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Physician Associate Studies

This is a full-time, two year intensive medical training programme. It is designed to educate and produce knowledgeable and competent clinicians who can practise medicine and support the medical team in the diagnosis and management of patients, and provide high quality medical care across a range of medical specialities.

The programme delivers the requirements of the Competence and Curriculum Framework for the Physician Assistant (PA), enabling graduates to successfully complete the university programme and the PA national examination.

The first year of the programme is mainly theoretical and university-based (five days per week), with one day per week in general practice (12 x one day sessions). In the second year, the majority of time is spent in clinical attachment with one day every 10 weeks back in university for formative or summative assessments. You will learn to take medical histories, perform physical examinations, request and analyse test results, diagnose illnesses, and develop treatment and management plans.

Please note: The qualification is not currently recognised outside of UK/Ireland and graduates from any UK University offering the PA course cannot work in the USA/ Canada/ Netherlands.

On completion of the FPA national written and OSCE examinations, candidates are eligible to register on the PAMVR, held at the Royal College of Physicians and enter professional practice.

In Northern Ireland a New Graduate Year (NGY) has been established to embed the profession into the different areas our graduates are employed in. This allows them to consolidate and develop their knowledge and skills as they begin their careers as Physician Associates. The PA NGY has been advertised at AfC Band 6 with automatic progression to a Band 7 after completion of the NGY.

Entry requirements

Entry Requirements

Applicants must be graduates with at least a 2:2 degree classification (or equivalent overseas qualification) in a life science or health-related subject (which must contain significant elements of basic medical sciences), normally obtained within the last five years. Applicants must also have experience of paid or voluntary work with people, preferably in a health or social care context; a pass in GCSE Maths and English Language grades A-C; evidence of English language attainment if English is not the first language.

Applicants with non-standard entry qualifications which do not meet all the above criteria may be considered for entry at the discretion of the Course Director/Committee. These potential applicants may be asked to submit a transcript from their undergraduate degree programme or asked to take some further modules in basic medical sciences to meet the required levels of sciences required for application to the PA programme.

Offers are made on the basis of the written application and an interview/assessment process held on campus in Northern Ireland. You will also be required along with your application to submit a short personal statement outlining why you are applying for the course. Due to the nature of the programme you will be expected to undergo an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, police checks in line with NI law and occupational health screening. Offers are conditional, based on the successful completion of these processes.

Applicants must declare if they have been on another PA programme or a medical/healthcare professional register as per the application form and reasons for leaving the programme or register (where applicable). Failure to declare this will result in termination of the application or place on the programme. If you are already a registered healthcare professional you will be required to provide details of your registration.

English Language Requirements

English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for this course is Academic IELTS 7.0 with no element score less than 7.0.

Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.

Exemptions and transferability

There is no accreditation of prior learning (APL) or accreditation or prior experiential learning (APEL) for this programme.



This is a full-time 2-year intensive programme running over 90 weeks from January to December in both year one and year two of the programme. Students are expected to attend 100% of the time to all sessions both in University and when on clinical attachment. If a student's attendance is unsatisfactory and given that students are training to become future healthcare professionals they will be brought before a student progress board and possibly a fitness to practice panel.

Careers or further progression

Career options

There have already been jobs advertised in Northern Ireland for experienced PAs and for newly graduated PAs as part of a New Graduate Year in a broad range of specialities across Northern Ireland. Our commitiment is to train and retain our graduates in Northern Ireland and we work with the Department of Health, the HSCTs and primary care providers to achieve this.

Once qualified, PAs can work across a range of specialities throughout medicine. There are also opportunities to work in education and as potential future leaders of the PA profession.

The qualification is not recognised in the USA and currently graduates who train in the UK may only be able to work in the UK. This may change in time.

Further enquiries

Jacqui Neill
T: +44 (0)28 7012 3271

Daniel Meehan
T: +44 (0)28 7012 4064

Subjects taught


The PgDip consists of taught modules and clinical competence modules which totals 180 credits.

BMS711 Clinical & Professional Competence in Physician Associate Studies 1 (35 credits)

BMS712 Foundations in Clinical Medicine & Pharmacology 1 (45 credits)

BMS713 Research Methods & Evidence-based Medicine (10 credits)

BMS706 Professional Practice & Clinical Placement (45 credits)

BMS707 Foundations of Clinical Medicine & Pharmacology 2 (15 credits)

BMS710 Clinical & Professional Competence in Physician Associate Studies 2 (30 credits)

To exit with the PgDip in Physician Associate Studies, students will be required to pass all assignments relating to the modules BMS711, BMS712, BMS713, BMS706, BMS707 and BMS710.

Students in year 1 who fail the assessment associated with the Clinical & Professional Competence in Physician Associate Studies 1 module but who have passed the module Foundations in Clinical Medicine & Pharmacology 1 and passed the other module Research Methods & Evidence Based Medicine may exit with the lower award of Postgraduate Certificate in Medical Sciences (noting that students must pass all modules in year 1 to progress to year 2).

Students in year 2 who fail the assessments associated with the Clinical & Professional Competence in Physician Associate Studies 2 module but who have passed the module Foundations in Clinical Medicine & Pharmacology 2 and passed the other module Professional Practice and Clinical Placement may exit with the lower award of Postgraduate Diploma in Medical Sciences.

In year 2 students will be required to pass the Foundations of Clinical Medicine & Pharmacology 2, Clinical Placements & Professional Practice and Clinical & Professional Competence in Physician Associate Studies 2. The Clinical & Professional Competence in Physician Associate Skills module will assess the core competencies and core procedural skills in the Competence and Curriculum Framework for Physician Assistants and has been designated Pass/Fail. There are two assessments in this module, a 200 MCQ SBA written paper and a 12 station OSCE. This competency assessment will be undertaken prior to taking the UK Physician Associate National Certification Examination. A pass in all taught modules of the programme will be required for the award of the PgDip in PA Studies.

This is a complex and very intensive programme and involves the establishment of a new suite of student placements and assessments, therefore, in the first instance, the course team do not intend to offer the masters programme and only intend to offer the PgDip. Once the programme has been established then the team will roll in the possibility to complete the masters by completion of the 60 credit Service Improvement Project module. This 60 credit module, when active, could either be taken alongside the second year of the full-time taught modules that comprise the PgDip or it can be taken part time over 3 semesters of a third year as a top-up.

Application date

Application is through the University's online application system.

Enrolment and start dates

Year of entry: 2020/21

Postgraduate Information Session 26 March 2020
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