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MPhil in Health, Medicine and Society



For successful completion of the course, you must submit the following written work for examination:

  • A ‘formative’ essay of not more than 3,000 words. This essay is internally assessed, but does not contribute towards the final mark.
  • Two essays of no more than 5,000 words.
  • A dissertation of no more than 12,000 words.

Essays two and three each account for 20% of the final mark, and the dissertation accounts for 60%.

Once submitted, each essay and dissertation is read anonymously by two senior academic members of staff, neither of whom will have supervised the work being marked. Both will submit independent reports.

Assessment standards

Formally, this MPhil is a pass/fail course, and no marks are made publicly available. However, you will receive feedback, including provisional marks, throughout the year, and internal transcripts at the end of the year.

The essays must show evidence of a critical engagement with health, medicine and society; they are not required to present original research in order to pass. The dissertation must be clearly written, take account of previously published work on the subject, and represent a contribution to learning. It must show evidence of independent research.

When marking coursework examiners will be asking:

  1. What is the main achievement of this work? Is there an original contribution? If so, what is it?
  2. Does the candidate show a good understanding of relevant material? Is the content of the work informative and insightful?
  3. Does the candidate advance effective arguments contributing towards well-articulated conclusions?
  4. Has the candidate used a sufficient number and range of appropriate sources? Are they effectively used and properly credited and cited?
  5. Does the work have a clear and effective structure? Is the writing clear, grammatical, and free of typographical and other errors? Is the style of the references and footnotes clear and consistent?

The standard for a pass begins at 60. Internally, the Degree Committee adopts the following mark scheme:





Starred Distinction An outstanding and memorable performance in which all the qualities deemed to constitute first-class work are present in a remarkable degree. The work should be well researched and substantially original, bearing in mind that originality has many dimensions: it may reside, for instance, in the thesis defended; or in the way a known thesis is presented and defended. Such work might well form the basis for publication. Potential for outstanding PhD work.



Work which is of high calibre both in the range and in the command of the material and in the argument and analysis that it brings to bear. The examiners would expect some elements of originality – which may consist in putting together material in novel ways – although originality alone would not guarantee marks in this range. Work in this class will generally meet the following criteria: the argument may be sophisticated, incisive or demonstrate excellence in composition and clarity; there may be a wealth of relevant information, showing exceptional knowledge and understanding of the issues involved; the approach may be unorthodox in the best sense, suggesting new and worthwhile ways of considering material, and distinctive in character and scholarly voice. The submitted work may display evidence of extensive research imaginatively and convincingly deployed.

70–74: A solid performance which meets some of the criteria for distinction but not necessarily all. Shows potential for PhD work.

75–79: A very strong and original performance which clearly meets most of the criteria for distinction. Clear potential for good PhD work.

65–69 High Performance Clearly proficient with a proper coverage of relevant material, and reasonably well-presented. Work in this category may be solid but unimaginative. Ambition of work is clearly visible but may not be carried through sufficiently. The analysis and argument are generally good. There is some evidence of good engagement with existing literature. It displays critical thinking, some sophistication in analysis, and a good deal of relevant knowledge. It is sufficiently clear and well-organised.


Work which is basically competent, and, in the case of dissertations, reasonably independent. Interesting and provocative ideas may not be carried through fully convincingly. The main thesis may be vague, too general, too unambitious or else over-ambitious. There may be gaps in the bibliography, deficiencies in the overall structure, weaknesses of analysis and argument, or lack of clarity.
0-59 Fail

57–59 (Marginal Fail): Work in this category represents serious effort, but fails to meet MPhil standards in some important way: the depth and breadth of research, the quality of argumentation, or clarity, organisation and literary presentation.

50–56 (Clear Fail): Work in this category contains something of value, but has significant deficiencies in more than one important respect: the depth and breadth of research, the quality of argumentation, or clarity, organisation and literary presentation.

0–49 (Low Fail): Work in this category is significantly inadequate in the quality and quantity of content, and only contains material that is derivative, irrelevant, inaccurate, incoherent or superficial.

Candidates are required to pass in the essay and dissertation components of the examination separately except in the following special circumstances:

  • A candidate whose failure in the essays is marginal will be allowed to submit a dissertation, and a high performance in the dissertation may be taken into account by the Degree Committee. Candidates whose overall essay mark is a marginal fail will be warned by the MPhil Manager in April.
  • Where a candidate's failure in the dissertation is marginal, a high performance in the essays may be taken into consideration by the Degree Committee.

At the end of the course, examiners may decide to hold an oral examination. Such an examination will in any case be necessary if the dissertation is judged to be a marginal fail.


The Habib Prize, endowed by Benyamin Habib, is awarded each year to the MPhil student who has the best overall performance in the formally assessed essays.

The Forrester Prize, endowed by the family of John Forrester, is awarded each year to the MPhil student with the best performance in the dissertation.

Student Prizes

Results and Degree approval

You will receive your dissertation marks and feedback after the Degree Committee meets in late June. Marks will subsequently be ratified by the Student Registry, at which point you will be able to obtain a formal transcript and make arrangements for graduation.

Your College will be your primary contact regarding graduation arrangements. For further information, visit the Student Registry website.

If you receive an extension to your dissertation deadline, you may not receive your marks and reports until September or October.