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School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school


About the Programme

Medical anthropology studies health, illness and healing from a cross-cultural perspective. Medical anthropologists explore a wide range of medical practices, including both performative forms of healing (e.g., shamanism) and the newest biomedical technologies. Medical anthropologists are working in diverse fields: academic research, global health organizations, and health-focused NGOs. Concepts and methodologies from medical anthropology have become essential in all areas of global health research.

Edinburgh's Postgraduate Programme engages students with the field's distinctive approach to health and medicine. It takes students away from the idea that there is only one standardized "best practice" by showing an astounding diversity of therapeutic methods, ideas of disease causation, healer personalities, and spaces for healing.

Edinburgh is an internationally outstanding centre for medical anthropology and our Programme is the largest of its kind in the UK. Teaching staff specializing in body, health, and medicine include Professor Janet Carsten, Dr Jamie Cross, Dr Jacob Copeman, Dr Stefan Ecks, Professor Alex Edmonds, Professor Ian Harper, Dr Lucy Lowe, Dr Rebecca Marsland, Dr Maya Mayblin, Dr Ayaz Qureshi and Dr Alice Street. Our regional expertise encompasses Africa, South Asia, South-East Asia, East Asia, Melanesia, South and Central America, as well as Europe and North America. Core strengths are in mental health, infectious diseases (e.g., HIV, malaria, tuberculosis), gender and reproductive health, bodily fluids, ritual healing, global health, and global pharmaceuticals. The Programme was called "Anthropology of Health & Illness" until 2011-12. The new name, "Medical Anthropology," expresses our increasing focus on the intersections between anthropology and globalized biomedicine.

The PG Programme in Medical Anthropology draws its intellectual vibrancy from the dialogue between social and medical perspectives. This dialogue is also reflected in our student body, who mainly come from three backgrounds: (1) students with an undergraduate degree in a social science who want to specialize in medical anthropology, (2) medical doctors and nurses who want to expand their expertise with an anthropological perspective, and (3) students with undergraduate degrees in biological and natural sciences who take a one-year MSc in preparation for Medical School.

Graduates of the Programme went on to work for international organizations and for health think tanks; won admission to some of the world's most prestigious Medical Schools (including Harvard and Yale); or continued to study for a PhD in Social Anthropology.

The PG Programme offers two streams: the taught MSc Medical Anthropology and the MSc by Research Medical Anthropology. The taught MSc is best suited for students who have no prior knowledge of medical anthropology. The MSc by Research is designed as the first year of study for students aiming to do PhD-level research afterwards. Both MSc degrees can be studied either full-time (12 months) or part-time (24 months). The PG Programme has won recognition from the UK Economic & Social Science Research Council (ESRC).

Students in both MSc streams take two core courses ("Anthropology of Health & Illness," "Anthropology & Global Health"). Students in the taught MSc take another four courses offered by Social Anthropology, the Global Public Health Unit (GPHU), and the Graduate School of Social & Political Science at large. From April until August, students work on their 15,000 word dissertations.

Students in the MSc by Research take a range of ESRC-recognized research training courses offered by the Graduate School, which prepare them for their own fieldwork project. Coursework lasts from September to March. From April to August, students conduct a supervised reading course and write a 15,000 word dissertation that takes the form of a research proposal.

For more information, contact: Dr Ayaz Qureshi (

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