Two year intensive Master's programme training Physician Associates to deliver first contact medical care under the supervision of a senior doctor.
***Applications for the January 2025 intake will close on Friday 21st June 2024. Shortlisting and interviews will be scheduled to take place in August 2024. ***
A Physician Associate (PA) is a healthcare professional trained in the medical model to work with the medical team in order to deliver medical care to patients. PAs work under the supervision of a doctor in a range of specialities in both primary and secondary care. PAs are trained to take medical histories, carry out physical examinations, formulate diagnosis, request and interpret tests and investigations, undertake procedures and develop treatment and management plans.
The MSc in Physician Associate Studies aims to ensure students receive the required education and training in line with requirements of the national curriculum, enabling graduates to be successful in completion of the programme. It also aims to ensure that graduates are safe and competent clinicians, at the point of qualification.
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This intensive Master's programme is delivered full-time over 2 years. Year 1 is mainly theoretical and University based (5 days/ week) with 1 day per week in primary or secondary care (~100hrs) from the middle of year 1. Year 2 is mainly spent on clinical attachment with one day every 10 weeks back in University for further teaching and assessment. Students will develop a sound knowledge base in clinical medicine and develop comprehensive clinical examination skills which form the basis of their generalist medical education enabling them to enter work in any medical speciality. From that point, they develop the specialist knowledge required to progress their careers and care for patients.
Attendance is full time and based on the Derry~Londonderry Campus with clinical placements throughout Northern Ireland. Students are expected to attend all scheduled lectures, problem based learning sessions, clinical skills sessions and clinical placement.
Teaching, Learning and Assessment
The programme uses a variety of teaching methods to deliver the curriculum. Students will learn through classroom, problem, peer assisted and practice based learning. Students will also be expected to be independent and self-directed in their studies using all of the opportunities available to practice and revise. Students are required to participate in sessions particularly clinical exam skills and must be motivated to engage.
The programme uses both formative and summative methods to assess students. These are in the form of essays, reflections, case histories, single best answer questions, short answer questions, and OSCE examinations.
The course content will be delivered by appropriately qualified healthcare professionals who are expert in their fields and understand the role of the PA.
Teaching, learning and assessment
The content for each course is summarised on the relevant course page, along with an overview of the modules that make up the course.
Each course is approved by the University and meets the expectations of:
the requirements of any professional, regulatory, statutory and accrediting bodies.
Attendance and Independent Study
As part of your course induction, you will be provided with details of the organisation and management of the course, including attendance and assessment requirements - usually in the form of a timetable. For full-time courses, the precise timetable for each semester is not confirmed until close to the start date and may be subject to some change in the early weeks as all courses settle into their planned patterns. For part-time courses which require attendance on particular days and times, an expectation of the days and periods of attendance will be included in the letter of offer. A course handbook is also made available.
Courses comprise modules for which the notional effort involved is indicated by its credit rating. Each credit point represents 10 hours of student effort. Undergraduate courses typically contain 10, 20, or 40 credit modules (more usually 20) and postgraduate courses typically 15 or 30 credit modules.
The normal study load expectation for an undergraduate full-time course of study in the standard academic year is 120 credit points. This amounts to around 36-42 hours of expected teaching and learning per week, inclusive of attendance requirements for lectures, seminars, tutorials, practical work, fieldwork or other scheduled classes, private study, and assessment. Teaching and learning activities will be in-person and/or online depending on the nature of the course. Part-time study load is the same as full-time pro-rata, with each credit point representing 10 hours of student effort.
Postgraduate Master’s courses typically comprise 180 credits, taken in three semesters when studied full-time. A Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) comprises 60 credits and can usually be completed on a part-time basis in one year. A 120-credit Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) can usually be completed on a part-time basis in two years.
Class contact times vary by course and type of module. Typically, for a module predominantly delivered through lectures you can expect at least 3 contact hours per week (lectures/seminars/tutorials). Laboratory classes often require a greater intensity of attendance in blocks. Some modules may combine lecture and laboratory. The precise model will depend on the course you apply for and may be subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. Prospective students will be consulted about any significant changes.
Assessment methods vary and are defined explicitly in each module. Assessment can be a combination of examination and coursework but may also be only one of these methods. Assessment is designed to assess your achievement of the module’s stated learning outcomes. You can expect to receive timely feedback on all coursework assessments. This feedback may be issued individually and/or issued to the group and you will be encouraged to act on this feedback for your own development.
Coursework can take many forms, for example: essay, report, seminar paper, test, presentation, dissertation, design, artefacts, portfolio, journal, group work. The precise form and combination of assessment will depend on the course you apply for and the module. Details will be made available in advance through induction, the course handbook, the module specification, the assessment timetable and the assessment brief. The details are subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. You will be consulted about any significant changes.
Normally, a module will have 4 learning outcomes, and no more than 2 items of assessment. An item of assessment can comprise more than one task. The notional workload and the equivalence across types of assessment is standardised. The module pass mark for undergraduate courses is 40%. The module pass mark for postgraduate courses is 50%.
Calculation of the Final Award
The class of Honours awarded in Bachelor’s degrees is usually determined by calculation of an aggregate mark based on performance across the modules at Levels 5 and 6, (which correspond to the second and third year of full-time attendance).
Level 6 modules contribute 70% of the aggregate mark and Level 5 contributes 30% to the calculation of the class of the award. Classification of integrated Master’s degrees with Honours include a Level 7 component. The calculation in this case is: 50% Level 7, 30% Level 6, 20% Level 5. At least half the Level 5 modules must be studied at the University for Level 5 to be included in the calculation of the class.
All other qualifications have an overall grade determined by results in modules from the final level of study. In Master’s degrees of more than 200 credit points the final 120 points usually determine the overall grading.
Figures correct for academic year 2022-2023.
The University employs over 1,000 suitably qualified and experienced academic staff - 60% have PhDs in their subject field and many have professional body recognition.
Courses are taught by staff who are Professors (19%), Readers, Senior Lecturers (22%) or Lecturers (57%).
We require most academic staff to be qualified to teach in higher education: 82% hold either Postgraduate Certificates in Higher Education Practice or higher. Most academic and learning support staff (85%) are recognised as fellows of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) by Advance HE - the university sector professional body for teaching and learning. Many academic and technical staff hold other professional body designations related to their subject or scholarly practice.
The profiles of many academic staff can be found on the University’s departmental websites and give a detailed insight into the range of staffing and expertise. The precise staffing for a course will depend on the department(s) involved and the availability and management of staff. This is subject to change annually and is confirmed in the timetable issued at the start of the course.
Occasionally, teaching may be supplemented by suitably qualified part-time staff (usually qualified researchers) and specialist guest lecturers. In these cases, all staff are inducted, mostly through our staff development programme ‘First Steps to Teaching’. In some cases, usually for provision in one of our out-centres, Recognised University Teachers are involved, supported by the University in suitable professional development for teaching.
Figures correct for academic year 2022-2023.
Derry ~ Londonderry campus
Derry~Londonderry Campus Location
Derry ~ Londonderry campus offers an intimate learning environment.
Here is a guide to the subjects studied on this course.
Courses are continually reviewed to take advantage of new teaching approaches and developments in research, industry and the professions. Please be aware that modules may change for your year of entry. The exact modules available and their order may vary depending on course updates, staff availability, timetabling and student demand. Please contact the course team for the most up to date module list.
Clinical & Professional Competence in Physician Associate Studies 1
This module facilitates personal and professional development providing opportunities for participants to develop both personally and professionally through a variety of activities including reflection, self-directed study, group work, analysis of situations and synthesis. This builds upon module MPA702 with an emphasis on implementing and developing communication skills, history taking, physical exam skills and procedural skills . At the end of the module the student will be able to demonstrate their appropriateness for working as a Physician Associate in a variety of settings, supporting the assessment of personal skills and competencies.
Foundations in Clinical Medicine & Pharmacology 1
This module advances student knowledge and skills of students in relation to fundamental elements of clinical medicine, specifically the presentation, diagnosis and management of disease and health conditions with a focus on pathophysiology and clinical reasoning. The module serves as an arena in which the students integrate the learning from other modules of study, providing developing practitioners with an in-depth level of knowledge across the life span complemented by clinical experiences, theoretical knowledge, and clinical skills.
Research Methods & Evidence-based Medicine 1
This module will support acquisition of knowledge and understanding of evidence-based healthcare and research methodology and should provide the Physician Associate students with the ability to facilitate, source, appraise and integrate research evidence into medical decision making. This module should develop within the student a commitment to life-long learning and an inquisitive approach to professional practice.
Developing Professional Practice & Clinical Placements
This module builds on learning from modules in year 1, facilitating personal and professional development providing opportunities for participants to develop both personally and professionally through a variety of activities including reflection, self-directed study, group work, analysis of situations and synthesis. At the end of the module the student will be able to demonstrate their appropriateness for working as a Physician Associate in a variety of settings after completing the required clinical placements.
Foundations in Clinical Medicine & Pharmacology 2
This module builds on Foundations in Clinical Medicine 1, further advancing student knowledge and skills of students in relation to fundamental elements of clinical medicine, specifically the presentation, diagnosis and management of disease and health conditions with a focus on pathophysiology and clinical reasoning. The module serves as an arena in which the students integrate the learning from other modules of study, providing developing practitioners with an in-depth level of knowledge across the life span complemented by clinical experiences, theoretical knowledge, and clinical skills.
Clinical & Professional Competence in Physician Associate Studies 2
This module focuses on preparation for practice as a Physician Associate and assesses the competencies outlined in the national PA curriculum. The assessments will allow the student to demonstrate the skills and knowledge they have developed throughout the course. The assessments will follow the format of the national examinations administered by the Faculty of Physician Associates.
Research Methods & Evidence-based Medicine 2
This module prepares students for the next stage in their professional careers by facilitating further development of critical thinking skills, providing opportunities to design and deliver effective presentations and providing the opportunity to develop a research proposal.
Applicants must be graduates with at least a 2:2 degree classification (or equivalent overseas qualification) in a life science or health-related subject (which must contain significant elements of basic medical sciences), normally obtained within the last five years. Applicants must also have experience of paid or voluntary work with people, preferably in a health or social care context; a pass in GCSE Maths and English Language grades A-C; evidence of English language attainment if English is not the first language.
Applicants with non-standard entry qualifications which do not meet all the above criteria may be considered for entry at the discretion of the Course Committee. These potential applicants may be asked to submit a transcript from their undergraduate degree programme or asked to take some further modules in basic medical sciences at level 4 or equivalent, to meet the required levels of sciences required for application to the PA programme.
Offers are made on the basis of the written application and an interview/assessment process held on the Magee campus in Northern Ireland. You will also be required along with your application to submit a short personal statement outlining why you are applying for the course. Due to the nature of the programme you will be expected to undergo an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, police checks in line with NI law and occupational health screening. Offers are conditional, based on the successful completion of these processes.
Applicants must declare if they have been on another PA programme or a medical/healthcare professional register as per the application form and reasons for leaving the programme or register (where applicable). Failure to declare this will result in termination of the application or place on the programme. If you are already a registered healthcare professional you will be required to provide details of your registration.
English Language Requirements
English language requirements for international applicants The minimum requirement for this course is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. Trinity ISE: Pass at level III also meets this requirement for Tier 4 visa purposes.
Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.
Once a PA student has graduated from the course and passed the Physician Associate Registration Assessment (National Examination that all PAs in UK must pass to enter practice), PAs can work across a range of specialities throughout medicine. There are also opportunities to work in education and develop as potential future leaders of the PA profession. Newly qualifed PAs working in the Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland will usually complete a new graduate year (NGY), paid at Band 6, before progressing onto Band 7 positions. The agenda for change salary (afc) range does not apply to PAs working in primary care.
Graduates of the Ulster University MSc in Physician Associate Studies course are currently working in specialities such as primary care, emergency medicine, acute medicine, paediatrics, mental health, care of the elderly, haematology, cardiology, respiratory medicine, stroke, general surgery, trauma and orthopaedic surgery, urology, gynaecology and neurosurgery.
Work placement / study abroad
Clinical placement is a core element of this programme and is delivered over both years. It is fundamental ensuring that students are able to practice application of their newly acquired clinical medical knowledge and skills.
These placements will be based in and around Northern Ireland and students will be required to travel distances to their placements.
Fees and funding
Our postgraduate fees are subject to annual increase and are currently under review.
In order to ensure your safety and to permit you to fully avail of the many learning opportunities you may require vaccinations which will incur additional costs.
The University is not responsible for costs of travel or accommodation directly incurred in relation to undertaking the programme. Students also have additional costs to cover in relation to Occupational Health screening. Students will also have to pay for their membership to the Faculty of Physician Associates if they wish to join and also for the PA National Examination to enter into professional practice.
Additional items, for example, stethoscopes and textbooks will be required.
It is important to remember that costs associated with accommodation, travel (including car parking charges) and normal living will need to be covered in addition to tuition fees.
Where a course has additional mandatory expenses (in addition to tuition fees) we make every effort to highlight them above. We aim to provide students with the learning materials needed to support their studies. Our libraries are a valuable resource with an extensive collection of books and journals, as well as first-class facilities and IT equipment. Computer suites and free Wi-Fi are also available on each of the campuses.
There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines.
Students choosing a period of paid work placement or study abroad as a part of their course should be aware that there may be additional travel and living costs, as well as tuition fees.
Although reasonable steps are taken to provide the programmes and services described, the University cannot guarantee the provision of any course or facility and the University may make variations to the contents or methods of delivery of courses, discontinue, merge or combine courses and introduce new courses if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Such circumstances include (but are not limited to) industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key staff, changes in legislation or government policy including changes, if any, resulting from the UK departing the European Union, withdrawal or reduction of funding or other circumstances beyond the University’s reasonable control.
If the University discontinues any courses, it will use its best endeavours to provide a suitable alternative course. In addition, courses may change during the course of study and in such circumstances the University will normally undertake a consultation process prior to any such changes being introduced and seek to ensure that no student is unreasonably prejudiced as a consequence of any such change.
The University does not accept responsibility (other than through the negligence of the University, its staff or agents), for the consequences of any modification or cancellation of any course, or part of a course, offered by the University but will take into consideration the effects on individual students and seek to minimise the impact of such effects where reasonably practicable.
The University cannot accept any liability for disruption to its provision of educational or other services caused by circumstances beyond its control, but the University will take all reasonable steps to minimise the resultant disruption to such services.
UU Graduate: Kylan Allsop
"Ulster University Physician Associate programme is a unique and extremely rewarding course. While the course is extremely challenging, it has been the most rewarding 2 and a half years of my life....pushing me to the absolute limit, beyond what I even thought was possible. Sat here now as a qualified physician associate...about to start my new exciting career in care of the elderly, I sincerely believe the course equipped me with everything and more. The course team are excellent and more and go beyond what should be expected and make sure you have all the quality tools needed to succeed as a physician associate and pass the national exams. I feel extremely proud to have chosen a career as a physician associate and represent this newly growing profession."
UU Graduate: Lindsay Nelson
"Ulster University's Physician Associate Studies programme has successfully equipped me with the medical knowledge, communication tools and practical skills necessary to become a competent PA. Whilst fast paced and intense, the course provides excellent teaching of the core scientific modules and uses various methods such as problem based learning to improve diagnostic skills and ability to formulate management plans. Being part of a small cohort has been hugely beneficial, making lecturers readily available for help and advice if required. Early access to the clinical environment and patients has not only been critical in developing my skills as a clinician but has also allowed me to further appreciate how important PA's will be within our healthcare system and learn how work as part of a multidisciplinary team. Being a PA provides such scope, allowing us to work in many specialities, and taking on many tasks from running clinics to being first assist in surgery.”
Jeanine Watkins: Chair of the Physician Associate Schools Council
"I welcome the news from Ulster University regarding significant investment from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland in the Physician Associate profession. I hope that this will enable the profession to be embedded and flourish, providing new avenues for graduates into the NHS, and additional capacity for the medical workforce in the delivery of healthcare for the people of Northern Ireland.”