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1 year full-time, 2 years part-time


Durham City

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Course details

Regular physical activity provides significant benefits to health, both mentally and physically, as well as improving fitness and wellbeing. However, currently in the UK around 34% of males and 42% of females are not active enough to maintain good health*. 

The MSc explores the vital role of physical activity in society, from policy and public health to the spaces and places that enhance, shape and curtail movement. It is suitable for those with a background in traditional sport and exercise sciences, as well as those with a social sciences, anthropological, natural sciences, humanities or a broader disciplinary background.

The course is delivered by a multidisciplinary team of experts in the Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences in conjunction with the Department of Anthropology. The team delivers a cutting-edge curriculum built on our expertise in physical activity and sport inequalities and associated research methods. 

You will undertake three core modules which critically examine key challenges associated with physical activity to improve health and wellbeing, tackle health inequalities and social injustice. 

Learning is further developed by five additional optional modules which you can tailor to your interests. Two or three of these are based on aspects of health as influenced by physical activity and wider social, anthropological and life sciences, with the remaining modules focused on advanced quantitative and qualitative research methods. You will also complete an MSc dissertation in a related subject, under the guidance of a supervisor. 

Durham University offers an outstanding sporting environment with exceptional opportunities for participation in sport as well as related activities within the University and the local community. During your time with us we encourage you to be proactive members of our community and to develop wider interests alongside your studies.

*Office for Health Improvement and Disparities

Course structure

Core modules:

Physical Activity, Health and Inequalities draws on the latest research and policy, such as interventions, evaluations and systems approaches, to critically explore a number of questions. What is implied and understood by health inequalities as they relate to physical (in)activity? Who is impacted by physical activity inequalities across the life course? Focusing on health and wellbeing, how are physical activity inequalities experienced by different groups or communities, and why? How might we reduce or prevent the widening of physical activity inequalities with a view to optimising health and wellbeing, and where does this responsibility lie?

Exercise as Medicine: Critical Perspectives takes a multidisciplinary approach to addressing the strengths and challenges of treating exercise as medicine in a professional setting. You will study a number of areas around the topics of: exercise prescription; barriers and facilitators to participation in exercise programmes; designing and developing effective exercise interventions; and programme implementation and evaluation.

Ethics in Sporting Policy and Practice provides a grounding in ethnographies of sporting practice and the athlete experience. You will explore a range of ethical and social justice issues associated with contemporary sport and learn how these issues are experienced by different audiences including athletes from recreational to elite level, governance and regulatory bodies, and sporting businesses. The module also examines ways in which diversity, social justice and political philosophy can be effectively incorporated into the development of new sporting policies. Areas of study may include; trans inclusion; violence; financialisation; doping; migration and mobility; and sport-for-development.

The Dissertation is an opportunity to research and write a substantive research study into a specialist topic in the field of physical activity, health and society. The dissertation is based on a topic of your choice, decided in agreement with the department and completed under the guidance of a dissertation supervisor. 

In recent years, optional modules have included:

The remainder of the course is made up of five modules from the following options, which, at the time of writing, should include a minimum of two from each list. 

List A

  • Fieldwork and Interpretation
  • Field Study
  • Quantitative Methods and Analysis
  • Systematic Review
  • Multilevel Modelling
  • Simulating Data in R
  • Advanced Statistics for Psychology and the Behavioural Sciences

List B

  • Sport, Exercise and Health: Future Perspectives
  • Advanced Studies in the Anthropology of Sport
  • Advanced Studies in Physical Activity and Health: Anthropological and Critical Perspectives
  • Anthropology of Global Health
  • Society, Health and Wellbeing
  • Planetary Health in Social Context
  • Advanced Studies in the Anthropology of the Body
  • A language module offered by the Centre for Foreign Language Study


The MSc combines flexibility and choice with academic rigour. It is delivered through a combination of interactive extended seminars, lectures, laboratory practical sessions, workshops, field-based learning and tutorials totalling an indicative 18-20 contact hours per core module. This is supported by a further indicative 130 hours of directed reading, independent study and research per module. Optional modules may vary in length, with contact hours and independent study time worked out on a pro rata basis.

The dissertation is supported by lectures, workshops and supervised tutorials which are spread across the academic year. The lectures and workshops create links between learning and the research process, while the tutorials provide tailored guidance and support as you research and write your dissertation.  


Methods of assessment are tailored to module objectives and vary across the course. Core modules and the majority of optional modules include written coursework, reflective work and presentations. Depending on the optional modules selected you may also sit an end-of-module exam.

Finally, you will complete an 8,000 – 10,000-word dissertation. This will be an independent piece of research into a specialist topic in the field of physical activity, health and society, agreed by the Department and supported by a dedicated dissertation supervisor.

Entry requirements

Normally a minimum 2:1 Honours degree from a UK institution (or the overseas equivalent) in a relevant subject is required. As an accessible and inclusive programme, this requirement may be waived for applicants with particularly high levels of relevant practical or professional experience.  This will be assessed on a case-by-case basis by the DSES Programme Director and/or Admissions and Recruitment officer in collaboration with Anthropology, as appropriate.

We welcome international students to this programme of study and support for non-home students is well established at Durham University. English language requirements stipulate Band C, IELTS of at least 7.0 overall and with no component under 6.0 or equivalent scores in an alternative accepted English language test. Pre-sessional programmes are open to students who hold an offer for a Durham University degree programme. Programmes are suitable for both those who have narrowly missed their language condition and those with unconditional offers for their main programme. The Durham Centre for Academic Development currently offers both online and on-campus options for postgraduate taught students.

English language requirements

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £12,500 per year
EU students £25,500 per year
Island students £12,500 per year
International students £25,500 per year

Part Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £6,900 per year
EU students £14,100 per year
Island students £6,900 per year
International students £14,100 per year

The tuition fees shown are for one complete academic year of study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and Bursaries

We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities. 

Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries

Career opportunities


Our anthropology postgraduates are well-placed to build on the research-led teaching the department offers. Many continue their academic careers by carrying out further research into the complex and diverse nature of humanity.

Durham courses develop a depth of practical skills and knowledge about understanding behaviour and society that are hugely applicable to the workplace environment and are highly sought after by employers in the UK and internationally.

Such attributes and qualities are easily transferable to a range of stimulating and rewarding professional careers. Our postgraduates have secured roles in development, health, government, policy, social research, culture, heritage, consultancy, education and media.

Recent postgraduates have moved into roles with employers that include Save the Children, HM Prison Service, Civil Service, Durham University, VSO, Office for National Statistics, National Graduate Development Programme (the local authority graduate scheme) and non-governmental organisations such as Concern Universal and Kenwa.

For further information on career options and employability, student and employer testimonials and details of work experience and study abroad opportunities, please visit our employability pages.

Sport and Exercise Sciences

We have an outstanding track record of supporting our postgraduate students to progress into careers of their choice. Tailored support includes access to Durham’s award-winning Researcher Development Programme; specialised skills and methods training (e.g., data visualisation, project management) and opportunities for embedded research placements.

The varied nature of our postgraduate programmes opens the door to a wide range of careers from academic roles and industry-based research and development to health service practitioners, roles in applied sport science support, and in national and international health policy and governance.

Our PhD students have graduated into a range of UK and internationally based roles, including academic, policy and governance, and industry-based positions. Our taught and research Masters programmes provide a springboard to PhD scholarships, or to employment within a range of industries including sport development, management and public health.

Department information


The Department of Anthropology is one of the largest among UK universities and one of only a handful covering Social Anthropology, Evolutionary Anthropology and Anthropology of Health.

This broad subject range is reflected in the flexibility of the Masters learning structure that makes it possible to choose advanced specialist courses to suit career or research aspirations. A research-led approach to teaching means that course content is as relevant and contemporary as it is informed by the latest developments in the subject area. 

Learning is delivered by subject specialists who are world experts in their particular field, be it energy use, sustainable development, the evolution of brain and cognition, aesthetics, primatology, global health and sleep. 

At Durham, the essential skills and knowledge in anthropology that we nurture are also developed through practical learning. We offer you the opportunity to join an active research group and, supported by expert staff, undertake world-class research that will ultimately prepare you for your future career.

We are proud to say that we produce some of the most innovative research taking place in contemporary anthropology. We are equally proud of the inclusive and supportive community that you will join in the Department, offering a stimulating and rewarding environment in which to work.


  • Top 30 in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2023
  • Top 10 in The Complete University Guide 2024 and The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024
  • 6th in The Guardian University Guide 2024


For a current list of staff, please see the Anthropology pages.

Research Excellence Framework

  • 45% of our research was rated as world-leading (REF 2021)


In keeping with our vision to offer research-led teaching, the Department provides a wide range of state-of-the-art facilities to support postgraduate research projects and programmes.

These include the Behavioural and Ecological Physiology Laboratory, the Physical Activity Laboratory and the South Africa Field Station as well as the award-winning Durham Infancy and Sleep Centre Laboratory.

We are the location for one of the country’s best collections for palaeoanthropological and morphometric research in biological anthropology and have a material culture collection of over 2,000 objects from around the world.

The Department of Anthropology is housed in the Dawson Building, which is conveniently located next to the main library, and close to lots of other departments and university services.

More information on our facilities and equipment.

Sport and Exercise Sciences

The Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences is a welcoming and vibrant community with an outstanding reputation for excellence in research, teaching and employability. Our students, staff and researchers share a passion for the benefits of sport and physical activity at all levels of participation.

We offer PhD and Masters by Research options, as well as a taught MSc in Physical Activity, Health and Society. The interdisciplinary nature of our Department is reflected in the wide range of projects undertaken by all of of postgraduate students, either through research or taught dissertations. Postgraduates play an important role in our community working in and across sport and exercise science disciplines and related areas such as sociology, psychology, physiology, nutrition, policy, and political sciences. Projects span theory and practice, with students working closely with academic supervisors to better understand how sport and physical activity relate to wellbeing, health, and contribute to building a just and fair society.

Academic development and networking opportunities are built into the Durham experience. We support students to lead seminars and host conferences, publish academic and public-facing outputs, and gain teaching, leadership, and strategic committee experience where appropriate.

Our supervisors have a strong track-record of supporting research students to identify and secure funded scholarships from a variety of sources, including research council funding (ESRC, AHRC), National Institute for Health Research scholarships, global and national charities, and with industry partners.


  • 5th for Sports Science in The Complete University Guide 2024
  • Ranked World Top 100 in The QS World University Rankings by Subject 2023
  • Top Ten in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024

Research Excellence Framework

  • 10th in the UK overall
  • 100% of our submission was world-leading or internationally excellent


At Durham, the academic study of sport and exercise is closely linked to sport and exercise in practice. Our specialist facilities include the Human Performance Laboratory which houses a range of exercise and monitoring facilities that analyse our physiological and metabolic responses to exercise and nutrition in health and disease.

The brand-new Green Lane Research and Nutrition Laboratories opened in 2023. The Nutrition Laboratory allows for the precise preparation of nutritional interventions while the Research Laboratory supports the assessment of these interventions through both performance and biomarker responses.

These facilities support students and researchers alike, while providing further opportunities for collaboration within the University and with external partners.


Find out more:

Apply for a postgraduate course (including PGCE International) via our online portal.  

Visit Us

The best way to find out what Durham is really like is to come and see for yourself!

Join a Postgraduate Open Day
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
Find out more
Self-Guided Tours
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 16:00
Find out more

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