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Postgraduate Taught

MSc Extreme Medicine (Distance)

Please note: The below is for 2025 entries. Click here for 2024 entries.
UCAS code 1234
Duration 1 year full time
2 years part time
3 years part time
Entry year 2024
Campus St Luke's Campus
Discipline Healthcare and Medicine
Typical offer

View full entry requirements

2:2 Honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline.

Contextual offers


  • 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.
  • Extreme Medicine is a distance-learning programme, delivered through attendance at residentials in the UK or overseas
  • Modules are taught remotely from extreme locations, such as polar, jungle or desert environments.
  • Experience medicine at its best, crossing geographical and professional boundaries as you challenged to think critically around the concepts for delivering care in challenging environments
  • You can choose to undertake a specialism in Cold Environments, Hot Environments or Humanitarian Relief

Apply online

View 2024 Entry

Fast track (current Exeter students)

Accreditation of prior learning (APL)

Get a prospectus


Programme Directors: Prof Malcolm Hilton and Prof Mark Hannaford (founder of World Extreme Medicine) 

Web: Enquire online

Phone: +44 (0)1392 72 72 72

Top 10 in the UK for our world-leading and internationally excellent Clinical Medicine research

Based on 4* + 3* research in REF 2021

Our Public Health research is 11th in the UK for Research Power

Submitted to UoA2 Public Health, Health Services and Primary Care. REF 2021

Major capital investment in new buildings and state-of-the-art facilities

Delivered in partnership with World Extreme Medicine

Nikki studied for her MSc Extreme Medicine degree delivered in partnership between World Extreme Medicine and Exeter Medical School. She has 25 years’ experience as a Human Performance Scientist, working in challenging environments. 

Her specialism is to translate emerging science and medicine into practical on-the-ground interventions and strategies designed to release the potential of individuals and teams.

The programme has enabled Nikki to gain greater insight into preventing common medical emergencies in a pre-hospital environment. Taking her knowledge to an advanced level which allows her to make a meaningful and differentiated contribution in her field. During her time on the programme Nikki also travelled overseas for a three-person expedition to access an ancient indigenous trade route in Ethiopia. Her team were the first people to ever do so outside of local indigenous tradesmen, trekking 120km over 5 days completely self-organised. Facing a variety of challenges, including no in-country rescue, the MSc programme offered a multitude of learnings that were employed to mitigate risk and improve the likelihood of success.’

Read more from Nikki McLeary

Nikki McLeary

Science Lead / Project Manager with World Extreme Medicine

Entry requirements

Normally a 2:2 Honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline (medicine, nursing, paramedic science).


Individuals who don't meet the normal entry criteria but have relevant professional experience may also be welcomed on to this MSc programme. Qualifications and experience will be assessed on application. Informal enquires are welcome before the formal application stage and we can discuss which areas of the course may need particular attention or advise on pre-course study to maximise your learning engagement. Should you wish to discuss this please contact our Student Recruitment and Admissions Team.


The full-time course is suitable for some intercalating medical students. Applicants need to have completed a minimum of 3 years of their undergraduate medical degree programme and able to evidence previous relevant experience of travelling or working in remote or hostile environments.

Entry requirements for international students

Please visit our entry requirements section for equivalencies from your country and further information on English language 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.

Who should I contact if I am not certain I meet the entry requirements?

We are happy to advise further on an individual basis and it will depend on your existing qualifications and academic background and your healthcare experience to date. In previous years we have had participants with nursing, paramedic, midwifery and sports medicine qualifications take the course.

People wishing to consider taking the course who do not have a primary medical qualification (medicine, nursing, paramedic) are strongly advised to have completed a course to FREC level 4 in order that they have familiarity with pre-hospital medical assessment and care. Offers will only be made if prospective candidates can demonstrate they bring equivalent experience and knowledge. Completion of an FREC course does not guarantee an offer and it is only one piece of information used to assess an application.

If you are concerned about your qualifications being suitable for entry, please contact the Admissions Team.

Other requirements

Alongside the mandatory academic requirements of the course, it is strongly recommended that you only apply if you are confident in your physical and mental ability to undertake activity equivalent to trekking several hours on successive days carrying a 15 kg pack and be prepared to sleep in very basic camping or bunkhouse facilities with access to simple shared washing facilities. Access to the quantity, quality and type of food may be very different to your expectations of your ideal diet. This is a minimum expectation that replicates remote and expedition activity – you should be self-sufficient and able to undertake this level of activity with a reserve of energy that still allows you to perform your professional role as a team medic at the end of the day.

Accreditation of prior learning for Masters courses in Healthcare and Medicine

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) is a process whereby students, who have already gained relevant skills and knowledge prior to the start of their course, may be granted a partial credit exemption from their programme instead of unnecessarily repeating work. Find out more about APL.

If you have any further questions relating to the Extreme Medicine programme, we recommend that you view our frequently asked questions document prior to contacting us.

Entry requirements for international students

Please visit our entry requirements section for equivalencies from your country and further information on English language requirements.

Read more

Entry requirements for international students

English language requirements

International students need to show they have the required level of English language to study this course. The required test scores for this course fall under Profile B2. Please visit our English language requirements page to view the required test scores and equivalencies from your country.

Course content

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

Through our partnership teaching arrangement with World Extreme Medicine, we offer you a unique programme of study. Via intensive residentials delivered in authentic outdoor and wilderness environments, backed by rigorous academic assignments, you will develop the knowledge and technical skills to evaluate and deliver healthcare support in challenging environments.

You will learn the practical skills, knowledge and understanding needed to perform at the highest possible level in the field of extreme medicine, with optional modules on special environments such as polar, desert, mountain and jungle.

You can also choose to undertake a specialism in Cold Environments, Hot Environments or Humanitarian Relief.


You are able to specialise in particular areas of Extreme Medicine. This specialism will be reflected in your award title provided you have taken the appropriate modules specified below, and completed an independent research project in the relevant field.

Depending on the specific modules taken, students may receive one of the following named awards:

• MSc in Extreme Medicine (Cold Environment)
• MSc in Extreme Medicine (Hot Environment)
• MSc in Extreme Medicine (Humanitarian Relief)

Your eligibility for the particular award will be confirmed by the final Assessment Progression and Awarding Committee (APAC) on the basis of the modules that have been completed. In order to graduate with a particular named award in parentheses, you will need to notify the programme support team accordingly. Otherwise the award name will be MSc in Extreme Medicine.

Modules and delivery

This MSc course can be taken as a full-time course over one year or alternatively spread over two or three years of part time study, which may suit applicants who are working full time.

The programme is also divided into units of study called ‘modules’ which are assigned a number of ‘credits’. To gain a Masters qualification, you will need to complete 180 credits at level 7. The credit rating of a module is proportional to the total workload, with one credit being nominally equivalent to 10 hours of work, a 15 credit module being equivalent to 150 hours of work and a full Masters degree being equivalent to approximately 1,800 hours of work.

It is also possible to exit with a PGCert after completing 60 credits of taught modules or a PGDip after completing 120 credits of taught modules. The list of modules below shows which are compulsory.

Can I enrol on the Full-time course if I am working full-time in a clinical role?

The face to face component of the course is delivered in intensive residential modules, requiring quite a lot of time away. It would be extremely challenging to complete the course while working full time. The schedule will allow most people taking the full-time option to do some paid employment as a locum during the quieter periods of the course.

What is the difference between the full and part time courses?

The only difference between the one year course and the two and three-year course is that the modules are all compressed into a single academic year. The net effect is that the residential and assessment schedule is more intensive. Deadlines for assignments typically extend to six weeks post module, but on the full-time course you may have already attended another module by then with a fresh assignment to consider. You will also need to be preparing your independent research project concurrently.

Do I have to come to Exeter regularly to study on the course?

The course is set up to use contact time as efficiently as possible in residential locations. Where possible we structure the contact time around high fidelity environments that are in a variety of UK and overseas locations. There is no compulsion to visit the Exeter campus although you are obviously very welcome!

Contact Dates‌

Draft timetable for MSc Extreme Medicine 2024/25

Please note: these dates are draft and subject to change

The last contact day and assessment deadline for the programme will be earlier than the actual end date of your registration with the University, to allow a period of time at the end of your active studies for further support and mitigation, if needed.

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 award comprises compulsory programme modules, 30 credits of the cold environment specialist modules, a research project in the relevant field, plus optional modules for the remainder of the programme credits.

Module Description Credits
HPDM074 Special Environment – Polar  15
HPDM077  Special Environment – Winter Alpine Medicine 15
HPDM073 Special Environment – Mountain  15


The award comprises compulsory programme modules, 30 credits of the hot environment specialist modules, a research project in the relevant field, plus optional modules for the remainder of the programme credits

Module Description Credit
HPDM086  Special Environment – Desert  15
HPDM072  Special Environment – Jungle  15


The award comprises compulsory programme modules, 30 credits of the humanitarian relief specialist modules, a research project in the relevant field, plus optional modules for the remainder of the programme credits

Module Description Credit
HPDM070 Humanitarian and Disaster Relief - Theory  15
HPDM071  Humanitarian and Disaster Relief - Practical  15


On top of our residential modules, we have established some fantastic links with external agencies that our students can exploit whilst they are on the programme. These include:

• Fellowship Principles of Space & Aviation Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) - students enrolled undertaking year 2 or 3 of this programme are eligible to apply for this unique opportunity. Places are competitive and will require a month’s residency in Houston, Texas.

• We have a number of exchange places with the European Space Agency and their Physician Training Course in Cologne open to those enrolled on our MSc.

Student photo gallery


2024/25 entry

Fees are subject to an annual increment each academic year.

UK and International fees per year:

  • MSc  £27,500 full-time, £13,750pa part-time 2 years, £12,000 (year 1 and 2), £3,500 (year 3) part-time 3 years
  • PgDip  £9,500pa part time 2 years
  • PgCert  £9,500


We invest heavily in scholarships for talented prospective Masters students. This includes over £5 million in scholarships for international students, such as our Global Excellence Scholarships*. 

For more information on scholarships, please visit our scholarships and bursaries page 

*Selected programmes only. Please see the Terms and Conditions for each scheme for further details. 

Find out more about tuition fees and funding 

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 £1750
  • Jungle £750
  • Mountain £1800
  • Desert £250
  • Dive £1600

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.

Read more

Funding and Scholarships

There are various funding opportunities available. Details of scholarships can be found on our dedicated funding page.

UK government postgraduate loan scheme

Postgraduate loans of up to £12,167 are now available for Masters degrees. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply.

Teaching and research

Our purpose is to deliver transformative education that will help tackle health challenges of national and global importance.


The Extreme Medicine course is a distance-learning programme, delivered through attendance at residentials in various locations. No teaching is delivered on the university campuses. The residentials include locations in the UK as well as environment-specific modules in various locations around the world, and are dependent on the modules you choose. This means that you are not required to live in Exeter when undertaking this Masters. The residentials are typically 3-7 days duration and designed to provide the challenge of learning in an unfamiliar environment and rely on the collaboration and support of the other participants. There is a strong focus on working collaboratively and learning from each other in small teams. The contact teaching is concentrated in short, intensive residential blocks for each module.


At the University of Exeter, we excel at working with members of the public and our partners in the health service to ensure that our research addresses the most important questions, so we can quickly translate our findings into accessible treatments and care.

Our research is globally recognised and our partnerships with healthcare providers, industry and above all, the public, mean that this work is constantly at the cutting-edge of innovation in improving lives.

Explore some of the many highlights of our research on our research impact page.


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.

You will learn how to assimilate and apply knowledge in extreme environments and circumstances, which is invaluable for anyone intending to use their qualification to deliver care professionally. Wilderness and remote medicine at present has a small formal evidence base for many of the interventions applied.

Distance learning

The Extreme Medicine course is a distance-learning programme, delivered through attendance at residentials. These are not University of Exeter-delivered field trips, but rather the in-person delivery of the course, provided by World Extreme Medicine, taking place at the relevant delivery site for the module. At present, only the Space and Aviation medicine module is delivered on the university campuses.

Due to the residential content featured in this programme, places are limited (50 places for the 2022/23 academic intake). All material is designed for Masters level and will involve distance learning support with background information, self-testing, reading and other resources hosted on the Exeter University online learning portal (ELE), in addition to the residential programme.


Taught modules will be assessed through literature reviews, essays, and written reports. An integral part of the programme is the residential postings which additionally contextualise your learning. There is no professional accreditation aligned with the degree. However, you can expect to receive a lot of formative feedback on your knowledge and skills from faculty while on the residential courses. Following the residentials, you will work towards a related assessment task.

The formal assessments that determine your final grade all relate to written assignments that test your ability to analyse, critically appraise and link concepts from a range of primary research and educational resources.

Independent Research Project (dissertation) module

Students have the opportunity to genuinely increase the knowledge base of the discipline in an important way through their work. There is considerable scope within modules for you to direct your learning towards fields of particular interest and participate in impactful research.

For the independent research project, you will have a dissertation supervisor as a mentor. There is provision for you to have up to 10 meetings (that can be remote eg. Teams, Zoom) of 30 minutes over the course of the academic year to advise on your project and there are formative submissions during the year of your project pro forma, interim results and progress reports that allow your supervisor to be confident that you are on track.


Expert tutors will facilitate group discussions and project work and provide support for independent learning. Each student is allocated an academic tutor who is available for advice and support throughout your studies. The Programme Lead is also available to help with further guidance and advice.


This programme is based at the St Luke’s campus in Exeter, just a 15 minute walk from the city centre and just over a mile away from the Streatham Campus. The campus is close to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and RILD building, which is home to the NHS funded Exeter Health Library. Students have studied at St Luke’s campus for over 150 years and the campus enjoys a vibrant atmosphere set around the lawns of the quadrangle.

Facilities at St Luke’s campus include:

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Your future

Who is this course for?

This programme is suitable for anyone with an interest in delivering healthcare outside of conventional healthcare facilities (such as hospitals, GP clinics), which could include expedition support, humanitarian work or medical support for remote industry.

It is also suitable for those from a range of backgrounds and professions, including: paramedics, medics, nurses, medical scientists, allied healthcare professionals, military medics, intercalating medical students.

Employer-valued skills this course develops

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

Career paths (graduate destinations)

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
  • Careers support

All University of Exeter students have access to Career Zone, which gives access to a wealth of business contacts, support and training as well as the opportunity to meet potential employers at our regular Careers Fairs.

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