Postgraduate study
A unique opportunity to investigate language and communication in various health care contexts.
MA Health Communication by Web-based Distance Learning
2-4 years part-time
Entry requirements
2.1(Upper 2nd class hons degree from British University or international equivalent)
7.0 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses may be available
Start date
September and February
UK/EU fees
£9,450 - Terms apply
International fees
£9,450 - Terms apply
Distance learning



The University of Nottingham has an international reputation for research and teaching in the field of professional communication. The study of health communication is a rapidly expanding field and the distance learning programme has been designed to reflect the growing interest in and importance of health care communication. 

Communication is increasingly recognised as a vital part of the health care environment. From clinical consultations to health care policy, language plays a key role in promoting health, facilitating understanding and managing the emotional climate of health care.

The MA programme in Health Communication provides a unique opportunity to investigate language and communication in various health care contexts. The course gives students a thorough grounding in the concepts, theories and research methods used in this area. It will be of interest for those wishing to develop careers in the area of health communication: health promotion officers, health information managers, hospital administrators, medical and allied health practitioners (such as doctors, pharmacists, nurses, midwives, physiotherapists, speech therapists and occupational therapists), workers in the voluntary sector, workers based in health or lifestyle charities, healthcare communication professionals and those with an interest, though not necessarily a background, in this growing field. 

The course is run by the University’s Health Language Research Group, with its rich membership of clinical practitioners and scholars, and is affiliated to the schools of Health Sciences, Sociology and Social Policy, and English Studies, all of which look to communication as a way of making sense of health care. The University of Nottingham has an international reputation for research and teaching in the field of professional communication. The study of health communication is a rapidly expanding field and the distance learning programme has been designed to reflect the growing interest in and importance of health care communication.

The MA has intakes in September and February.

Key facts

  • The MA Health Communication is a distance learning programme and includes the option of voluntary day schools held for participants in Nottingham.
  • The course is taught using a course tool software called Moodle.
  • As well as completing this course at a pace that suits you and your other commitments, you have the flexibility to study towards a Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits), Postgraduate Diploma (120 credits) or an MA (180 credits, including dissertation). 

Please Note:

This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies.  Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.


Full course details

The MA Health Communication provides you with a unique and exciting opportunity to investigate language and communication in health care contexts. 

The course content offers a detailed and comprehensive coverage of the main areas of health care communication, with the opportunity to specialise in areas according to your own interests and research. 

The course examines the role of language in a comprehensive and diverse range of health care settings and focuses on established approaches used to analyse and interrogate health care interaction, ranging from narratology and corpus linguistics to conversation and discourse analysis. 

With such a particular focus on research methodology, this programme also offers a unique opportunity for investigating language and communication from interdisciplinary perspectives. 

The following modules currently make up the taught component of the programme: 

  • Research Methodologies for Health Care Communication 
  • The Language of Compliance 
  • Health Care Narratives 
  • Health Care Documentation 
  • Dissertation 

This course is only available on a part-time basis over 24 to 48 months.

Students should check the eligibility requirements with their funding body before enrolling on a part-time course.

Each 20 credit module will entail a notional 225 hours study time, in line with the general university recommendation. It will be assessed by a 4000 word essay.

The 20 credit compulsory Entry Module Research Methodologies for Health Care Communication acts as a point of progression. Students must pass this module (either at first attempt or at resit) in order to progress automatically to the rest of the taught course. Students must complete the taught element of the course before proceeding to the writing of their 12-15,000 word dissertation.

There are several staged exit points which, if exercised by the student, lead to the following awards:

       Post-Graduate Certificate (upon completion of 60 credits)

       Post-Graduate Diploma (upon completion of 120 credits)

       Master of Arts (upon completion of 180 credits)

The completion of 120 credits for the Post-Graduate Diploma is a point of progression before admission to the dissertation to complete the MA. Any student who passes sufficient credits at each exit point or point of progression will have an automatic right to proceed to the next stage of the course.

You will have access to many online resources, as well as your own personal tutor for each module that you take. Particular features of the programme include:

  • a theoretical grounding in research methodology and linguistic description
  • one-to-one tuition with expert members of staff
  • innovative and engaging teaching methods 
  • access to many online resources
  • great flexibility in course content, optionality, and changes in direction.

All MA students in the School of English join a lively and thriving postgraduate community. As such, you will be invited to attend a voluntary `Summer School` each year, giving you a chance to meet other students in the school face-to-face. 

Instead of completing the entire MA programme, students who have less time for study may wish to take fewer modules, leading to the awards of: Advanced Certificate (60 credits) and Advanced Diploma (120 credits). 

Details of course fees and other costs are available on the school's web pages. Further information about the structure of the course can be found in the student handbook.



The following is a sample of typical modules that we offer, not a definitive list. Due to the passage of time between commencement of the course and subsequent years of the course, modules may change, for example due to curriculum developments.

Research Methodologies for Health
Care Communication (20 credits)

This module introduces students to 4 different methodological approaches to analysis that can be used to study interpersonal and written communication in health care: i) Discourse Analysis ii) Critical Discourse Analysis iii) Conversation Analysis iv) Corpus Linguistics. Students will be introduced to the assumptions and techniques of these kinds of analysis and will be familiarised with examples of the methods in action in research on health care. Differences and similarities between the approaches will be highlighted. Issues around choice of method, choice of method to suit the research question, and the application of findings will be explored. Throughout the module students will experience what work using these different analytical approaches might involve and consider the practical and theoretical issues raised by these activities. Students will also be encouraged to develop a critical appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of each method of analysis and the circumstances in which each is most appropriate.


Health Care Narratives (20 credits)

This module is intended to familiarise students with theories and applications of narrative in health care contexts. The module will address the following key areas: i) Narratology: Theories of narrative ii) Personal narratives of illness iii) Professional narratives iv) Organisation and policy narratives v) Narrative as therapeutic intervention The module will provide students with an opportunity to examine what narrative is and how this knowledge can be deployed to help understand a variety of phenomena encountered in health care. The module will equip students with a high level knowledge of narrative theory and how much of what takes place in health care exchanges are governed by the kinds of narratives that are used. Students will also develop and practice skills in identifying and analysing narratives of patients, professionals and policy makers. Students will also understand how knowledge of narratives can be used to enhance therapeutic interventions and practices across a range of health care disciplines. Students will appreciate how health care environments, structures and practices are informed by broader, macro-level organisational and governmental narratives.


Health Care Documentation (20 credits)

This module introduces students to the study of health care documentation. The term documentation will be defined widely so as to include:
  • Written and electronic records of client care
  • Case conferences, programme planning and care plans
  • Policy documents at national, local and institutional levels
  • Health promotion and education materials.

In relation to each of these topics, students will be encouraged to learn about how previous authors have studied these kinds of documentation and critically evaluate the theories and methods employed. Students will, consistent with ethical considerations, be encouraged to collect their own examples for analysis in learning exercises in the module and make use of the materials available in the Nottingham University Health Language Corpus. Learning activities in the module will include a combination of critical analysis of existing research and the students own analysis of health care documentation materials.


The Language of Compliance (20 credits)

This module addresses the issue of compliance in healthcare from a communications perspective. It begins by examining the terminology from a sociological perspective, considering to what extent alternative terms such as adherence and concordance represent a paradigm shift in either policy or practice. The remainder of the module is divided into two sections: macro or structural issues affecting compliance, such as age, gender, cultural background and educational level; and micro level or interactional issues, such as the differences in design and receipt between advice, information or instruction.

Discourse Analysis (20 credits)
The module looks at various approaches to the study of spoken language. These include structural models based on the work of the Birmingham discourse analysts, as well as more sociolinguistically inspired approaches to conversation analysis and recent developments in spoken corpus linguistics. Each learning unit takes a different kind of discourse and progressively builds up a classification of discourse types or genres. Real spoken data are used throughout, for exemplification and practical analysis tasks. Both quantitative (corpus-based) and qualitative approaches to analysis are covered, and the implications for language pedagogy and other branches of applied linguistics (e.g applications in other professional contexts) are considered.
Corpus Linguistics (20 credits)

Corpus linguistics provides methods for the study of collections of electronic texts (written texts, including literary texts, material from the internet, transcripts of spoken language, etc.). This module introduces fundamental corpus methods that include retrieving and interpreting word frequency information, studying patterns of words in the form of concordances, and analysing key words and key semantic domains.

The module will explain these concepts and illustrate methods through case studies, with an emphasis on the use of corpus methods for the purposes of discourse analysis. Through hands-on sessions students will actively practise using corpus analysis software and several online interfaces. Throughout the module, students are encouraged to reflect on the applicability of a range of methods to their own areas of interest (e.g. literary linguistics, critical discourse analysis, ELT, etc.). For the assessment, students will complete a small-scale corpus project on a topic of their own choosing (in consultation with the module convenor). This project can function to test ideas that might be further developed in the dissertation.

Language and Gender (20 credits)
The module will explore the relationship between language and gender in spoken interaction and written texts, drawing on key approaches in the areas of discourse analysis, sociolinguistics and pragmatics. The extent to which gender affects the language we produce when interacting with one another in a variety of contexts will be focused on, along with the issue of sexism in language use. Various theoretical paradigms that have been presented to explain language and gender differences will be critically examined, along with gender ideologies which operate in society. Students will be encouraged to combine theoretical thinking with hands-on analyses of data from authentic examples of spoken interaction and from a variety of publications including the popular media. The practical consequences of the discipline in terms of how findings can have a political impact on wider society are also discussed.
Intercultural Communication (20 credits)
This module will explore the use of language in interactions between speakers of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds from three different perspectives: Description, Development, and Assessment. With a growing proportion of interactions in the world today taking place between people of diverse cultural backgrounds, it is important to identify and describe language use which may lead to misunderstanding and communicative breakdown. This module will look at ways in which language barriers might be overcome in such interactions, and at the key factors in this process. We will examine intercultural interactions in a variety of contexts, e.g. business and other professional encounters, the language of the media, the foreign language classroom, etc.

More information on the above modules is available in the Module Catalogue.

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The above is a sample of the typical modules that we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Due to the passage of time between commencement of the course and subsequent years of the course, modules may change due to developments in the curriculum and information is provided for indicative purposes only.


Fees and funding

UK/EU Students

Please note that distance learning students are charged a standard fee with no differentiation between UK/EU and international students. Fees are paid on a module by module basis.

The majority of postgraduate students in the UK fund their own studies, often from a package made up of personal savings, parental loans or contributions, bank loans and support from a trust or charity.

Every year, a number of students are successful in the AHRC, ESRC or other competitions for funding (including ORS funding). The school also provides a number of bursaries and scholarships for MA students. 

See the latest information about the main sources of funding open to postgraduate students who wish to study in the school. 

The Graduate School website at The University of Nottingham provides more information on internal and external sources of postgraduate funding. 

Government loans for masters courses

Masters student loans of up to £10,906 are available for taught and research masters courses. Applicants must ordinarily live in the UK or EU.

International and EU students

Masters scholarships are available for international and EU students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study. You must already have an offer to study at Nottingham to apply. Please note closing dates to ensure you apply for your course with enough time.

Information and advice on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study is available on our website, as well as country-specific resources.


Careers and professional development

Because of its strong emphasis on the analysis and discussion of real-life settings and practical health care contexts, the course is particularly suitable for health care professionals who wish to further their career and professional development, as well as students who wish to continue their studies to PhD level or want to enter an environmental where Health Communication plays a central role. 

Our postgraduate students move into an extraordinarily wide range of careers following their time in the school. 

According to The Times, “English graduates have almost any career path open to them ... All of the big graduate recruiters look for communication skills.” (Clare Dight, ‘Degree Doctor…English’, The Times, 6 April 2006). 

Conducting postgraduate work in the School of English fosters many vital skills and may give you a head start in the job market. Studying at this level allows you to develop qualities of self-discipline and self-motivation that are essential to employment in a wide range of different fields. 

We will help you develop your ability to research and process a large amount of information quickly, and to present the results of your research in an articulate and effective way. 

A postgraduate degree in English Studies from an institution like The University of Nottingham shows potential employers that you are an intelligent, hard-working individual who is bright and flexible enough to undertake any form of specific career training. 

Our applicants are among the best in the country, and employers expect the best from our graduates.

Average starting salary

The University of Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers.*

Consequently – and owing to our reputation for excellence – more than 84% of postgraduates from the School of English enter employment or further study during the first six months after graduation. The average starting salary for postgraduates from the Faculty of Arts was £20,250 with the highest being £33,000.**

* The Graduate Market 2013-2016, High Fliers Research. **Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates 2017. Salaries are calculated based on those in full-time paid employment within the UK. 

Career Prospects and Employability

The acquisition of a masters degree demonstrates a high level of knowledge in a specific field. Whether you are using it to enhance your employability, as preparation for further academic research or as a means of vocational training, you may benefit from  careers advice as to how you can use your new found skills to their full potential. 

Our Careers and Employability Service will help you do this, working with you to explore your options and inviting you to attend recruitment events where you can meet potential employers, as well as suggesting further development opportunities, such as relevant work experience placements and skills workshops.  


Related courses and downloads


This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

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