UCL Health Humanities Centre


Health Humanities MA

Health matters impact on all aspects of our lives and are too important to be left to doctors and the medical profession. Health humanities explore the place of health and illness in society, and how methods from the humanities and social studies may be brought to bear on biomedicine, clinical practice, the politics of health care, and experiences and portrayals of health and illness in literature, film and contemporary culture.

What will I learn?

The programme gives students the ability to think about issues related to health and illness historically and in contemporary society. It will enable them to approach such issues from a variety of a disciplines, including anthropology, history, philosophy, sociology, science and technology studies, global health, literature and film studies, and to work in an interdisciplinary manner.

Degree Structure

Availability: Full-time 1 year; Part-time 2 years; Flexible up to 5 years;

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits. The programme consists of 2 core modules (30 credits each), and a combination of elective modules of 15 or 30 credits to be made up to a total of 60 credits.

PG Diploma and Certificate also available – full-time nine months; part-time two years; flexible up to 5 years

Postgraduate certificate (60 credits for completion of the 2 core modules).

Postgraduate diploma (120 credits for completion of the 2 core modules and two electives of 30 credits each).

Core Modules

The core modules will introduce to students to historical, philosophical and literary approaches to illness and madness.

  • CMII0075 Illness (James Wilson) (30 credits)

This module explores the experience of illness. It focuses in particular on tensions between subjective and objective, examining how rich and socially embedded interpretive responses to the experience of illness, can and should be brought into dialogue with biomedical, philosophical, and sociological understandings of the same phenomena. 

The first half of the course focuses on the role of narrative in constituting selves and illness experiences. We examine some ways in which those living with illness construct narratives to give expression to their experiences, and what a focus experience and narratives adds to a more biomedical conception of illness. The second half focuses on the intersection between biology, power and culture in constructing responses to illness, examining ideas of care and suffering, disability, stigma, illness experiences that struggle to receive recognition from biomedical science, and living under genetic risk. The sessions will be accompanied by an Illness reading group of four sessions.

(There is also a 15 credit version of this module, CMII0076)

  • CMII0074 Madness (Sonu Shamdasani) (30 credits)

This course explores the ways in which madness has been understood, treated and portrayed. It opens up debates concerning madness and its relation to ‘divine madness’ and inspiration in the Western tradition, and how these have continually recurred through history. It reconstructs the rise of psychiatry as a would be scientific branch of medicine at end of the eighteenth century, with a promise of humane treatment and refuge, and how alongside this, a counter-tradition of magnetism and hypnotism arose, with the aim of utilising altered states of consciousness for therapeutic ends. It follows the expansion of notions of psychopathology to encompass increasingly large sectors of society, accompanied by new psychological therapies, which generated not only new conceptions of illness, but new notions of well-being. It looks at the renewed debate in the 1960s concerning the medical understanding of madness, which raised questions concerning the status of psychiatry itself. Alongside professional developments, it highlights how writers responded to, reformulated and appropriated new models of madness. The sessions will be illustrated with excerpts from films. The course will be accompanied by a madness reading group of four sessions.

(There is also a 15 credit version of this course, CMII0122)


A total of 60 credits from the from the following recommended list of options or other related courses at UCL, with the approval of the convenor. Available options modules may slightly from year to year, depending on staff availability. Please note that some modules fill up very quickly, so places cannot be guaranteed.

  • Anthropology and Psychiatry (ANTHGD11, Roland Littlewood, 15 credits)
  • Classical Chinese Medicine (HISTG012, Vivienne Lo, 15 credits)
  • Clinically Applied Cultural Psychiatry (PSYCG025, Sushrut Jadhav, 15 credits)
  • Conflict, Humanitarianism and Health (CIHD3003, Mike Rowson, 15 credits)
  • Cultural Memory (ARCLG175, Beverly Butler, 15 credits)
  • German Literature and Psychology (GERMG055, Martin Liebscher, 30 credits)
  • Global Health and Development: Emerging Policy Debates (CIHDG039, Mike Rowson, 15 credits)
  • Global Justice and Health (PHILGA04, James Wilson, 15 credits)
  • Health Inequalities Over the Lifecourse (EPIDGS42, Mel Bartley, 15 credits)
  • Health Policy and Reform (PUBLG002, Albert Weale, 15 credits)
  • Medical Anthropology (ANTHGD12, Joe Calabrese, 15 credits)
  • Medieval Science and Medicine in Global Perspective (HPSCGA20, William MacLehose, 15 credits)
  • Philosophy, Politics and Economics of Health (PHILGA57, James Wilson, 15 credits)
  • Science, Technology, and Identity (HPSCGA46, Simon Lock, 15 credits)
  • Social Value and Public Policy, Health and the Environment (PUBLG084, Albert Weale, 15 credits)
  • Sex and the Body in Early Modern Europe (SPANG013A, Alexander Samson, 30 credits)
  • Anthropologies of Science, Society and Biomedicine (ANTHGD10 Sahra Gibbon, 15 credits)
  • From Skid Row to Obamacare: The Politics of Social Welfare in the United States since 1900 (AMERG041, Jonathan Bell, 15 credits)
  • Medicine on Screen (Michael Clark and Brian Glasser, 30 credits, taught at King's College)


All students undertake an independent research project which culminates in a dissertation of 10-12,000 words.

Teaching and Learning

The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars.

Assessment is through essays and a dissertation. There is no unseen examination.


Entry requirements

Normally a minimum of an upper second-class Bachelor's degree in a relevant discipline from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard.

English level required: Advanced

Who can apply? Normally a minimum of an upper second-class Bachelor's degree in a relevant discipline from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard.

What are we looking for?

When we assess your application we would like to learn:

  • why you want to study Health Humanities at graduate level
  • why you want to study Health Humanities at UCL
  • what particularly attracts you to the chosen programme
  • how your academic and professional background meets the demands of this challenging programme
  • where you would like to go professionally with your degree

Together with essential academic requirements, the personal statement is your opportunity to illustrate whether your reasons for applying to this programme match what the programme will deliver.

For all enquiries about admissions please contact Jo Wolff, Admissions Officer.


The Health Humanities Centre can nominate one candidate to apply for a Wellcome Trust Master's Award.

Full details of funding opportunities can be found on the UCL Scholarships website

From 2016/7 home and EU students on a Master's course will now be able to take a government post-graduate loan. For EU students, see here.

Why should I study this degree at UCL?

Setting within UCL’s new Health Humanities Centre, which draws together world leading researchers on medicine and health in history, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, literature, cultural and film studies, global health and science and technology studies, bioethics medical humanities, history of medicine, psychology and psychiatry, together with the involvement of leading clinicians in UCL’s acclaimed medical school and school of psychiatry engaged in humanities and social science research.

Setting within UCL’s new Institute of Advanced Studies, which showcases and fosters multidisciplinary research within the humanities and the social sciences, with an active programme of events and visiting international scholars.

Your Career

The MA provides an outstanding foundation for those hoping to undertake PhD research and pursue an academic career, ranging from interdisciplinary work

in the health humanities, as well as in a broad spectrum of more specialised disciplines, such as in medicine, the philosophy of medicine, history of medicine, medical sociology or medical anthropology among others. It is also a suitable preparation for careers in science and medical journalism, bioethics, health care policy, NGOs, museum and heritage, among others.


The programme gives students the ability to think about health and illness historically and in contemporary society, to approach such issues from a variety of a disciplines and to work in an interdisciplinary manner. It gives students the opportunity to engage in debate and develop their presentation skills. Students will gain experience in writing essays and training in conducting original research and applying the appropriate methodology for issues at hand. There are many additional activities available, within the Centre for Health Humanities and Institute of Advanced Studies and the wider UCL community, to help students develop employability skills.

Admitting Department: Centre for Multicultural and Interdisciplinary Inquiry For further details, contact Prof. Sonu Shamdasani (s.shamdasani@ucl.ac.uk) and Dr. James Wilson (james.wilson@ucl.ac.uk)