anthropology. 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 – see “Special Features” for more details.

Attendance for lectures full-time: 2 days per week - for 24 weeks
Attendance for lectures part-time: 1 day per week - for 24 weeks (in each of 2 years)

Aims

The degree aims to equip students with a broad, general understanding of anthropology and how it might be applied to medical and health-related problems.

You will 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 health, sickness and disease.

You’ll achieve this through close study of key texts in medical anthropology, the original fieldwork experiences of your lecturers, and through designing and undertaking your own research project.

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 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 Medical Anthropology 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.

Enquiries

Admissions and Course Enquiries
Web: Admissions Enquiries Information
Tel (before application): +44 (0)1895 265599 (Course Enquiries)
Tel (after application): +44 (0)1895 265265 (Admissions Office)
Contact Admissions or Course Enquiries Online

Course directors: Dr James Staples and Dr Isak Niehaus


Course Content

The main objectives of the course are to provide a rigorous grounding in key topics and perspectives in medical anthropology, and to equip candidates with a range of research skills to enable them to complete research successfully.


The MSc consists of both compulsory and optional modules, a typical selection can be found below. Modules can vary from year to year, but these offer a good idea of what we teach.

Full-time

Compulsory

Compulsory Reading Module: Political and Economic Issues in Anthropology

Compulsory Reading Module: Contemporary Anthropological Theory

Dissertation in Medical Anthropology

Ethnographic Research Methods 1

Ethnographic Research Methods 2

The Anthropology of Global Health

Applied Medical Anthropology in the Arena of Global Health

Medical Anthropology in Clinical and Community Settings

Optional

The Anthropology of the Body

Anthropology of the Person

Kinship, Sex and Gender

Anthropological Perspectives of Humanitarian Assistance

Anthropological Perspectives of War

Ethnicity, Culture and Identity

Part-time

Year 1

Medical Anthropology in Clinical and Community Settings

Compulsory Reading Module: Political and Economic Issues in Anthropology

Compulsory Reading Module: Contemporary Anthropological Theory

The Anthropology of Global Health

Applied Medical Anthropology in the Arena of Global Health

Year 2

Dissertation in Medical Anthropology

Ethnographic Research Methods 1

Ethnographic Research Methods 2

and optional modules

Read more about the structure of postgraduate degrees at Brunel and what you will learn on the course.

Special Features

All our degrees (whether full- or part-time) combine intensive coursework, rigorous training in ethnographic research methods, and a period of fieldwork in the summer term (final summer term if part-time) leading to up to a 15,000 word dissertation.

Students are free to choose their own research topic and geographic area, in consultation with their academic supervisor. In all cases, the dissertation research project provides valuable experience and in many cases it leads to job contacts – forming a bridge to a future career or time out for career development.

In recent years, students have undertaken fieldwork in locations across the world, including India, Mexico, Bolivia, Papua New Guinea, China, Nepal, Peru, Morocco, and New Zealand as well as within the UK and the rest of Europe.

A few examples of completed dissertations across our Anthropology courses include:

  • Psychological suffering on the borders of Myanmar/Thailand
  • An Inuit trauma unit in Ottawa, Canada
  • NGOs and youth activism in Trinidad
  • Neo-shamanism in Germany
  • Outcast London: attitudes and perspectives among hard-to-reach TB patients
  • Volunteer tourism and its impact on children in Nepal
  • Rap music and politics in Equatorial Guinea
  • Ayahuasca use among Westerners in the Amazon
  • Religious education in London’s secondary schools
  • Mental health in Ghana
  • The Tibetan diaspora in India
  • Life on a forensic psychiatric ward in Britain
  • Gender and sexuality in a hammam in Cairo
  • Youth and unemployment in Bari, Italy
  • Cultural factors and the experience of dementia in the UK
  • Management of diabetes in Cambodia
  • Trachoma and medical pluralism in Ethiopia
  • Training as a transcultural psychic in London

Internationally respected staff

The programme is run by experts in their field, who have worked in countries across the globe including South, West and East Africa, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka, as well as Britain. Find out more about their research interests by following the links:

Dr Nicolas Argenti

Dr Andrew Beatty

Dr Liana Chua

Dr Peggy Froerer

Dr Eric Hirsch

Dr Maria Kastrinou

Dr Isak Niehaus

Dr Will Rollason

Dr James Staples

Special scholarships

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 on our MSc Medical Anthropology course.

Dr Helman taught at Brunel University London from 1990, and became a Professor of Social Sciences in 2005. In 2004, he was awarded the American Anthropological Association’s career achievement award, and the following year he won the Royal Anthropological Institute's Lucy Mair medal.

As well as leading the way in Medical Anthropology, Dr Helman exercised his artistic talents through his paintings, poems, fables, and short fiction – all of which revolved around a theme of the human side of medicine and the narratives that surrounded the doctor-patient relationship.

Scholarship

The Cecil Helman Scholarship Fund offers between two and four students up to £1,000 to help them to complete field research for their dissertations.

Selection

The scholarship will be awarded to MSc Medical Anthropology students who demonstrate excellent academic performance and the ability to undertake an original field research project.

Teaching and Assessment

Assessment

 

Assessment is by essay, practical assignments (e.g. analysis of a short field exercise) and a dissertation of up to 15,000 words. This dissertation is based upon fieldwork undertaken by the candidate. There are no examinations.

Employability

Careers

Students will acquire analytical and research skills that can be used in a wide range of careers. For instance, graduates will find that the degree enhances professional development in fields such as midwifery, general practice, sexual health, psychiatry, nutrition, psychotherapy, public health, non-governmental agencies and international development. Some of our graduates also go on to do further research for a PhD in medical anthropology.

At Brunel we provide many opportunities and experiences within your degree programme and beyond – work-based learning, professional support services, volunteering, mentoring, sports, arts, clubs, societies, and much, much more – and we encourage you to make the most of them, so that you can make the most of yourself.

» More about Employability

Fees for 2016/7 entry

UK/EU students: £7,300 full-time; £3,650 part-time

International students: £14,100 full-time; £7,050 part-time

Read about funding opportunities available to postgraduate students

UK/EU students can opt to pay in six equal monthly instalments: the first instalment is payable on enrolment and the remaining five by Direct Debit or credit/debit card.

Overseas students can opt to pay in two instalments: 60% on enrolment, and 40% in January for students who commence their course in September (or the remaining 40% in March for selected courses that start in January).

Fees quoted are per annum and are subject to an annual increase.

Entry Criteria 2016/7

  • A UK first or 2:2 Honours 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.

Entry criteria are subject to review and change each academic year.


International and EU Entry Requirements

If your country or institution is not listed or if you are not sure whether your institution is eligible, please contact Admissions

This information is for guidance only by Brunel University London and by meeting the academic requirements does not guarantee entry for our courses as applications are assessed on case-by-case basis.

English Language Requirements

  • IELTS: 6.5 (min 6 in all areas)
  • Pearson: 58 (51 in all subscores)
  • BrunELT: 65% (min 60% in all areas)

Brunel University London strongly recommends that if you will require a Tier 4 visa, you sit your IELTS test at a test centre that has been approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) as being a provider of a Secure English Language Test (SELT). Not all test centres have this status. The University can accept IELTS (with the required scores) taken at any official test centre or other English Language qualifications we accept as meeting our main award entry requirements.

However, if you wish to undertake a Pre-sessional English course to further improve your English prior to the start of your degree course, you must sit the test at an approved SELT provider. This is because you will only be able to apply for a Tier 4 student visa to undertake a Pre-sessional English course if you hold a SELT from a UKVI approved test centre. Find out more information about it.

Brunel also offers our own BrunELT English Test and accepts a range of other language courses. We also have Pre-sessional English language courses for students who do not meet these requirements, or who wish to improve their English.

Our International Pathways and Language Centre offers a number of foundation and pre-masters courses to provide you with the academic skills required for your chosen course.