History of Medicine BMedSc - Intercalated Degree

Start date
September / October annually depending on published term dates
1 Year Full Time
Course Type
Undergraduate, Intercalated, Single Honours

As a medical or dentistry student, you may choose to take a year out from your medical course and study on one of our intercalated Medical Science degree programmes. The Intercalated BMedSc degree in the History of Medicine aims to provide a broad and comprehensive introduction to the history of medicine.

The degree programme will emphasise its social context, concentrating on specific areas from antiquity to the present day, which have particular relevance to our understanding of modern medical practice. It also offers a unique opportunity for medical students to acquire transferable research skills and undertake an original piece of medical history research. During this year you will acquire skills in analysing and interpreting research papers and also gain substantial, direct experience of novel research.

The key aims of the degree programme are to:

  • introduce you to the wider social, cultural and political issues that are central to the study of the history of medicine.
  • provide the opportunity to study particular topics of historical and contemporary interest in depth with specialist historians of medicine.
  • promote transferable reading, writing, and critical and presentational skills.
  • enable you to develop research skills and pursue an advanced research topic of their own choosing.

The programme is based on a series of taught courses in the first semester, aimed at acquiring the background and skills essential for research into the history of medicine. The second semester is spent undertaking research, individually structured to meet your interests. It is possible to spend a period abroad studying sources and collecting material. The success of the research element is the key to the success of the degree programme as a whole.

The module is based in the Centre for the History of Medicine, which has a growing reputation for teaching and research, and unlike many other similar centres in the UK, is an integral part of the life of the College of Medical and Dental Sciences.


Semester 1

The Intercalated degree of BMedSc (History of Medicine) is an integral part of a series of linked degrees that form the Intercalated BMedSc Population Sciences and Humanities (PoSH) course, although there is only a limited amount of common teaching with the other degrees.

The first semester is made up of lectures, seminars and tutorials, whilst the second semester is spent solely engaged in a personal research project, the components of which (dissertation preparation, poster presentation and dissertation) account for 60 credits, or one-half of the whole marks for the programme.

The following compulsory modules are for students taking the BMedSc (History of Medicine) degree (Module Co-ordinator is Jonathan Reinarz).

  • Research Methodologies in the History of Medicine
  • Health, Medicine and Society, 1750-2000
  • The History of Medical Institutions, 1700-1950
  • The History of Disease Theories, 1700-2000

Semester 2

The second semester is devoted entirely to the Research Project Design and Research Project modules. The Research Project Design module contributes 10 credits to the degree and is assessed through your project proposal and poster presentation in April 2010. The Research Project module contributes 50 credits and is assessed through the submission of a 10,000 word dissertation.

  •  Research Project

Support and Supervision

Each student will have an academic supervisor to oversee their research activity. The Programme Lead, Dr Jonathan Reinarz, and other members of the Centre for the History of Medicine team will be available to offer support and guidance for all aspects of the course.

Example research projects

Below are some example research projects from recent History of Medicine students. These have been selected to give an indication of the range of possible projects:

  • Extreme Medicine: A History of High Altitude Scientific Research - Principally Concentrating on the Himalayan Scientific and Mountaineering Expedition 1960/61
  • Personal Growth in Transitional Spaces - The Contribution of Harold Bridger to the Therapeutic Community Movement
  • A History of the Birmingham and Midland Hospital for Diseases of the Nervous System, Paralysis and Epilepsy
  • The London Smallpox Hospital at Battle Bridge (1767-1846)
  • No More "Need for the Drum" - A Study of the Early Institutional Care of Canada's First Nations 1846-1925
  • A Cry from the Boat Cabins' - An analysis of the living conditions and occupational health of the canal-boat population 1830-1950
  • Health for the Masses - Barefoot Doctors and their work in Rural China 1958-1980s
  • "A Dangerous Coast" - A Medical History of the British Campaign in Egypt 1801
  • Quacks in the Façade: Medical Practice in Georgian Birmingham, c.1750-1800
  • The Blitz on Coventry's Health: The Health Effects of the Bombing of Coventry in the Second World War
  • Behind All That Glitters: The Health of South Africa Native Diamond Miners on De Beer's Kimberley Diamond Mines 1870-1900
The modules listed on our website may occasionally be subject to change. For example, as you will appreciate, key members of staff may leave the University and this might necessitate a review of the modules that are offered. Where a module is no longer available, we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.


Standard Fees Apply

All students are entitled to reclaim up to £500 project expenses for conduction of their research. Claims must be accompanied by original receipts. Further to this students who incur travel costs are eligible to apply for an Arthur Thompson Travel Award (up to £500). Applications for these awards will be considered at the end of the programme of study and are not guaranteed. These sources of funding are available to all students irrespective of their primary University of study.

Internal bursaries

All students who are registered on the MBChB or Dental Programmes at the University of Birmingham are eligible to apply for a bursary to support them during their period of study. The intention to apply should be indicated on the application form and students expressing an intention will receive further information. Bursaries are currently set at £3,000 and are limited. Students with an overall mean mark of <65% in year 2 of their programme of study are unlikely to be awarded a bursary.

Our funding sources mean that we are unable to offer bursaries to students from outside of Birmingham.

External bursaries

The College usually receives an invitation each year from the Royal College of Physicians to submit a limited number of applications for their Wolfson intercalated programme. The deadline for this is usually the end of March which means the programme needs to shortlist by mid-March. Bursaries are up to £5000 and are nationally competitive. Our students have a very good record in securing such awards. Any student interested in applying needs to contact the BMedSc PoSH Administration team by the 31st of January in the year in which they plan to apply.

Eligible students should:

  • Demonstrate a consistent and outstanding academic track record (an overall mean mark >70% in year 2 and consistently high marks in other years. N.B. Because of the need to show consistent academic achievement it is expected that students will be in year 3 or 4 at the time of application. A second year applicant who can demonstrate excellence may be considered but should contact the admissions tutor at the earliest opportunity to discuss this).
  • Be applying for an intercalation in one of our science programmes (International Health, or Public Health and Population Sciences). As this bursary relates to science projects students on humanities programmes (Health Management and Leadership, or History of Medicine) should not apply, but should make contact with the relevant programme lead to enquire whether there are any discipline specific bursaries currently available nationally.
  • Have a research focus or area of interest (Support will be given during February to develop this into an application).
  • Be prepared to work on their application (including designing a research project) during February and early March. 

All eligible students who express an interest will have the opportunity to meet with the Admissions Tutor to discuss the application and receive guidance in drafting an application. Further to this there will be the opportunity to submit one draft application by the 28th February for comment. All students will then be required to submit their application by the specified deadline (varies annually but likely to be mid-March). Students will be informed if their application has been selected for submission to the Royal College within 2 weeks. Any student submitted will receive an early and unconditional place on the programme. Unsuccessful applicants will be able to use their work in their application for an internal bursary.

How To Apply

Applications have now closed for September 2024 entry.

Applications for this programme will be accepted from students wishing to intercalate after year 3 or 4 of their medical studies, or year 2 for Dental students. Students must have obtained >60% in the second year of MBChB or BDS to be eligible. Applicants will be ranked on their year 2 mark and on their answers to the questions on the application form. 

Please note: students who have failed to achieve 60% may still apply, but are required to demonstrate a significant upward academic trajectory or excellence in specific areas related to the proposed intercalation. 

Applications From Students Not Currently Registered at Birmingham

We are happy to consider applications for any of the programmes within the Population Sciences and Humanities subjects from students from other institutions. We have a strong track record over recent years in supporting these students and facilitating integration into their new institution.

Applications from students from other universities should be made on our standard application form and must be accompanied by a transcript of marks from your current institution. Should an offer of a place be made to you further admission forms will be sent from the University via our Course Administrator.

We are always happy to discuss our programmes with students from other universities. If you have any queries or wish to discuss the opportunities available to you in Birmingham please contact the BMedSc PoSH Administration team.

Please be aware applications have now closed for September 2024 entry. 

As a Birmingham student you are part of an academic elite and will learn from world-leading experts. From the outset you will be encouraged to become an independent and self-motivated learner. We want you to be challenged and will encourage you to think for yourself.

Your learning will take place in a range of different settings, from scheduled teaching in lectures and small group tutorials, to self-study and peer group learning (for example preparing and delivering presentations with your classmates).

Assessment Methods

You’ll be assessed in a variety of ways, and these may be different with each module that you take. You will be assessed through coursework which may take the form of group and individual presentations, laboratory-based work (depending on your chosen degree) and formal exams.

At the beginning of each module, you’ll be given information on how and when you’ll be assessed for that particular programme of study. You’ll receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done. You’ll be given feedback on any exams that you take; if you should fail an exam we will ensure that particularly detailed feedback is made available to enable you to learn for the future.

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