Postgraduate study
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Patient Safety and Clinical Human Factors (Online Learning) MSc, PgCert, PgDip

Awards: MSc, PgCert, PgDip

Study modes: Part-time

Online learning

Funding opportunities

Who is this programme for?

This three year, part-time, online MSc programme in Patient Safety and Clinical Human Factors aims to support graduate health care professionals, ranging from nurses, surgeons, anaesthetists, veterinarians, paramedics and those working in healthcare management. Students learn how to use evidence -based tools and techniques to improve the reliability and safety of everyday health care systems and processes.

As an applicant of this degree, you will be looking to distinguish yourself as being an expert in patient safety and looking to move towards specialising or taking a management lead in this field. The programme will draw on teaching materials from a global network of experts.

Due to the unique and completely online nature of the teaching, the programme is an attractive option if you are a professional wishing to secure academic credit or a higher degree in patient safety and are unable to commit to attend on-campus teaching.

Year 1 and 2 of the programme each consist of three 20-credit courses. On successful completion of Year 1 and Year 2 courses, students complete an independent research project in Year 3.

this programme has the following exit awards:

  • Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert: 60 credits)
  • Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip: 120 credits)
  • Master of Science (MSc: 180 credits)

Year 1

Year 1 will cover:

  • a broad introduction into the current state of safety in health care
  • how harm comes to patients
  • a detailed understanding of clinical human factors and ergonomics

Year 2

Year 2 will follow on from the state of healthcare to look at how we can improve safety in healthcare.

This involves examining how good teamwork influences patient outcomes, as well as improving healthcare and medicine management.

You will also focus on quality improvement research and methodologies.

Year 3

Year 3 will follow the highly successful iterative module used by the Masters in Surgical Sciences, involving:

  • submission of a project outline
  • abstract submission with poster preparation
  • completion of a dissertation

The programme is delivered by recognised experts in the various subject areas and will draw upon the extensive staff expertise at the University of Edinburgh and at other Institutions internationally.

In addition to the core learning in Patient Safety and Clinical human Factors, the programme will allow you to enhance your skills in:

  • interpersonal
  • self-management
  • IT
  • team working
  • project management

Online learning environment

The programme is delivered in an online environment that provides a dynamic and collaborative learning experience. You will become part of an online community bringing together students and tutors from all over the world.

A blend of online learning methods are utilised, such as discussion forums and live tutorials, to create a dynamic and collaborative learning experience.

Expert tutors will support you through every stage of the programme and you can engage with fellow students in supportive and constructive online networks.

The flexible learning environment means you learn at the times and locations that suit you best, making this programme suitable for high calibre, busy professionals who want to update and extend their knowledge.

How will I be assessed?

Assessment of progress is achieved by:

  • group work
  • essays
  • critical incident reporting
  • scientific posters
  • group wiki events

Studying online at Edinburgh

Find out more about the benefits and practicalities of studying for an online degree:

The programme has two elements: the taught element (Year 1 and Year 2) and the dissertation element (in Year 3).

The taught element of the programme is divided into six 20 credit courses; three are needed to complete the Certificate and six needed to complete Diploma. Each academic year consists of three teaching blocks, each running over a period of twelve weeks.

During the dissertation element of the programme, you will have the opportunity to further develop your skills by designing and conducting your own research project in your workplace. This dissertation year consists of a phased assessment.

Year 1

60 credits = PgCert

Courses include:

  • Introduction to healthcare delivery and what leads to harm (20 credits)
  • Clinical Human Factors and ergonomics in Healthcare (20 credits)
  • Individual and team skills (20 credits)

Year 2

120 credits = PgDip

Courses include:

  • Learning from current practice and governance (20 credits)
  • Training for safety (20 credits)
  • Quality improvement for safer practice (20 credits)

Year 3

180 credits = MSc

  • Dissertation and independent improvement project (60 credits)

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScPatient Safety and Clinical Human Factors3 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2024/25
PgCertPatient Safety and Clinical Human Factors1 YearPart-timeProgramme structure 2024/25
PgDipPatient Safety and Clinical Human Factors2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2024/25

The programme's learning outcomes have been mapped onto the SCQF level 11 characteristics.

On graduating from this programme, you will:

  • demonstrate an extensive, detailed and critical knowledge and understanding of the current background and principal theories regarding the extent of and causes of harm in healthcare, reliability, patient safety and human factors.
  • be able to put into practice the applied knowledge, skills and understanding by planning and executing a significant project of research, investigation or development.
  • have developed the necessary cognitive skills to deal with complex issues and make informed judgements in situations in the absence of complete or consistent data/information.
  • be able to recognise contributory factors towards adverse events and use this knowledge to inform improvement plans and learning at a local and organisational level. This includes audit/M&M meetings and duty of candour, as well as ethics.
  • have highly developed communication skills, and be communicate, using appropriate methods, to a range of audiences with different levels of knowledge/expertise.
  • gain a wide range of routine skills and a range of advanced and specialised skills as appropriate to Patient Safety and Clinical Human Factors.
  • be able to exercise substantial autonomy and initiative in professional and equivalent activities. You will demonstrate leadership and initiative and make an identifiable contribution to change and development and/or new thinking.
  • demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the chosen research topic, You will identify, conceptualise and offer original and creative insights into novel information and/or recently published data.
  • produce a written critique of a defined piece of research, as well as demonstrate originality and creativity in the development and application of new knowledge, understanding and practices.

As a graduate of this programme, you may be looking to develop specific skills in this area within your current position. You may also be looking to secure an appointment as a patient safety officer, a position that is increasingly promoted and advertised in the UK and abroad.

We anticipate that this qualification would not necessarily result in a change in career for graduate health care professionals so much as develop your current role.

The demand for individuals with knowledge and skills in teaching and assessing patient safety and quality improvement is growing rapidly. Both NHS England and Scotland are driving initiatives in this area and this is being observed globally.

As a graduating student, you will have a significant advantage in signalling not only your commitment to patient safety and quality improvement, but you will have also demonstrated the skills needed in identifying and measuring patient safety risks from a Human Factors science perspective.

You will also gain the ability to apply quality improvement methodology to make effective changes to improve safety. These skills are highly sought after particularly within the NHS and other developed health care systems.

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in any healthcare-related subject, including but not limited to medicine, biomedical science, veterinary science, pharmacology/pharmacy, nursing, or psychology. Candidates currently working in healthcare-related industries with degrees in life sciences, social sciences, economics, management, or other related disciplines are also encouraged to apply.

We may also consider your application if you have relevant work experience in a related scientific area, for example hospital or primary care for 3 or more years. Experience in patient safety or quality improvement would be advantageous. Please contact the programme team to check before you apply.

Students from China

This degree is Band D.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 6.0 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 59 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScPatient Safety and Clinical Human Factors3 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
PgCertPatient Safety and Clinical Human Factors1 YearPart-timeTuition fees
PgDipPatient Safety and Clinical Human Factors2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Scholarships and Funding

Edinburgh Surgery Online offer a number of Scholarships. More information and eligibility criteria can be found on the Edinburgh Surgery Online webpage:

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Edinburgh Surgery Online, Room G10/11
  • Simon Laurie House
  • 196 Canongate
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 8AQ
Programme start date Application deadline
9 September 2024 23 August 2024

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

You must submit one reference with your application.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Edinburgh Surgery Online, Room G10/11
  • Simon Laurie House
  • 196 Canongate
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 8AQ