Primary Care MSc

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Applications for the MSc will open in early 2016, you can register your interest in the programme by emailing: or by completing our short 5 minute survey  Your input into this survey will be extremely valuable to us when developing this programme.  You can also leave your details, if you wish, so that we can keep you updated as the programme develops.

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

  • MSc: delivered online by distance learning: 24-60 months part-time
  • PgDip delivered online by distance learning: 24-36 months part-time
  • PgCert delivered online by distance learning: 24 months part-time
  • Contact:

    The MSc in Primary care will be offered part-time in 2016/17. A full-time option will be available in the future.

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 (run in Semester 1)

  • 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 (run in Semester 2)

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.

  • Appraising Healthcare Evidence

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). 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

  •  Primary care mental health

The World Health Organisation predicts that mental ill-health will be the leading cause of disease burden worldwide by 2030; the majority of people with mental health problems are seen very frequently in Primary Care in all countries. This course will give you the opportunity to develop your understanding of the key challenges in different mental health conditions commonly seen in primary care. You will critically appraise the evidence for approaches to treatment, configuration/delivery of services and policy responses to mental health problems encountered in primary care.

Course Coordinator: Professors Jill Morrison & Stewart Mercer

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, two of our optional courses are available as stand alone continued professional development courses:

Appraising health care evidence

Cardiovascular disease management 

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 15-20,000 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.

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. 

Entry requirements

for entry in 2016

You should have a 2:1 degree in a healthcare discipline or equivalent qualification although in exceptional circumstances other qualifications or experience may be considered (minimum of three years). 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 (see below)

Common equivalent English language qualifications

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

  • ibTOEFL: 92; no sub-test less than 20
  • 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 (Person 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 2016-17


Distance learning

Home/EU/International: £10000 full-time, £1111 prorate per course. 


Distance learning

Home/EU/International: £6667 


Distance learning

Home/EU/International: £3333

Fees are subject to change and for guidance only

Funding opportunities

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.

How to apply

Applications for the MSc will open in early 2016. In the meantime, register your interest by emailing: or complete the survey at the top of this page.