MSc Extreme Medicine

Duration Part time 3 years
  • Healthcare and Medicine
LocationExeter (St Luke‘s)
Plus short residential courses
Start date September


With the increased awareness of global burdens such as humanitarian crises and sudden onset disasters, more than ever there is a need to be delivering healthcare in highly complex and demanding situations.

This unique programme is delivered in partnership between the University of Exeter Medical School and World Extreme Medicine, the world's leading provider of specialist training courses for medics taking their skills into challenging environments.

This is medicine at its best, crossing geographical and professional boundaries.

You will learn the practical skills, knowledge and understanding needed to perform at the highest possible level in the field of extreme medicine.

You will learn with and from your peers. Residentials are a key part of the programme; designed to provide the challenge of learning in an unfamiliar environment and relying on the collaboration and support of the other participants.

The residentials include locations in the UK as well as environment-specific modules located in mountain, jungle and Polar Regions.

This programme is suitable for those from a wide variety of backgrounds. Students have included:

• Paramedics
• Medics
• Nurses
• Medical scientists
• Allied healthcare
• Military medics

You will be working or looking to work in situations of rapid change and uncertainty and you will be looking to demonstrate capabilities that extend beyond clinical competence into areas such as leadership, communications, teamwork, resilience, humanitarian relief, planning and logistics.

The programme's foundations are rooted in the core values of collaboration, challenge, community, impact and rigour, embedded firmly within the University’s mission to make the exceptional happen, by challenging traditional thinking and defying conventional boundaries.

Programme structure

Throughout this programme you will critically examine the challenges of providing safe and effective healthcare in a range of challenging environments. Key to this learning to recognise and evaluate the unique ethical, professional and legal challenges of delivering medical care in these environments.

You will undertake a number of residential courses to help you develop these skills, as well as giving you the opportunity to learn with and from your peers.

Expert tutors will facilitate group discussions and project work and provide support for independent learning. Assessments are designed to provide opportunities for personal reflection, critical appraisal, evaluation and analysis to demonstrate the knowledge and skills gained throughout the programme.

Modules and delivery

The modules we outline here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.

The programme has a modular structure and consists of three modules for the PG Cert, with a further 60 credits of modules for the PG Dip, and the addition of the 60 credit MSc research project for the full MSc.

 Year One - Compulsory Modules

You will be awarded your PgCert (year one) on completion of:

Core Concepts in Extreme Medicine (Residential)

Corfe Castle, Dorset

The residential aspect of the course will be four and a half days and supported by several faculty members. It will cover the core concepts of expedition wilderness medicine. The course will start with an induction to the whole programme on the first day of the residential; including details of tutor groups, assignment structures, and guidance to completing master’s level coursework.

The residential will be made up of half lectures and half practicals. Each lecture and workshop will focus on an aspect of the core concepts.

Evenings will consist of talks from people who have personal experience of wilderness medicine. Students will leave with two pieces of Master’s level written assignments to complete. Full details will be given during the course.

Pre-hospital Trauma, Assessment and Treatment (Residential) Ambulance Headquarters, Fulham, London

This is a two day face-to-face residential of talks and practicals. This covers the time period between the patient being first attended to and arriving in hospital. This module teaches the fundamental skills needed to assess, stabilise, package and transport patients to definitive care.

Students will be fully briefed during the course about assignments to complete.

Human Factors – Situational Awareness (Residential)

Heatree Activity Centre, Dartmoor

This is a two day residential and will explore how individuals fit into teams depending on their roles and personality types, and will include a personality assessment. There is particular focus on how individuals and teams function under stress and conflict.

The first part of the course examines core theory behind personality traits and behaviours in different paradigms, and develops ideas of leadership characteristics, team performance and decision making.

The second part of the course is mostly spent outdoors and students will be set challenges under the close supervision of a faculty member. The challenges will increase in intensity and students will increasingly be expected to think for themselves. The challenges will bring out attributes of individual performance, team performance, and team collaboration.

There is a formal debrief on the experiences of the weekend and translation from theory to practice before the end of the residential course.

For the final assignment, students will analyse key aspects of the interactions they and the team have experienced, referring back to the theoretical aspects of the discipline


Year Two - Compulsory Modules

In addition to modules completed for the PgCert, you will be awarded a PgDip on completion of the following compulsory modules plus 2 optional modules (60 credits):

Essentials of Humanitarian relief This module will explore the concept of disaster and major incident health preservation and its importance in humanitarian aid and relief. Real world examples will be utilised to examine a range of public health issues of global importance from a variety of perspectives. A range of case studies relating to epidemics the distribution of infectious diseases, including person-to-person contact and prevention. The module also introduces fundamental concepts behind international and humanitarian law, the role of NGOs and the Sphere Charter, and personal security.

Emergency Planning Resilience and Response (EPRR) will be examined using a well-established UK model to enact a chain of command.

Delivery is online, interspersed by personal study undertaken at your own pace and supported by our online resources.
Disaster Essentials (Residential) In this module you will further critically examine the challenges of providing safe and effective healthcare in a range of challenging environments following major incidents or conflict. The learning from the residential module is experiential and acts as a basis for reflection on the learning outcomes in the related humanitarian theory module.  15

Year Two – Optional Modules

You must select 30 credits (2 options) of the following modules:

Special environment – Mountain (Residential)

This residential is set in some of the world’s most iconic mountain locations, such as Nepal, and will be delivered during an ascent to altitude.

In this high fidelity environment you will focus not only on the evaluation of health issues to be expected in the field, but the planning and preparation phase for activities in the mountains. You will reflect in more depth on the ethical, professional and legal challenges of delivering medical care in high altitude environments.

Special environment – Jungle (Residential) This seven day residential is delivered in a tropical or jungle environment, usually Costa Rica.

In this module you will critically examine the challenges of providing safe and effective healthcare in a jungle environment. You will focus not only on the evaluation of health issues to be expected in the field, but the planning and preparation phase for activities in jungle regions. You will reflect in more depth on the ethical, professional and legal challenges of delivering medical care in this challenging environment.
Special environment – Polar (Residential) This six day residential is delivered in a polar environment, usually the Norwegian Artic Circle.

During this module you will study physiological changes in humans in cold environments, Protection from extreme cold, Assessment and treatment of freezing and non-freezing thermal injury and cold water immersion and hypothermia. The course also develops relevant survival skills for extreme cold environments and basic avalanche rescue techniques.
Special environment – Winter Alpine (Residential) This seven day residential is usually delivered in Europe in an authentic alpine environment.

During this module you will study physiological changes in humans in high altitude environments, acute mountain sickness and cold injury. The course also develops relevant travel techniques for glacial travel and ice climbing.
Special environment – Ocean (Residential) This seven day residential gives you the opportunity to learn the skills and knowledge needed to perform as a medic at sea and usually takes place in UK coastal waters in the South West.

During this module you will study how to work in a maritime environment including navigation, tides, weather planning and radio communication. The course also develops relevant skills such as the use of dive equipment, and ocean and cold water swimming.

Year Three - Compulsory Modules

In addition to modules completed for the PgDip, you will be awarded an MSc on completion of the following compulsory modules:

Medicine at the Final Frontier
This 2 day residential is delivered in the UK by Dr Mike Barrett, NASA flight surgeon & astronaut.

In this module you will understand the effects of environmental factors and weightlessness on human health and performance during and after spaceflight, and familiarize with the clinical implications associated with these factors. You will focus on the current practice of space medicine and delivery of care on space platforms as well as countermeasures administered against deleterious effects of spaceflight.
Dissertation This module is the dissertation associated with the Masters programme and is designed to enable students to produce a project dissertation under supervision, and to demonstrate project design, development, evaluation and synthesis skills. 45

The modules we outline here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.

Learning and teaching

The programme is delivered part time through a blend of delivery methods. The taught components of the core modules are short duration (2-4 day) intensive residential courses.

The taught component of the first year of the programme is delivered across three separate modules. Each based on its own residential course.

Teaching and learning methods

All material is designed for Masters level and will involve distance learning with keynote lectures, case studies, seminars and group discussion in addition to the residential programme.

In the second year and third years of the programme there is considerable scope within modules for you to direct your learning towards fields of particular interest, especially when undertaking the MSc through your choice of dissertation project and in your guided independent study.


Taught modules will be assessed through literature reviews, essays, and written reports. There is a strong focus on working collaboratively and learning from each other in small teams. An integral part of the programme is the residential postings to UK and international locations which additionally contextualise your learning.

Advice and support

Each student is allocated a personal tutor who is available for advice and support throughout your studies. The Programme Lead is also available to help with further guidance and advice.



Extreme Medicine is an emerging specialty. Graduates of the programme will enhance their medical skills to practice in challenging and remote environments. They will acquire field based knowledge and skills to demonstrate their strategic understanding of expedition operations, to potential employers and to the wider deployment team.

Potential roles may include:

  • Disaster response, working with NGO’s or government contracts
  • Medical cover for security operations
  • Expedition and wilderness medicine
  • Working with media organisations
  • Remote research or logistics

Entry requirements

Normally a 2:2 Honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline. Relevant clinical or professional experience may be required.

College entry

Individuals who don't meet the normal entry criteria but have relevant professional experience will also be welcomed on to this MSc programme. Qualifications and experience will be assessed on application and there will be opportunities for APL (Assessment of Prior Learning).

Requirements for international students

If you are an international student, please visit our international equivalency pages to enable you to see if your existing academic qualifications meet our entry requirements.

International students are normally subject to visa regulations which prevent part-time study. It is recommended that international students apply for the level of the final award you intend to complete i.e. PGCert, PGDip or Masters, due to the associated cost and requirements for a Tier 4 student Visa.

English language requirements

IELTS (Academic)

IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6


Overall score 90 with minimum scores of 21 for writing, 21 for listening, 22 for reading and 23 for speaking.

Pearson Test of English (Academic)

58 with no less than 55 in all communicative skills.

Cambridge English: Advanced & Proficiency

Overall score 176. No less than 169 in any section.

Pre-sessional English

Applicants with lower English language test scores may be able to take pre-sessional English at INTO University of Exeter prior to commencing their programme. See our English language requirements page for more information.

Fees and funding

Tuition fees per year 2019/20

For 2019/20, fees will be charged pro rata for UK/EU students. Fees are subject to an annual increment each academic year.

This is a 3-year part-time course. The annual fee for 2019 entry is:

  • UK/EU: £8,600
  • International: £9,600

Fee information

Fees can normally be paid by two termly instalments and may be paid online. You will also be required to pay a tuition fee deposit to secure your offer of a place, unless you qualify for exemption. For further information about paying fees see our Student Fees pages.

UK government postgraduate loan scheme

Postgraduate loans of up to £10,609 are now available for Masters degrees. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply.

Other programme scholarships

We have a range of scholarships available for postgraduate scholarships every year including NHS bursaries. For full details search the funding directory

Extra costs

Second year optional modules

In Year Two a number of Special Environments optional modules have a supplementary cost in addition to the annual tuition fee.

These are:

  • Polar £1,250
  • Jungle £500
  • Mountain £1,500
  • Desert £250

Travel to the course venue

This may be the location of the course in the UK or an agreed meeting place, for an overseas course.

World Extreme Medicine provide information and a point of contact in the joining instructions each student receives when registering for the course.

Personal insurance

UK courses:

British residents - As with any time spent away from home, we suggest that student check their contents and/or personal insurance to confirm whether their belongings will be covered for any incident which may occur away from their home address.

International residents - International students will need to ensure that they have adequate insurance to cover their personal belongings and check with their home country to confirm their access to medical attention whilst in the UK.

Overseas courses (not applicable to the PgCert):

British and international residents – All will require adequate travel insurance which covers them for medical expenses and personal belongings and allows for trekking at altitude/winter activities (as appropriate, depending on the course attending) and lists helicopter evacuation in the event of an emergency.

Students may prefer to source their own insurance but if required, we can direct them to a good quality insurance provider we work with.

Kit and protective clothing

A kit list which will be supplied to students for each residential, but as a list of essential items, the following items are suggested:

Outdoor clothing – notably a waterproof jacket (£50-300) and trousers (£30-100), hat (£10), gloves (£10-40), warm walking socks (£5-15 per pair) plus clothes allowing freedom of movement
Sturdy walking boots (£50-200)
Warm fleece or top (£20-70)
40L Day pack (£15-100)
Water bottle (£1-10)
Head torch (£10-60)
Compass (£20-30)
Whistle (£2)
Roll mat (£15-70)
2 – 3 Season sleeping bag (£35-200)
Camping utensils - mug, bowl and spoon and a stove (£10-20)

These are basic items which any medic wanting to work in challenging environments will use again and again but you may choose to acquire additional kit or gadgets. Item price ranges extend from basic adequate kit to high end regular use kit.

Please note

The University considers the level of scholarships and bursaries on an annual basis. Scholarships and bursaries are not guaranteed on an annual basis.

Global Excellence Scholarship

We are delighted to offer Global Excellence Scholarships for students of outstanding academic quality applying to postgraduate Taught programmes starting in autumn 2019.

Contact us

This is a unique programme and is likely to be different to any other MSc programme you may have looked at in terms of content and delivery. Please use the 'Ask a Question' box on the right if you would like to know about specific aspects of the course. For example, our most common enquiry has been about entry requirements. This programme is intended for doctors, postgraduate nurses and postgraduate paramedics, however if you are a post graduate in another allied medical profession, you may still be eligible for this course, so please feel free to contact us to discuss your application.

You may also wish to contact Extreme Medicine directly regarding any aspect of the residentials or discuss whether the course is suitable for you. They can be contacted directly through their website at

Contact us

Telephone: +44 (0)1392 725500
Web: Enquire online

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Research degrees

If you would prefer a dissertation-based Masters rather than a taught and thesis Masters then this is available as the MSc by research: