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Brighton & Sussex Medical School

Physician associate studies

BSMS > Postgraduate > Physician Associate Studies

Physician Associate Studies

Key facts


Full-time: 2 years

Eligible applicants: UK, international*

Location: University of Brighton, Falmer campus; University of Sussex, Falmer campus. Placements for GP one day/week in Yr 1 and five days/week in Yr2 are within the local trusts and GP surgeries. 

Course Leader: Mrs Kate Bascombe

Read Mrs Kate Bascombe profile here >

Course Co-Ordinator: Rhianna Wesson

Read Rhianna Wesson's profile here >

For enquiries about the course or application process, please email:

General enquiries:

*International applicants: a UK PA qualification does not currently entitle graduates to work as PAs outside of the UK.

This is a highly competitive course, with 10 applicants per available place. We strongly encourage you to apply as early as possible, to ensure that your application will be reviewed.

Please pay close attention to the requirements and read in full the fees and funding section at the bottom of this page before applying

Applications for 2024 entry are now open.

To see what some of our students have to say about this course, watch our video below.

Watch the PA video below >

Key areas of study

  • Integrated curriculum with longitudinal clinical placements in primary care throughout Year 1
  • Anatomy delivered using prosection and ‘living anatomy’ ultrasound.
  • Access to innovative online learning platforms such as SmartDrug, Capsule and Speaking Clinically.
  • Simulation-based learning
  • Mixture of didactic teaching, small group seminars, workshops and Problem Based Learning reinforced by self-directed learning.
  • Dedicated interprofessional (IPL) sessions with medical and pharmacy students.
  • Dedicated Personal Tutor and wellbeing sessions.
  • Rotational attachments in regional NHS trusts in clinical specialties throughout Year 2

Course overview

The Physician Associate MSc is taught by UK trained PAs, doctors, pharmacists, nurses, midwives and paramedics. You learn from the multidisciplinary team that you will work with in the future. It equips you with the skills to take a medical history, perform physical examinations, request and interpret investigations, diagnose and develop treatment and management plans.

The integrated curriculum ensures our graduates are optimally prepared for the PA Registration Assessment(PARA). It includes significant time in local and regional clinical placements and simulation facilities. 

The PA programme launched in 2016, with the first graduates exiting in 2018. We have a 100% pass rate on the PA National Exam. The student experience is at the heart of how we deliver the course and we encourage an open and honest dialogue with our students throughout their two years. It is a very challenging but ultimately very rewarding experience.

At a time of significant change in the NHS, PAs are playing an increasingly valuable role supporting doctors and the wider team in the diagnosis and management of patients. For further information on Physician Associates, please visit the Faculty of PAs at the RCP website here. To understand what a Physician Associate does on a day-to-day basis, visit the NHS ‘explore roles’ page where you will find more information and videos. You can also keep up-to-date with our own BSMS PAs Twitter channel @BSMSPAs

The course has a full-time schedule across the week with additional study required at evenings and weekends. There is very little opportunity to undertake work alongside the course. Travel expenses to GP placements in year 1 (once a week) and secondary care placements throughout year 2 will also be payable by the student. Currently we are not able to offer accommodation at placement sites. Please consider this carefully, together with the fees and funding information, before applying.

Naomi Mayo photo
“As the mother of four children the course is undeniably challenging, however with the support of my family and the Faculty (and a lot of hard work!) I have been able to keep up with the demands and really enjoy my studies.”
Naomi Mayo, 2020 Physician Associate graduate

Course structure

Learning outcomes from the modules listed below are integrated so that students will learn about clinical medicine on a theoretical basis, practice relevant clinical skills in the classroom, followed by supervised practice with real patients in clinical attachments.

Year One

One day a week is spent in a General Practice placement and the remaining three days on campus for large and small group teaching, clinical skills and anatomy.

Friday teaching is delivered online, consistent with the latest evidence and best teaching practice. There will be some Fridays, were assessments or teaching are best suited to in-person delivery, and attendance on campus is required. Adequate notice is provided as to mode of delivery.

  • Biomedical and Clinical Sciences for PAs – A (includes problem-based learning) (60 credits)
  • Clinical Skills for PAs – A (includes communication and physical exam skills) (30 credits)
  • Clinical Practice for PAs – A (GP placements) (15 credits)
  • Pharmacology and Prescribing for PAs (15 credits)
  • PA as a Professional Evaluation Report (PAPER) – A (10 credits)

Year Two

  • Biomedical and Clinical Sciences for PAs – B (15 credits)
  • Clinical Skills for PAs – B (15 credits)
  • Clinical Practice for PAs – B (clinical placements in regional secondary care trusts and GPs) (70 credits)
  • Preparation for Practice (student selected placement within affiliated trusts) (10 credits)
  • Evidence Based Practice (20 credits)
  • PA as a Professional Evaluation Report (PAPER) – B (10 credits))

In the second year of study, students are on placement in one of the three regional trusts; East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (ESHT), Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (SASH), University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust. Time is also spent at Sussex Partnership NHS Trust for Psychiatry placements. While every effort is made to accommodate student preferences, no guarantees can be made of any one particular placement or location.


Assessments are designed in a way to best prepare students for the PARA national exam. They comprise of written papers (Single Best Answer (SBA)), dissertation submission, portfolio submissions, presentation and Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs).

Term dates – 2024-2025

Cohort 24-26: exact dates to be confirmed spring 2024

Year 1

Term 1: 9 September 2024 – 18 December 2024
Term 2: 6 January 2025 – 16 April 2025
Term 3: 23 April 2025 – 25 July 2025 (this includes assessment period through resits)

Year 2

Please note that will start with compulsory university week approx. 28 July 2025. Exact dates to be confirmed.

Career opportunities

Qualification with the MSc in Physician Associate Studies and successful completion of the national PARA will allow alumni to work in a variety of healthcare settings across primary and secondary care.

PAs can expect starting salaries of Agenda for Change Band 7. Progression thereafter will be dependent on competency, attributes and opportunities to progress to higher pay scales.

The PA role has been identified as a key emergent profession within the NHS and as such there are an increasing number of jobs being advertised. These can typically be viewed on NHS jobs.

Entry requirements

Applicants require a 1st or upper second-class (2:1) degree in life sciences or another health-related undergraduate degree within the past five years. Applicants should also have some healthcare related experience in the form of work or shadowing.

For non-native English speaking students an IELTS score of 7.5 or above (no single element below 7.0) is required in addition to the academic requirements

Fees and funding

EU nationals are required to pay international fees and are not eligible for student funding from the UK government. However, there are exceptions to this for Irish nationals and EU nationals with settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. For the latest information, please see If you do not have settled status in the UK and require a work visa, then you will be fee assessed as Overseas and will therefore be subject to the International fee rate.

Fees are charged per year. There are expected rises each academic year in line with inflation.

Find out more about fees and funding >

After accepting your place on the course there is a non-refundable £500 deposit required to secure your place. This is then subtracted from your tuition fees once you have started the course.

A training grant of approx. £5,125 split across the two years from NHS England (NHSE) has been available for students. This has been available to all students of PA programmes regardless of the university they study at. Universities do not receive confirmation that this will continue until the start of the academic year. Should this continue, it will be received by the university and automatically deducted from your fees. Please note that students do not need to apply for this.

Students can also apply for a Postgraduate student loan of approx. £10,250.


Thank you for your interest in this course. Applications for September 2024 entry are now open.  

Successful applicants will be invited to interview. These will be conducted via face to face Multi Mini Interviews (MMIs). These last for half a day and are held on the Falmer Campus. They include situational scenarios, group activities and 1:2 interview with a clinician and lay representative. The dates are between January and May 2024.

This is a highly competitive course, with 10 applicants per available place. We strongly encourage you to apply as early as possible, to ensure that your application will be reviewed.

Please pay close attention to the requirements and read in full the fees and funding section before applying.

Apply here >