Primary Care MSc

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Healthcare across the world faces major challenges from the increasing demands of ageing populations and the rise in non-communicable diseases. Strong and effective primary care (also known as family medicine or community medicine) is a major part of the solution. This MSc in Primary Care will equip you with the knowledge and skills required to make a difference to primary healthcare in the 21st century.

Key facts

  • Online distance learning
  • MSc: 24-36 months part-time
  • PgDip 24 months part-time
  • PgCert 12-24 months part-time
  • Contact:


Why this programme

  • A unique programme to enable students to identify and implement strategies to enhance quality in primary care globally.
  • Taught by outstanding, high profile primary care researchers and practitioners in the UK, you can follow a flexible curriculum - studying full-time or part-time, and work towards the full MSc degree or a postgraduate diploma or certificate.
  • Internationally renowned guest speakers feature alongside University of Glasgow staff.
  • Research interests are focussed on health inequalities, multimorbidity, chronic disease, treatment burden and migrant health, which are reflected in our teaching.
  • Research project opportunities in novel and relevant areas of research for primary care, under the supervision of an academic.
  • Students come from a wide range of primary care, family, community, and internal medicine disciplines, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, podiatrists, managers and those working in healthcare and health policy.
  • It is delivered within the Institute of Health and Wellbeing, one of the foremost research institutes in the UK focused on improving population health and wellbeing and reducing inequalities in health.
  • The online programme has the potential to attract students from across the globe. Our on-campus course has attracted successful students from the UK and a wide range of other countries including Indonesia, Belarus, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Japan, Pakistan and Oman.

Programme structure

This online MSc programme is modular in structure, with all teaching and interactions delivered online through our virtual learning environment (Moodle). During a course, from week to week you will interact with your teachers and fellow students using online discussion boards. Your teachers will direct and observe the discussion, and respond to student questions about the course content. A variety of teaching approaches will be used including lectures, group based activities, presentations and discussions.

  • Three compulsory courses
  • Three optional courses
  • Research project.

The taught courses are delivered in 11-week blocks, running from September to November, January to March, and April to June. The research project runs across the academic year. Full-time students will complete the majority of their research project work when they have completed their taught components.

The selection of optional courses and the research project can be tailored to meet students’ own interests and career needs.

The postgraduate diploma and certificate require six (120 credits) and three (60 credits) successfully completed courses, respectively. 

Core and optional courses

Each course represents 20 masters-level credits.

Core courses 

  • International Primary care principles and systems

In the report “Primary Care, Now More Than Ever”, the World Health Organisation reaffirmed its support for primary care as an integral part of health care internationally. This course examines the essential features of effective primary care systems in a range of health care settings in low, middle and high income countries. It considers the challenges facing primary care in the 21st century, in terms of population change, rising multimorbidity, workforce and recruitment challenges and resource constraints. This course will enable you to develop a knowledge and understanding of the principles, values and organisation of primary care globally, and to contribute to current debates about the changing face of primary care.

Course Coordinator: Professor Kate O’Donnell

  •  Epidemiology, evidence and statistics for primary care

This course equips students with the epidemiological and statistical skills needed to appraise and interpret literature appropriate to primary care development, policy and research. Students’ learning is reinforced through developing their practical skills of critically appraising research papers.

Course Coordinator: Dr Barbara Nicholl

  •  Research methods

This course will introduce students to the principles and processes involved in designing and conducting research studies in primary care using systematic reviews, qualitative, and quantitative approaches. Through practical exercises this course will equip students with the skills necessary to complete an in-depth research project.

Course Coordinator: Drs Sara Macdonald & Barbara Nicholl

Optional courses 

Having the freedom to choose three optional courses gives you the opportunity to tailor your programme of study to your own special interests. Further optional courses are planned for 2017/18.

  • Understanding Evidence for the Real World: Critical Appraisal for Healthcare

Understanding and appraising the quality of health care research evidence is a necessary skill for all health care professionals and those in training. This on-line course will equip students with the necessary skills to find, appraise and understand a range of different study designs common in the health care research literature, to better appraise numerical data presented in the media, social media and the internet and to better discuss concepts such as risk with patients and the public. 

Course Coordinator: Professor Kate O’Donnell

  • Cardiovascular Disease Management in Primary Care

Cardiovascular disease is a growing global challenge in the context of ageing populations; primary and secondary care professionals and policymakers have much to contribute to improving outcomes through health promotion strategies, primary and secondary prevention, and improved access to an ever increasing range of pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions. This course is pertinent to those involved in the management of patients or health policy in this area; covering epidemiology, risk assessment, management and challenges in cardiovascular disease in primary care.

Course Coordinator: Professor Frances Mair

  • Management of Long-term Conditions

In the context of an ageing population, one of the biggest challenges facing primary healthcare is managing long-term conditions (LTCs), which affect both physical and mental health. Understanding the pressures and potential solutions for systems of care will enhance the healthcare capacity to meet this challenge both at an organisational and healthcare professional level. This course will allow you to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to engage in and contribute to the current debate around the future care of people with long-term conditions and will encourage you to explore strategies that will contribute to the management of long-term conditions.

Course Coordinator: Professor Stewart Mercer and Professor Jill Morrison

You can also look to other postgraduate taught programmes within the Institute of Health and Wellbeing or the MSc Advanced Practice in Health Care

Short courses

From January 2016, three of our optional courses are available as stand alone continued professional development courses:

Understanding Evidence for the Real World: Critical Appraisal for Healthcare

Cardiovascular Disease Management in Primary Care

Management of Long Term Conditions

These courses may be taken on their own for career related training or as an introduction to postgraduate study. Credits attained for these courses can be transferred onto MSc, Diploma or Certificate in Primary Care plans if you decide to study further. For more information please see the course links or contact

Research project

The research project, worth 60 masters-level credits, is a substantial piece of work, culminating in a 15,000 word dissertation. Completing the project will introduce you to the process of designing, conducting, analysing and reporting a research study. Successful completion of the project is essential to the awarding of the degree.

Students have undertaken a wide range of projects. Recent titles include:

  • A service evaluation of the impact of a bilingual pharmacist led medication review service for South Asian diabetic individuals in a general practice (an evaluation)
  • Professional and carer perspectives of the challenges of supporting adults with learning disabilities manage diabetes, and the potential value of an educational tool (a qualitative study)
  • The relationships between potentially serious drug-drug interactions, polypharmacy and multimorbidity (a quantitative study)
  • Consultation length in the context of interpersonal effectiveness (a quantitative study)
  • An exploratory study of the views and experiences of primary healthcare professionals working in weight management services in Lanarkshire (a qualitative study)
  • A systematic review of physical activity levels of children in urban and rural areas
  • A systematic review of the impact of a repeat prescription system in Japan.

What our students say

The following are comments from students who studied the MSc in Primary Care on-campus so although online learning will involve a different experience the overarching aims and learning outcomes of the programme remain the same and involve the same members of academic staff.

Why did you undertake the degree?

  • To increase my understanding of primary care, multidisciplinary working and research.
  • At the time of starting, I was new to primary care, having worked in acute for over 20 years. The course helped me gain confidence and theoretical knowledge for my post.
  • For interest, and to broaden my horizons on the job front.

How well did it meet your expectations?

  • The degree gave me theoretical information but, more importantly, it provided the opportunity to discuss real live issues with colleagues from a range of backgrounds - fantastic!
  • Enjoyed the opportunity to listen, reflect, learn and be inspired.
  • Each course achieved its aims and objectives. The department was supportive in every way and my research supervisor was exceptional.

How relevant did you find it to your professional/educational needs?

  • The range and depth of subjects has equipped me with skills and ideas to develop within my own practice.
  • Having this degree has helped reinforce my CV and has been noted in interviews.
  • Enjoyed the emphasis on applying theory/research findings to the workplace. The research project in particular allows students to explore their own interests in more detail.
  • It addressed broader themes than I would otherwise have the opportunity to study in such depth.

In what ways do you consider that your employer has benefited from your undertaking this degree?

  • Improved application of theory to practice, especially in population health and inequalities.
  • Skills gained have been utilised in carrying out job as prescribing advisor and in teaching of students and GPs.
  • I can offer more "academic" solutions/contributions to organisational challenges.
  • Having masters-level education is gold standard in the NHS! I think this should be mandatory for primary care staff involved in strategic decision-making!

In what ways has this degree changed the way you approach your practice?

  • I now approach patient care, and encourage staff to do so, from a much broader perspective.
  • I now take a more considered approach to problem solving. I more readily seek evidence to support practice because I can rapidly search for and appraise available evidence.
  • Much more likely to look at latest research around the relevant area of work, and feel confident about processing various strands of evidence and from various disciplines.
  • Improved consideration of inequalities and addressing widening gap when reviewing and redesigning services.
  • Gained a broader perspective. Helped with communication with colleagues and patients. Completing the research project has improved my skills in report writing.
  • Able to consider the true holistic needs of patients and families, and the wider requirements from a social and healthcare perspective.
  • It has put ethical issues to the forefront of all thoughts.

What did you like best about this degree?

  • Access to brilliant thinkers and the opportunity not just to be taught, but to engage with them and discuss issues in a non-threatening environment.
  • Networking and time out from work to reflect.
  • Different teaching methods held my interest and standards of teaching very high.
  • The reading, the learning, the sharing...all of it!

What about the organisation/administration of the programme?

  • Most impressed by the support and warmth of the "team".
  • Well organised with excellent online support making participation for part-time students as accessible as possible.
  • I have nothing but praise for the organisation, helpfulness and patience of the staff.

In what ways may this degree help to further your career?

  • Promotion on the back of master’s work.
  • It has given me the confidence to pursue further career opportunities.
  • May consider a PhD.
  • Has clarified my passions, and put me on a steady and defined course for career progression.

What was your overall experience/impression of this degree?

  • The knowledge of the academic staff was exceptional and overall the culture within the department was open, friendly, and approachable.
  • A well-balanced programme with a good choice of course and taste of doing some original research.
  • Excellent - without doubt the most exciting and challenging course I have ever undertaken.

Have you recommended/would you recommend this degree to colleagues?

  • Yes, and frequently do!
  • All the time!
  • I would recommend this degree to anyone who has a true interest in primary care and personal development.

Academic staff

Programme coordinator:

Dr Barbara Nicholl

Course coordinators:

Many other staff members from the General Practice and Primary Care research group and the wider Institute of Health and Wellbeing also contribute to teaching sessions. 

Studying online

Studying online at Glasgow

Online distance learning at the University of Glasgow allows you to benefit from the outstanding educational experience that we are renowned for -without having to relocate to our campus.
You do not need to have experience of studying online as you will be guided through how to access and use all of our online resources.

Virtual learning

You will connect with your fellow students and tutors through our virtual learning environment where you will have access to a multitude of learning resources including:

  • recorded lectures
  • live seminars
  • videos
  • interactive quizzes
  • journal articles
  • electronic books and other web resources
A global community

As an online student at the University you will become part of a global community of learners. Community building and collaborative learning is a key focus of our online delivery and you will be encouraged and supported to interact with your fellow classmates and tutors in a number of ways. For example, through the discussions areas on our virtual learning environment, by skype, during live seminars and in our virtual campus on Second Life. 


Great emphasis is placed on making sure you feel well supported in your learning and that you have good interactions with everyone on the programme.  Support is available in a number of ways and you will find out more about this during orientation.

All you need to participate in our online programmes is a computer and internet access. 

Computer requirements for your online studies


Career prospects

Graduates will have the capacity to take a lead role in primary care and family medicine development, whether in Scotland, the UK or internationally. Post-award opportunities include further study, leadership roles in primary care teams, secondment to positions within government, teaching positions, and sitting on editorial boards of academic journals.

Entry requirements

Applications are welcome from qualified personnel in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing and allied health professionals as well as managers and those working or with an interest in primary care. 

You are required to provide two references, a full degree transcript, a CV (resume) and a personal statement stating why you wish to study this programme at the University of Glasgow and how you intend to apply the personal skills developed on the programme in your professional life.

English language requirements

For applicants whose first language is not English, the University sets a minimum English Language proficiency level.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic module (not General Training)

  • overall score 6.5
  • no sub-test less than 6.0
  • or equivalent scores in another recognised qualification:

Common equivalent English language qualifications

All stated English tests are acceptable for admission for both home/EU and international students for this programme:

  • ibTOEFL: 90; no sub-test less than:
    • Reading: 20
    • Listening: 19
    • Speaking: 19
    • Writing: 23
  • CAE (Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English): 176 overall; no sub-test less than 169
  • CPE (Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English):  176 overall; no sub-test less than 169
  • PTE Academic (Pearson Test of English, Academic test): 60; no sub-test less than 59
  • Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English: ISEII at Distinction with Distinction in all sub-tests

For international students, the Home Office has confirmed that the University can choose to use these tests to make its own assessment of English language ability for visa applications to degree level programmes. The University is also able to accept an IELTS test (Academic module) from any of the 1000 IELTS test centres from around the world and we do not require a specific UKVI IELTS test for degree level programmes. We therefore still accept any of the English tests listed for admission to this programme.

Pre-sessional courses

The University of Glasgow accepts evidence of the required language level from the English for Academic Study Unit Pre-sessional courses. We also consider other BALEAP accredited pre-sessional courses:


What do I do if...

my language qualifications are below the requirements?

The University's English for Academic Study Unit offers a range of Pre-Sessional Courses to bring you up to entry level. The course is accredited by BALEAP, the UK professional association for academic English teaching; see Links.

my language qualifications are not listed here?

Please contact the Recruitment and International Office:


For further information about English language requirements, please contact the Recruitment and International Office:

Fees and funding

Tuition fees for 2017-18


Online Distance learning

Home/EU/International: £1167 per 20 credits 

180 credits in total


Online Distance learning

Home/EU/International: £1167 per 20 credits 

120 credits in total


Online Distance learning

Home/EU/International: £1167 per 20 credits 

60 credits in total

Fees are subject to change and for guidance only

Additional fees

  • Fee for submission by a research student: £460
  • Fee for re-assessment of a dissertation (PGT programme): £300
  • Submission for a higher degree by published work: £1,000
  • Submission of thesis after deadline lapsed: £200
  • Submission by staff in receipt of staff scholarship: £680
  • Research students registered as non-supervised Thesis Pending students (50% refund will be granted if the student completes thesis within the first six months of the period): £260
  • Registration/exam only fee: £110
  • General Council fee: £50

Alumni discount

A 10% discount is available to University of Glasgow alumni applying to the MSc. This includes graduates and those who have completed a Junior Year Abroad, Exchange programme or International Summer School at the University of Glasgow. The discount is applied at registration for students who are not in receipt of another discount or scholarship funded by the University. No additional application is required.

Funding opportunities

How to apply

We ask that you apply online for a postgraduate taught degree. Our system allows you to fill out the standard application form online and submit this to the University within 42 days of starting your application.

You need to read the guide to applying online before starting your application. It will ensure you are ready to proceed, as well as answer many common questions about the process.

Guide to applying online

Do I have to apply online for a postgraduate taught degree?

Yes. To apply for a postgraduate taught degree you must apply online. We are unable to accept your application by any other means than online.

Do I need to complete and submit the application in a single session?

No. You have 42 days to submit your application once you begin the process. You may save and return to your application as many times as you wish to update information, complete sections or upload additional documents such as your final transcript or your language test.

What documents do I need to provide to make an application?

As well as completing your online application fully, it is essential that you submit the following documents:

  • A copy (or copies) of your official degree certificate(s) (if you have already completed your degree)
  • A copy (or copies) of your official academic transcript(s), showing full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained
  • Official English translations of the certificate(s) and transcript(s)
  • Two supporting reference letters on headed paper
  • Evidence of your English Language ability (if your first language is not English)
  • Any additional documents required for this programme (see Entry requirements for this programme)
  • A copy of the photo page of your passport (Non-EU students only)

If you do not have all of these documents at the time of submitting your application then it is still possible to make an application and provide any further documents at a later date, as long as you include a full current transcript (and an English translation if required) with your application. See the ‘Your References, Transcripts and English Qualification’ sections of our Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Do my supporting documents need to be submitted online?

Yes, where possible, please upload the supporting documents with your application.

How do I provide my references?

You must either upload the required references to your online application or ask your referees to send the references to the University as we do not contact referees directly. There is two main ways that you can provide references: you can either upload references on headed paper when you are making an application using the Online Application (or through Applicant Self-Service after you have submitted your application) or you can ask your referee to email the reference directly to See the 'Your References, Transcripts and English Qualifications' section of the Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

What if I am unable to submit all of my supporting documents online?

If you cannot upload an electronic copy of a document and need to send it in by post, please attach a cover sheet to it that includes your name, the programme you are applying for, and your application reference number.

You may send them to:

Postgraduate Admissions
Marketing, Recruitment & International Office
71 Southpark Avenue
G12 8QQ
Fax: +44 141 330 4045

Can I email my supporting documents?

No. We cannot accept email submissions of your supporting documents.

What entry requirements should I have met before applying? Where can I find them?

You should check that you have met (or are likely to have met prior to the start of the programme) the individual entry requirements for the degree programme you are applying for. This information can be found on the ‘entry requirements’ tab on each individual programme page, such as the one you are viewing now.

What English Language requirements should I have met before applying? Where can I find them?

If you are an international student, you should also check that you have met the English Language requirements specific to the programme you are applying for. These can also be found on the ‘entry requirements’ tab for each specific programme.

Further Information

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions for more information on applying to a postgraduate taught programme.

Guidance notes for using the online application

These notes are intended to help you complete the online application form accurately, they are also available within the help section of the online application form. If you experience any difficulties accessing the online application then you should visit the Application Troubleshooting/FAQs page.

  • Name and Date of birth: must appear exactly as they do on your passport. Please take time to check the spelling and lay-out.
  • Contact Details: Correspondence address. All contact relevant to your application will be sent to this address including the offer letter(s). If your address changes, please contact us as soon as possible.
  • Choice of course: Please select carefully the course you want to study. As your application will be sent to the admissions committee for each course you select it is important to consider at this stage why you are interested in the course and that it is reflected in your application.
  • Proposed date of entry: Please state your preferred start date including the month and the year. Taught masters degrees tend to begin in September. Research degrees may start in any month.
  • Education and Qualifications: Please complete this section as fully as possible indicating any relevant Higher Education qualifications starting with the most recent. Complete the name of the Institution (s) as it appears on the degree certificate or transcript.
  • English Language Proficiency: Please state the date of any English language test taken (or to be taken) and the award date (or expected award date if known).
  • Employment and Experience: Please complete this section as fully as possible with all employments relevant to your course. Additional details may be attached in your personal statement/proposal where appropriate.
  • References: Please provide the names and contact details of two academic references. Where applicable one of these references may be from your current employer. References should be completed on letter headed paper and uploaded on to your application.

Online Distance Learning

Please note that applications for programmes delivered online will be accepted until the commencement of the programmes in September 2017.

January 2018 intake

Applications for January 2018 start will be accepted until 9 January 2018. 

For January 2018 entry, students should select 2017-18 academic year and then choose the start date in the Study Period section, step 1 of the application form.

Apply now