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Critical Care (MSc)

  • Duration: 2 years
  • Mode: Part time distance learning

Start date

Open day

Find out more about studying here as a postgraduate at our next Open Day.

Why study this course

This is an interprofessional, e-Learning programme, intended for healthcare professionals wishing to specialise in acute care or critical care, and those who teach within such settings. It provides opportunities to explore critical care as a multidimensional phenomenon, through the teaching and module assignments.


Flexible e-learning programme

Distance-learning, online format enables flexible learning at your own pace.


Academic, evidence based approach

Evidence based approach to empower primary and secondary care professionals explore the complex needs of critically ill patients.


Delivered by international experts

Our interprofessional, international evidence-based approach to acute and critical care management is delivered by a faculty of experts.


Interprofessional study

Work, learn and collaborate with students and staff from a range of healthcare professions and other academic disciplines.

The MSc Critical Care is an interprofessional, international, e-Learning programme for healthcare professionals who want to specialise in the field of acute or critical care.

The MSc in Critical Care aims to facilitate learners to explore acute and critical care as a multidimensional phenomenon, which as such needs to be managed through multidisciplinary initiatives. These initiatives must be based on specialist knowledge, rigorous research and an advanced understanding of the concepts involved.

Critical care is the specialised and comprehensive care of patients whose conditions are life threatening, from pre-hospital assessment through to discharge from critical and acute care environments. By studying on this programme, students should expect to explore current thinking in relation to the care and management of acute and critically ill patients. The final dissertation requires students to examine in-depth issues related to current practice of this patient group. The course also aims to inform those who teach within the critical care setting at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels to further their knowledge and teach others more effectively.

The MSc course takes two years to complete, although you can choose to exit with a Postgraduate Certificate after nine months or a Postgraduate Diploma after 18 months if you have fulfilled all the criteria for those awards.

The taught component introduces you to the multifaceted nature of caring for a critically ill patient. The modular approach allows you to evaluate care of the acute or critically ill patient from an evidence-based perspective, at any point on the patient’s journey (pre-hospital to discharge and rehabilitation), allowing consideration from a multi-professional approach. Professional issues, including leadership, law, ethics, quality and safety maybe studied, as well as the psychosocial aspects relevant to caring for critically ill patients. The assessments are structured to allow students to evaluate the topic in relation to their practice and professional base. Please note this is an academic programme with no “practical” teachings.

Approximately 50 places are offered per intake and the majority of students are self-funded; although some obtain awards from charities, societies and trusts.

Where you'll study

School of Medicine

We are of the largest medical schools in UK, committed to the pursuit of improved human health through education and research.

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  • Telephone+44 (0)29 2068 7214
  • MarkerUniversity Hospital of Wales, Heath Park, Cardiff, CF14 4XN

Admissions criteria

In order to be considered for an offer for this programme you will need to meet all of the entry requirements. Your application will not be progressed if the information and evidence listed is not provided.

With your online application you will need to provide:

  1. A copy of your degree certificate and transcripts which show you have achieved a 2:2 honours degree in a relevant subject area such as healthcare, nursing, or medicine, or an equivalent international degree. If your degree certificate or result is pending, please upload any interim transcripts or provisional certificates.
  2. A copy of your IELTS certificate with an overall score of 6.5 with 5.5 in all subskills, or evidence of an accepted equivalent. Please include the date of your expected test if this qualification is pending. If you have alternative acceptable evidence, such as an undergraduate degree studied in the UK, please supply this in place of an IELTS.
  3. Evidence that you are currently registered with the professional body relevant to your profession.
  4. Evidence that you are working in a clinical area that is relevant to the programme and will continue to be for the full duration of your studies. Evidence of your employment can be provided in the form of a signed and dated employer reference. Evidence of your employment can be provided in the form of a signed and dated employer reference. Please note that if your relevant clinical employment ceases the University reserves the right to withdraw you from the programme. (Please refer to the University regulations on 'Fitness to Practise’ for further information).
  5. A personal statement, which does not exceed 500 words, to support your application. In your personal statement you will need to provide details of your clinical experience.

If you do not have a degree in a relevant area, your application may be considered on the basis of a minimum of two years relevant professional experience. Please provide additional evidence to support your application such as signed and dated employer references.

Application Deadline

The application deadline is 31 July. Applications received after the deadline will only be considered if places are still available.

Selection process

We will review your application and if you meet all of the entry requirements, we will make you an offer.

Find out more about English language requirements.

Applicants who require a Student visa to study in the UK must present an acceptable English language qualification in order to meet UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) requirements.

Criminal convictions

You are not required to complete a DBS (Disclosure Barring Service) check or provide a Certificate of Good Conduct to study this course.

If you are currently subject to any licence condition or monitoring restriction that could affect your ability to successfully complete your studies, you will be required to disclose your criminal record. Conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • access to computers or devices that can store images
  • use of internet and communication tools/devices
  • curfews
  • freedom of movement
  • contact with people related to Cardiff University.

Course structure

The MSc consists of three stages – “stage 1” (first taught stage), “stage 2” (second taught stage) and “stage D” (research dissertation stage):

  • Stage 1 (first taught stage)

This stage lasts for 9 months and consists of three 20-credit modules totalling 60 credits, at Level 7.

  • Stage 2 (second taught stage)

This stage lasts for a further 9 months and consists of a further three 20-credit modules totalling 60 credits, at Level 7, to achieve a total of 120 credits to complete the taught stages.

  • Stage D (MSc dissertation stage)

The dissertation stage of the programme lasts for a further 6 months and consists of one 60 credit, Level 7 module. To achieve a combined total of 180 credits, at Level 7, to complete the MSc course, students will successfully complete all modules over 2 years of supported teaching/supervision.

Students may choose to exit the programme after successfully completing Stage 1 with a postgraduate certificate, or after successfully completing Stage 2 with a postgraduate diploma. Successful individual module completion may achieve institutional module credits.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2024/25 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2024.

Year one

The programme team support you throughout the academic year and will facilitate online discussion areas, virtual tutorials, or telephone calls during modules, as appropriate. Academic support also provides feedback/feedforward on summative and formative assessment plans. Students will be allocated a personal tutor, to provide pastoral support to discuss anything that is affecting their ability to study. Module content is delivered asynchronously, which means there is flexibility in studying module content. There will be some voluntary synchronous content e.g. tutorials, but students will be informed of these in advance. All modules are core (compulsory), but flexibility is built into the design to ensure relevance to the student’s clinical practice. The programme starts with Research, Governance and Evidence Base Practice, which provides you with the knowledge and skills to develop evidence-based reviews.  Further modules examine advanced management of the cardiovascular system, quality of care and patient safety. Several methods of assessment are employed such as MCQs, literature searching, written assessments, reflective learning and a poster presentation.

The module content, student support, assessments and feedback, enable and direct the improvement in MSc academic thinking and writing.

Year two

This spans 2 academic years; i.e. there is no summer recess. All modules are core (compulsory), but flexibility is built into the design to ensure relevance to the student’s clinical practice. We continue to explore areas important to care of the acute and critically ill patient via a systems approach, and explore professional and management issues.  

We facilitate innovate assessments such as virtual, collaborative, interprofessional teamwork, written assessments and reflective learning. The module content, student support, module assessments and assessment feedback, enable and direct the improvement in MSc level writing, to the level required for the Dissertation. The dissertation stage enables the consolidation and application of what is learnt from years one (Stage 1) and two (Stage 2). It also provides the opportunity to apply research and statistics skills in planning, or undertaking research, or a quality improvement project.

The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

Learning and assessment

How will I be taught?

A wide range of teaching and learning styles are used throughout the course, which is delivered via e-learning format through Cardiff University’s virtual learning environment (VLE) Learning Central™. The course consists of compulsory modules, of which some include sub-topics where students have a choice.

A variety of media is used to deliver the content:

  • Online, interactive modules
  • Voice over PowerPoint presentations
  • Links to other online resources
  • Presentations
  • Webinars/Tutorials

Module assessment and dissertation topics are chosen by the student but must be approved by the programme team.

Studies at MSc dissertation level will largely consist of guided independent study and research, making use of the extensive learning and research facilities available.  A project supervisor will be allocated to support and advise you on researching and writing up your specific dissertation topic.  

How will I be assessed?

The assessments have been chosen to ensure that the learning outcomes are appropriately tested and provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate they have met them.  Specific module assessment methods for each module shall be determined by the relevant Board of Studies and are detailed within the relevant Module Description.

There are a variety of formative and summative assessment methods used, such as:

  • Group Discussions
  • Written Assignment and plans/drafts
  • Multiple Choice Questions
  • Group Work in online platforms (e.g. Microsoft Teams)
  • Reflections

The dissertation module will be wholly assessed based on the final dissertation submission. Expectations for the format, submission and marking of the dissertation will follow the current Assessment Regulations, supplemented where appropriate with additional requirements of the Programme/School/College and any specific requirements arising from the nature of the project undertaken.

How will I be supported?

All students are allocated a Personal Tutor, for help and support with academic and pastoral needs, who will be in regular contact to discuss progress and to provide advice and guidance as needed. 

There will be virtual group tutorials for each module. Online support is provided via discussion boards e.g. to discuss module content, assessment ideas, assessment development, clinical issues. Students are encouraged to make regular contribution through the discussion boards on Learning Central, where they will be supported by the programme team and a panel of clinical experts. Students will be able to plan and reflect on you learning of individual modules and assessments, through you own personal reflection (this can be extracted to include in Professional Portfolios/professional validation, re-validation).

You will be allocated a supervisor during the dissertation period. They will give written feedback on dissertation drafts and provide you with the opportunity to discuss any queries they may have.


To help and guide students with the planning, writing and development of assessments, formative feedback will be provided through electronic and written means in a timely manner. Extensive summative feedback on assessment will be delivered within the timeframe set by the University and students will be notified on how to access this feedback.

What skills will I practise and develop?

By fully engaging with this Master's level programme, you will have the opportunity to gain a wealth of knowledge and skills which you can apply to any acute or critical care professional setting.  In addition to greater conceptual understanding of current knowledge, issues and methods, you will practice and develop skills in critical analysis, the application of evidence-based medicine and in dealing with complex issues systematically and creatively. 

Through the research focused elements, you will develop and enhance skills in literature review, critical evaluation, research design, research methodologies, data collection, data analysis and research principles.

On successful completion of this programme, you will be able to:

Knowledge & Understanding:

  • Apply clinical reasoning in a variety of acute and critical care clinical contexts.
  • Critically apply and demonstrate effective decision making and clinical judgement to assess, plan, implement evidence based therapeutic interventions.
  • Explore and evaluate wider contemporary issues of practice including quality improvement, leadership, patient safety, ethical and professional issues that impact critical care and facilitating clinical improvement. 
  • Articulate awareness of social and community contexts within their clinical field.
  • Utilise interprofessional, evidence-based knowledge and understanding of care of the critically ill patient to support any clinical and educational initiatives.

Intellectual Skills:

  • Challenge traditional approaches to managing patients pre, peri and post critical care.
  • Utilise skills in systematically searching the literature to inform practice.
  • Evaluate and integrate knowledge of the multidimensional aspects of acute and critical care from different disciplines, in order to approach care and management from a biopsychosocial perspective.
  • Consolidate knowledge and understanding, synthesise and draw conclusions In the absence of complete data.
  • Produce evidence-based reviews that inform care of the critically ill patient.

Professional Practical Skills:

  • Confidently utilise a range of research methodologies and demonstrate IT literacy through a range of programmes and applications.
  • Communicate complex information to the critical care community to inform help evidence-based practice.
  • Demonstrate
  • Demonstrate organisational skills, initiative, originality and independent decision making.
  • Apply skills learnt to demonstrate employability.

Transferable/Key Skills:

  • Demonstrate the intellectual abilities needed to be able to carry out Master’s level research.
  • Articulate the knowledge and intellectual abilities needed to lead and develop evidence-based care of the critically ill.
  • Identify areas for and contribute to quality improvements in care and implement theories into practice.
  • Collaborate in international, interprofessional team-working, and demonstrate leadership and sound judgement in dealing systematically with complex issues 
  • Demonstrate problem-solving and decision-making abilities.

Tuition fees for 2024 entry

Your tuition fees and how you pay them will depend on your fee status. Your fee status could be home, island or overseas.

Learn how we decide your fee status

Fees for home status

Year Tuition fee Deposit
Year one £5,725 None
Year two £5,725 None

Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland

If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss national, your tuition fees for 2024/25 be in line with the overseas fees for international students, unless you qualify for home fee status. UKCISA have provided information about Brexit and tuition fees.

Fees for island status

Learn more about the postgraduate fees for students from the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

Fees for overseas status

Year Tuition fee Deposit
Year one £9,450 £2,500
Year two £9,450 None

More information about tuition fees and deposits, including for part-time and continuing students.

Financial support

Financial support may be available to individuals who meet certain criteria. For more information visit our funding section. Please note that these sources of financial support are limited and therefore not everyone who meets the criteria are guaranteed to receive the support.

Additional costs

Will I need any specific equipment to study this course/programme?

You will need a reliable computer with high speed Internet access (and up-to-date virus and malware protection) and appropriate software.

Living costs

We’re based in one of the UK’s most affordable cities. Find out more about living costs in Cardiff.


Postgraduate loans

If you are starting your master’s degree in September 2024 or later, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan to support your study at Cardiff University.

Career prospects

This programme is suitable for healthcare professionals who wish to increase their knowledge of acutely ill and critically ill patient care in order to help improve practice.

Successful completion of this programme will add value to your CV. Graduates have reported that it led directly to promotion, and many were also stimulated to pursue academic careers via further study up to PhD.

This Masters programme enables you to demonstrate you are taking the opportunity to develop your abilities in critical analysis, problem-solving, decision-making, finding and using evidence and in dealing with complex issues. Whilst we do not formally assess clinical skills or competencies in a face-to-face context (so the programme is not a substitute for a formal specialty training programme), studying at this level should help successful students demonstrate numerous academic skills that should be highly regarded in relation to their career development and progression. In particular, the programme offers opportunities to demonstrate the development of knowledge and skills in relation to the application of evidence-based medicine and the potential enhancement of services and governance frameworks. As such, it should provide evidence of commitment and potential that may assist you in relation to taking on greater responsibilities or perhaps seeking management, research, scholarship, or leadership roles.

Next steps


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Make an enquiry

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HESA Data: Copyright Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited 2021. The Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited cannot accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived by third parties from its data. Data is from the latest Graduate Outcomes Survey 2019/20, published by HESA in June 2022.