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B.A. Medical Humanities - Intercalated Degree

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

As a medical or dentistry student, you may choose to take a year out from your medical course and study on our BA in Medical Humanities (intercalated year) degree programme. Modern medicine is a career that needs doctors who can understand humans as more than just a body or a series of symptoms. 

The medical humanities intercalated year gives you an opportunity to combine your medical background with final year level study outside science to gain new insights and, hopefully, change your medical practice and understanding of people.

We know this will be hard work but we know it will be interesting and good fun.

During this year you will specialise in a chosen discipline, acquire skills in analysing and interpreting research papers and also gain substantial experience of novel research.

The medical humanities programme at the University of Birmingham is unique in that it lets medical students chose a new avenue of study for a year. Students devise their own programme of study, spending half of the year working in disciplines they choose to produce a coherent programme of study. The modules you select will give you the disciplinary foundation and understanding required for your research project. Subjects studied by students on our course include philosophy, English literature, human geography, theology, gender studies and politics.

You will conduct an independent research project over the course of your intercalated year. This project will offer you the opportunity to produce a large piece of work (your dissertation) that expresses your unique understanding of a topic through both your humanities and medical lens.  The dissertation will allow you to demonstrate your ability to identify worthwhile research questions, engage in innovative approaches to knowledge, provide creative insights to your topic and will reflect your experience of working across disciplinary boundaries.

*Please note this programme may not run in any future given academic year if there is insufficient student interest or numbers. In addition, the programme may be modified or developed in the future and particular modules or lectures may be replaced or not available in any future given year.

This programme provides the opportunity for you to acquire specialist knowledge and undertake a significant piece of research that combines your medical background with your new discipline. Like other Birmingham intercalated programmes the key feature of this programme is the opportunity to spend the year completing research on a topic that interests you.

On completion of the programme you should have knowledge and understanding of:

  • Commonly used research methods and data analysis techniques in your new discipline
  • Key concepts, theory and practice in the subject areas chosen

In addition to enhancing knowledge and understanding we believe our teaching methods with emphasis on feedback and easy access to support strongly promote development of the following skills and attributes:

  • The ability to critically read and appraise research evidence
  • The ability to produce academic research
  • The ability to manage a research project from conception to completion with enhanced project management skills which will be transferable to other aspects of your career
  • Enhanced independent learning skills
  • Improved ability to think logically and broadly about a range of problems, drawing on a variety of disciplines to support arguments 

Through your research project you will:

  • Identify and develop a viable research question
  • Undertake a scholarly and evidence based review of the current state of knowledge using the specific disciplines relevant to your topic
  • Identify theories and concepts which allow you to frame your research questions in a critical way
  • Design a methodological approach to your research question(s) so that you may generate knowledge and make valid claims.
  • Evaluate primary and secondary material and identify key evidence relevant to sustain the argument you wish to pursue
  • Construct a fluent and coherent extended argument in response to the problem you identify
  • Work effectively to manage time and maximise the benefits of the supervisory framework
  • Organise and present the material in a professional way (accurate referencing, complete bibliography, clear tables and illustrations)
  • Present ideas concisely and lucidly in a visual format.

Other aspects to this course

  • Create your own degree – the medical humanities intercalated year is a uniquely flexible course which allows students combine arts or social sciences with your medical background.  For most students this means specialising in a single subject such as philosophy, but you might study two that are complementary such as politics and human geography.  It is also possible to study under the umbrella of gender studies. Optional language modules are available under languages for all.
  • Cultural Programme - We also have a well-established Cultural Programme , which brings poets, writers, academics and scientific specialists to speak to you on campus, whilst also taking you on trips beyond the University to theatres and exhibitions. 

Student testimonials

  • “.. it has probably been my favourite year at uni!”

  • “An amazing opportunity to leave the medic bubble and learn a whole new way of analysing the problems the world and future healthcare face”

  • “…LANS are so open which fosters a great learning environment.”

  • “It’s about doing something you enjoy”

  • "I am re-invigorated going back into medicine"


Students will take 120 credits over the year

40 credits will be taken up by your research project with 20 credits normally distributed in each semester.

You will take 10-20 credits in interdisciplinary study through our in house modules Interdisciplinarity I and II.  Masters level modules may be offered as an alternative if they are available in 23-24.

This leaves you with 60-70 credits that you may take in modules of your choice.

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 Thomson 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.

How To Apply

Please contact our Intercalation team to make enquiries and apply.

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 always happy to discuss our programme with students from other universities and we would welcome applications from them. If you have any queries or wish to discuss the opportunities available to you in Birmingham please contact the LANS medical humanities administration team -

If you wish to apply please contact us and we will send you our standard application form. This must be accompanied by a transcript of marks from your current institution. Should an offer of a place be made to you we will send you any other paperwork you need to complete.

As a Birmingham student you are part of an academic elite and will learn from world-leading experts. On this course, where you will be working in a completely different discipline to medicine you will have to be an independent and self-motivated learner. Through your courses you will be challenged and will develop in ways you hadn’t previously considered possible.

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

Support and Supervision

Each student will have a personal tutor in LANS.  For your research project you will have two supervisors – one who will be a specialist in your chosen discipline and research area and the other will be from LANS.

Dr Jennifer Marshall will be present to offer guidance and support during your time with us, as will the whole LANS team who have substantial experience in a variety of academic disciplines and methods.

Past projects

Below are some example projects from recent Medical humanities graduates:

  • Bored to Death: An Analysis of the Boredom Objection and the Psychological Effects of Life Extending Therapies
  • Gestational surrogacy in the UK: is altruistic surrogacy inherently exploitative of the surrogate?
  • TRANS* TEENS IN MEDICAL CIS-TEMS: Analysing medicine in empowering and impairing adolescent gender journeys
  • Are adults morally responsible for developing obesity?
  • ‘What does the Government’s discourse about the 2021 Health and Care Bill tell us about their intentions with, and ideologies surrounding, private sector involvement in the NHS?’
  • “Eco-anxiety”: an analysis and comparison of the emotional responses towards climate change
  • How does a medical and cultural analysis of the romanticisation of mental illness and creativity inform our understanding of this phenomenon?
  • Dengue in Delhi: An interdisciplinary analysis of the Aedes mosquito habitat and dengue infected person in Delhi.
  • Phronesis as an Approach to Decision-Making in the Management of Medical Uncertainty
  • We’re not going to have a big bang privatisation for the NHS. We’re going to have a very quiet one.”  – an analysis of healthcare privatisation in England
  • Surgical Trainees’ Perceptions of Empathy within Training: A Qualitative Study

Assessment Methods

Assessment in the arts and social sciences can take different forms and will change from module to module. This may include coursework which can take the form of essays, group and individual presentations and formal exams.

For each module, you’ll be given information on how and when you’ll be assessed. You’ll receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done.

If you are uncertain about how to work in your new disciplines, or write larger pieces of work then there is help available to you. Your personal tutor, and all the LANS staff are here to help, most members of staff who run modules in CAL, CoSS and LES have drop in hours where they will talk to you about your work. The academic skills centre, CAL academic writing service and EPS education team are also here to help.

Preparation for your career should be one of the first things you think about when considering your intercalated year. Whether you have a clear idea of where your future aspirations lie or want to consider the broad range of opportunities available once you have a Birmingham degree, our Careers Network can help you achieve your goal.

Our unique careers guidance service is tailored to your academic subject area, offering a specialised team (in each of the five academic colleges) who can give you expert advice. Our team source exclusive work experience opportunities to help you stand out amongst the competition, with mentoring, global internships and placements available to you. You can have one-to-one support with CV’s and job applications

Your Birmingham degree is evidence of your ability to succeed in a demanding academic environment. Employers target Birmingham students for their drive, diversity, communication and problem-solving skills, their team-working abilities and cultural awareness, and our graduate employment statistics have continued to climb at a rate well above national trends. If you make the most of the wide range of services you will be able to develop your career from the moment you arrive. 

Find out more about Careers Network.