Postgraduate study

Patient Safety & Clinical Human Factors (Online Learning)

Awards: MSc, PgCert, PgDip

Study modes: Part-time

Online learning

Funding available

This 3-year part-time online MSc programme in Patient Safety and Clinical Human Factors aims to support any graduate health care professionals (ranging from nurses to surgeons and anaesthetists) in using evidence-based tools and techniques to improve the reliability and safety of everyday health care systems and processes.

Applicants for this degree will be looking to distinguish themselves as being experienced in patient safety and, in some may, 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 enthusiasts.

Year One will give a broad introduction into the current state of safety in health care, how harm comes to patients and a detailed understanding of clinical human factors, ergonomics.

Year Two will then go 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. We will also focus on quality improvement research and methodologies.

Year Three 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, and completion of a dissertation.

Due to the unique completely online nature of the pedagogy, the programme would be an attractive option for those professionals wishing to secure academic credit or a higher degree in patient safety and who are unable to commit to attend on-campus teaching.

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. A blend of online learning methods are utilised such as; discussion forums and live tutorials to create a dynamic and collaborative learning experience. You will become part of an on-line community bringing together students and tutors from all over the world.

Assessment of progress is achieved by group work, essays, critical incident reporting, scientific posters and group wiki events. In addition to the core learning in Patient Safety and Clinical human Factors, the programme will allow you to enhance your interpersonal, self-management, IT, team working and project management skills.

The programme is delivered in an online environment that provides 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.

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 and the dissertation element (in Year 3).

The taught element of the programme is divided into six 20 credit courses (3 are needed to complete certificate, six needed to complete diploma) and each academic year consists of three teaching blocks, each running over a period of 11 weeks.

During the dissertation element of the programme students will have the opportunity to further develop their developing skills and design and conduct their own quality improvement project in their workplace.

This dissertation year consists of a phased assessment.

Year 1

60 credit = PgCert

  • 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 credit = PgDip

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

Year 3

180 credit = 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 2018/19
PgCertPatient Safety and Clinical Human Factors1 YearPart-timeProgramme structure 2018/19
PgDipPatient Safety and Clinical Human Factors2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2018/19

The five Learning Outcomes have been mapped onto the SCQF level 11 characteristics:

  • To 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.
  • To put into practice the applied knowledge, skills and understanding by planning and executing a significant project of research, investigation or development.
  • To develop the necessary cognitive skills to deal with complex issues and make informed judgements in situations in the absence of complete or consistent data/information. *To recognise contributory factors towards adverse events and use this knowledge to inform improvement plans and learning at a local and organisational level (including audit/M&M meetings and Duty of candour as well as ethics).
  • To develop communication skills. To communicate, using appropriate methods, to a range of audiences with different levels of knowledge/expertise; to access a wide range of routine skills and a range of advanced and specialised skills as appropriate to a Patient Safety and Clinical Human Factors.
  • To exercise substantial autonomy and initiative in professional and equivalent activities. To demonstrate leadership and initiative and make an identifiable contribution to change and development and/or new thinking. To demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the chosen research topic; 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; Demonstrate originality and creativity in the development and application of new knowledge, understanding and practices.

A graduate of this programme may be looking to develop specific skills in this area within their current position and some may be looking to secure an appointment as a patient safety officer, a position that is increasingly promoted and advertised in the UK. We anticipate that this qualification would not necessarily result in a change in career for graduate health care professionals so much as developing their 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. Graduating students will have a significant advantage in signalling not only their commitment to patient safety and quality improvement, but they will have also demonstrated the skills needed in identifying and measuring patient safety risks from a Human Factors science perspective and the ability to apply quality improvement methodology to making effective changes to improve safety. These skills are highly sought after particularly within the NHS and other developed health care systems.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in healthcare, with subject areas including medicine, biomedical science or pharmacology/pharmacy, nursing, psychology.

We may also consider your application if you have relevant work experience; work experience must be in a related scientific area for example hospital or primary care (preferably based around patient safety, quality improvement research) for 3 or more years. Please contact the programme team to check before you apply. You may be admitted to certificate level only in the first instance.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

All applicants must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of their English language ability:

  • an undergraduate or masters degree, that was taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country as defined by UK Visas and Immigration

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 (at least 6.0 in each module)

  • TOEFL-iBT: total 92 (at least 20 in each module)

  • PTE Academic: total 61 (at least 56 in each of the "Communicative Skills" sections; the "Enabling Skills" sections are not considered)

  • CAE and CPE: total 176 (at least 169 in each module)

  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components

Degrees taught and assessed in English must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your degree programme. IELTS, TOEFL, Pearson Test of English and Trinity ISE must be no more than two years old at the beginning of your degree programme.*

(*Revised 8/11/2018 to provide more accurate information on English language qualifications expiry dates.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

UK government postgraduate loans

UK nationals, those with settled status, and some EU nationals not resident in the UK, could be eligible for a postgraduate loan towards fees - and in some cases living costs. Full guidance and information can be found on our Scholarships & Student Funding website:

Find out more about scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Academic Facilitator, Domenica Coxon
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 651 4935
  • Email:
  • Edinburgh Surgery Online, Room G10/11
  • Simon Laurie House
  • 196 Canongate
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 8AQ
Programme start date Application deadline
9 September 2019 30 August 2019

We strongly recommend you submit your completed application as early as possible, particularly if you are also applying for funding or will require a visa. We may consider late applications if we have places available.

Application deadline is 31/08/18.

You must submit a reference with your application.

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

Further information

  • Academic Facilitator, Domenica Coxon
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 651 4935
  • Email:
  • Edinburgh Surgery Online, Room G10/11
  • Simon Laurie House
  • 196 Canongate
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 8AQ