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MPhil in Health, Medicine and Society


About the course

The MPhil in Health, Medicine and Society is jointly run by the departments of History and Philosophy of Science, Social Anthropology and Sociology. It is overseen by the overall MPhil Manager, who oversee the day-to-day running of the course, and four Subject Managers, who are responsible for those students who have chosen their area as a ‘home subject’. The subject areas are below:

  • History of medicine
  • Medical anthropology
  • Medical sociology
  • Philosophy and ethics of medicine

The MPhil and Subject Managers oversee the students’ programmes of study and ensure that they attend all necessary meetings and trainings sessions, and that they find appropriate topics and supervisors for each piece of coursework. They will see students at regular intervals throughout the year to discuss progress and offer help and advice. The Course Manager is responsible for submitting termly supervision reports and will give feedback to students after work has been marked.

Students produce four pieces of written work over the course of the year: three essays and a dissertation. The essays are based on topics set by teaching staff, and the dissertation topic is decided by the student.


Scope of supervisions

The role of the supervisor is to support the students’ research and writing of their individual essays and dissertations. Supervisors do not grade work that they have supervised; the coursework and dissertation will be examined by others. However, they may be asked to recommend assessors for work they have supervised. They are also expected to provide advice on students’ research strategies as well as drafts of written work.

Timing of supervisions

MPhil students can expect two hours of supervision on each essay and four hours for the dissertation. Typically, the initial supervision is 15-30 minutes, and is used to ensure that the student has a suitable approach to the topic and to agree a schedule of work. The remaining supervision time should be focussed on discussing submitted work. Supervision by email is discouraged.

The first essay is submitted in late November, the second essay is submitted in early February, and the third essay is submitted in mid March. The dissertation is submitted in the first week of June. The timing of supervisions will have to take account of these deadlines. Supervisors are not expected to offer supervisions outside of term time, but may use their discretion in this matter.

Working with human participants

Students wishing to conduct interviews or otherwise work with human participants should be made aware that the timeframe for the essays is not long enough to allow for this type of research and they should look at alternative ways of achieving their goals. Students should only work with human participants for the dissertation, and need to plan well in advance for this in order to ensure they have the skills required and that they have time to obtain any ethical approval that may be necessary. Supervisors should advise students planning these projects to review relevant guidance on working with human participants, both within the Department of History and Philosophy of Science and within the Department in which the research is being carried out (if these differ)

Guidance for HMS students on working with human participants


To claim payment for supervising MPhil students, use the following form:

Graduate supervision claim form

Payment for MPhil supervisions is the equivalent of the £55 per term rate set by the University - i.e. £37 for supervising each essay, and £55 for the dissertation. Payments will be made by History & Philosophy of Science, Social Anthropology or Sociology at the end of the year. You should return your form to the appropriate department for the subject area in which you have been supervising.

Supervisors are advised to obtain a National Insurance number (if they do not already have one) to ensure that they can receive payment for their work.

Further advice

Supervisors should familiarise themselves with the programme specification, students' guide and examination guide, as well as the University Code of Practice, which provides further information on the mutual expectations of graduate students and supervisors.

If supervisors are uncertain about the advice they should give to questions about word limits, essay titles, deadlines or any other matter, they should refer first to the guidance in the links provided in this page, and then to the  MPhil Manager or Graduate Secretary. For pastoral matters, the College Graduate Tutor is usually the correct person to approach.

Resources for supervisors