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Brighton & Sussex Medical School

Physician associate studies

BSMS > Postgraduate > Physician Associate Studies

Physician Associate Studies

Key facts

MSc*

Full-time: 2 years

Eligible applicants: UK, International**

Location: University of Brighton, Falmer campus, University of Sussex Falmer campus

Course Leader: Mrs Kate Bascombe

Read Mrs Kate Bascombe profile here >

Course Administrator: Anna Nicolaou

For enquiries about the course or application process, please email: PhysicianAssociates@bsms.ac.uk

General enquiries: brighton.ac.uk/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. Applications received after the deadline are unlikely to be considered.

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

Apply here >

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
  • Access to learning materials from the undergraduate medical course 
  • Simulation-based learning
  • Clinical reasoning strategies for diagnosis in case-based learning/problem-based learning 
  • Rotational attachments in regional NHS trusts in clinical specialties throughout Year 2

Course overview

Physician Associate Studies is taught by UK and US trained PAs, doctors, nurses and pharmacists. 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 National Exam (PANE). 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 www.fparcp.co.uk. 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

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

  • Biomedical and Clinical Sciences for PAs – A (includes case-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)

Year Two

  • Biomedical and Clinical Sciences for PAs – B (30 credits)
  • Clinical Skills for PAs – B (15 credits)
  • Clinical Practice for PAs – B (clinical placements in regional secondary care trusts and GPs) (60 credits)
  • Preparation for Practice (student selected placement within affiliated trusts) (15 credits)
  • Service Improvement Project (30 credits)

In the second year of study, students are on placement in one of the three regional trusts. Time is also spent at Sussex Partnership NHS Trust doing psychiatry. While every effort is made to accommodate student preferences, no guarantees can be made of any one particular placement or location.

Assessment

Assessments are designed in a way to best prepare students for the PA National Examination (PANE). They comprise of written papers (Single Best Answer (SBA), dissertation submission, portfolio submission and Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs).

Term dates – 2022-23

Year 1

Term 1: 9 September –18 December 2022
Term 2: 3 January – 5 April
Term 3: 12 April – 21 July

Year 2

Term one: 2 August – 18 December 2022          
Term two: 4 January – 13 April 2023           
Term three (includes assessment period): 12 April – 21 July 2023

Career opportunities

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

Following graduation from the course, and subsequent completion of the Physician Associate National Examinations, 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 should have a first or upper second-class degree in life sciences or another health-related undergraduate degree within the past five years. Applicants with a degree awarded more than five years ago may apply but should have clinical experience and may be asked to write an academic essay as part of the application process.

For non-native English speaking students an IELTS score of 7.5 or above is required in addition to the academic requirements. 

Fees and funding

With effect from 2021/22 onwards, EU nationals starting new postgraduate courses will pay international fees and will not be 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 gov.uk/student-finance.

MSc* fees for 2023/24:

UK students: £10,850 per year

International students: £20,000 per year

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 from Health Education England is available to all students across the two-year course. This is received by the university and will automatically be 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.

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. Please consider this carefully, together with the above fees and funding information, before applying.

*As part of our ongoing quality assurance and improvement process we are reviewing the content of the modules and award for the PA programme with a potential move from an MSc to an MPAS (Masters in PA Studies). This would commence in Sept 2023. Throughout the process we are looking to ensure the content of the course and support provided remains of the upmost quality and that we are meeting the upcoming GMC requirements for all courses across the UK. The fundamentals of how the course runs will remain the same. We will update this webpage with progress.

Apply here

Thank you for your interest in this course. Please note that applications for this course will open on 17 October when the Portal for September 2023 goes live. 

Due to the volume of applications that we receive the application process will close on the 24 February 2023.

Successful applicants will be invited to interview. These will be conducted via face to face Multi Mini Interviews (MMIs). 

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. Applications received after the deadline are unlikely to be considered. Please pay close attention to application deadlines and requirements.

Apply here >