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The first course of its kind on the Island of Ireland that provides an expert overview of physical activity promotion for public health.


Study Physical Activity and Public Health at Ulster University in the United Kingdom.

Physical activity, not often taught in traditional postgraduate programmes associated with health promotion, is now recognised as an essential component for understanding public health. Physical inactivity is a major public health concern in developed countries and is associated with the epidemic increases in preventable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and some cancers. As well as providing grounding in popular aspects of health promotion, this programme provides students with an expert overview of all aspects of physical activity promotion in order to enhance the health of modern society. For careers in physical activity research or promotion, this postgraduate course is a must.

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About this course

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Physical activity has recently been described as the ‘best buy’ in public health. The increasing realisation of the importance of promoting higher levels of physical activity, alongside the Government’s aim to reduce the proportion of sedentary individuals, will require a co-ordinated public health approach from well-informed health professionals. This course enables students to understand the role of physical activity and public health by adopting a multidisciplinary approach to to a sector that is currently of greater social importance.


One year full-time at the Jordanstown campus.

Start dates

  • September 2016
How to apply


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.

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Year one

Principles and Practice of Health Promotion and Public Health

Year: 1

This module addresses in an in-depth, critical manner, the determinants of health and how these can be addressed by the disciplines of health promotion and public health. Key theoretical and professional perspectives are explored. Outcomes of these disciplines are critically analysed through an examination of key health psychology theory.

Populations and Policy for Public Health

Year: 1

Health promotion and public health specialists have a key role to play in reducing health inequalities. This module covers a spectrum of key skills and qualities to enable students to identify and address health inequalities and to effectively assess the impact of policies on health and inequalities. Assessment is by coursework.

Epidemiology and Statistics for Public Health

Year: 1

This module will develop the capacity and capability of professionals to use demographic statistics and epidemiological data and analysis to improve public health. Through the assessment framework students are enabled to apply their learning to specific chronic diseases within population groups.

Advanced Research Methods for Physical Activity, Sport and Action

Year: 1

This module is designed to enhance the knowledge and competencies of students to prepare them to undertake research in Physical Activity and Public Health; Psychology and Sports Nutrition. It focuses on the application of advanced elements in experimental design, conducting quantitative analysis, research synthesis and the presentation of data and findings. It equips students to review, conduct and commission research. ?

Physical Activity and Disease Prevention

Year: 1

Exercise, physical activity and physical fitness are now recognised as independent risk factors for a range of chronic degenerative diseases. This module provides students with a critical understanding of the associations between physical activity and health and the physiological mechanisms which underlie these associations.

Nutrition for Health and Disease Prevention

Year: 1

This module considers the relationship between nutrition, health and disease. The module provides the student with the opportunity to further develop an understanding of the human body and how good nutritional practices can be effective for good health and disease prevention.

Physical Activity and Psychological Wellbeing

Year: 1

This module examines the influence of psychological factors in understanding the link between physical activity and public health across different settings and populations. It provides a critical understanding of the development of scientific consensus to date and identifies areas in need of further research.

Research Project in Physical Activity and Health

Year: 1

Carrying out an original, independent piece of research from the formulation of a research question through to reporting findings in accordance with the conventions of the academic area is an important part of the research training provided by Masters level study. This module provides students with an opportunity for students to carry out an original independent piece of research in the area of physical activity and health and present findings in the form of a journal manuscript and a conference presentation.

Entry conditions

We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.

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Entry Requirements

Applicants must possess:

- A second class honours degree (or higher) in a related subject area (for example - BSc Sport and Exercise Sciences, BSc Sport and Physical Activity or BSc Health Promotion) from a recognised university or; - An equivalent standard (normally 50%) in a Graduate Diploma, Graduate Certificate, Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma, or an approved alternative qualification. All applicants should possess competence in written and spoken English by having GCSE English (grade C) or equivalent.

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.

Teaching and learning assessment

There are seven taught modules on the course, all of which are compulsory. Five of the programme modules are 15 credits points whilst Advanced Research Methods for Physical Activity, Sport and Action is a 30 credit point module and the research dissertation is 60 credits.

All modules are assessed through the submission of coursework (defined as any non-examination based assessment) and there is no sessional examination for these modules. Coursework assessments are designed to test both knowledge and skills and vary from essays, literature reviews, project reports, presentations and poster presentations.

Exemptions and transferability

Transfer from other MSc programmes within the University is permissible. For example, the current programme is similar to the existing MSc in Health Promotion and Public Health and thus students can transfer onto and from this programme.

Careers & opportunities

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Career options

Careers: Health promotion professionals; sports development; pharmaceutical sector; further postgraduate study (e.g. PhD); biomedical research; and general health and fitness industry.

Work placement / study abroad

Voluntary work placements opportunities are available to students on the course and more information can be obtained by contacting the Course Director.

Academic profile

All staff have completed the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Practice (PgCHEP) and /or are Fellows of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA). Many staff are recognised internationally as researchers in their specialist area and are members of the related University Research Institutes and Departments e.g. the Centre for Physical Activity and Health and the Centre for Sports Science and Sports Medicine.

Teaching staff have considerable research and practical experience that informs their teaching. In addition, many staff are qualified members of relevant professional bodies such as the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).


Applications to our postgraduate courses are made through the University’s online application system.

The closing date for applications is 31 July.

How to apply

Start dates

  • September 2016

Fees and funding

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Fees (total cost)

Important notice - fees information Tuition fees shown are for last years entry. Fees are correct at the time of publishing and may be subject to an annual increase. Additional mandatory costs are highlighted where they are known in advance. There are other costs associated with university study. Read our Tuition Fees Payment Policy

Northern Ireland & EU:

Additional mandatory costs

Tuition fees and costs associated with accommodation, travel and normal living are a part of university life. 

Where a course has additional mandatory expenses we make every effort to highlight them in the online prospectus. These may include residential visits, field trips, materials (e.g. art, design, engineering) inoculations, security checks, computer equipment, uniforms, professional memberships etc.

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 wifi is also available on each of the campuses.

There will be some additional costs to being a student which cannot be itemised and these will be different for each student. You may choose to purchase your own textbooks and course materials or prefer your own computer and software. Printing and binding may also be required. There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines. Additional costs vary from course to course. 

Students choosing a period of paid work placement or study abroad as part of their course should be aware that there may be additional travel and living costs as well as tuition fees. 

Please contact the course team for more information.


Faculty Contact regarding administration of the course:

Mrs Julie Nesbitt

T: +44(0)28 9036 6029


Course Director:

Dr Conor McClean

T: +44(0)28 9036 8435




Jason Wilson


MSc Physical Activity & Public Health





Background(please include current job/role if applicable)

I am currently a Research Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast. I am currently working on the SITless study; a multi-country study to develop and test the effectiveness of an intervention to address sedentary behaviours (like prolonged sitting) and to encourage more active lifestyles in older adults.

Why did you choose postgraduate study at Ulster?

I gained an interest in physical activity during my final year studying Sport & Exercise Sciences at Ulster. The combination of having a desire to learn more and having had a good experience at Ulster meant it seemed logical to enrol in the MSc course to satisfy my intellectual curiosity.

How has your postgraduate course at Ulster enhanced your career?

Without completing this course, I simply could not have transitioned into my PhD and eventually into my current role as a researcher. I also feel it has given me access to more career options both within and outside of academia.

What has been the best thing about your course?(e.g. quality of teaching, support received, flexible delivery, links with industry, networking opportunities)

It was great to be gaining further knowledge on the subject I am passionate about from people who are adding to the research field. The variety of assignments such as individual report writing, group presentations and research project-related tasks was also a desirable aspect of the course.

What skills and knowledge have you gained?

The course helped me to think more critically/independently while also enhancing softer skills such as time management and effective communication. Up-to-date knowledge on the current trends in physical activity and health was provided as well as information in other important areas such as nutrition and psychology.

How did you find balancing work, family and study?

With the course primarily being delivered 2 days per week during late afternoons / early evenings, this gave me flexibility to choose when it best suited me to study while also allowing me to continue working part-time and having sufficient time to spend with friends and family.

Why would you recommend Ulster?

The quality of teaching was superb and the lecturers were all very approachable and helpful. I was provided with excellent facilities which allowed me to succeed in my course. In general, it is great to have quality postgraduate education right on our doorstep!