The History and Philosophy of Evidence-Based Health Care


Why and how did evidence-based medicine arise, and why should you accept it?

The course will combine face-to-face teaching in Oxford and online distance learning. During the teaching week, we will use a combination of short lectures, interactive seminars, group work and in-class activities. There will also be preparatory reading and online interaction before and after the course, with follow-up on extended essay preparation.

By the end of the course students will be able to:

  • identify and engage with the philosophical aspects of EBHC
  • defend and critique EBHC as a theory of evidence
  • approach questions about evidence and healthcare in a nuanced and critical manner
  • consider the present and future of EBHC within the context of its history and where it came from
  • think critically about what evidence is and how it should be applied to healthcare topics
  • write a philosophical or historical essay

The last date for receipt of complete applications is 5pm, Friday 13th June 2025. Regrettably, late applications cannot be accepted.

Programme details

This module is run over an eight week cycle where the first week is spent working on introductory activities using a Virtual Learning Environment, the second week is spent in Oxford for the face to face teaching week (this takes place on the dates advertised), there are then four Post-Oxford activities (delivered through the VLE) which are designed to help you write your assignment. You then have a week of personal study and you will be required to submit your assignment electronically the following week (usually on a Tuesday at 14:00 UK Local Time).


Description Costs
New Students enrolled on MSc in Evidence-Based Health Care £2570.00
New Students enrolled on PG Cert/Dip in Health Research £2570.00
Short Course in Health Sciences £3175.00


Details of funding opportunities, including grants, bursaries, loans, scholarships and benefit information are available on our financial assistance page.


Prof Carl Heneghan

Module Coordinator

Carl Heneghan is a Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine and the Director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, University of Oxford.

Jonathan Livingstone-Banks

Module Co-ordinator

Jonathan Livingstone-Banks is a Senior Researcher at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford.

Assessment methods

Possible essay topics

  1. Do evidence hierarchies have any useful purpose?
  2. Why is ‘pathophysiologic rationale’ not ranked highly in EBHC hierarchies?
  3. What is the role of clinical expertise in EBHC?
  4. If randomised trials provide ‘best’ evidence, why don’t we need them to show that stopping massive bleeding saves lives?
  5. Is it ethical to conduct systematic reviews of unethical studies?
  6. What are the historical roots of various aspects of EBHC methods?
  7. How do regulations facilitate the development of harms in healthcare?
  8. Describe one key development in the evolution of evidence? 
  9. How relevant is the year 1992 in the history of EBHC?

Academic Credit

Applicants may take this course for academic credit. The University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education offers Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) points for this course. Participants attending at least 80% of the taught course and successfully completing assessed assignments are eligible to earn credit equivalent to 20 CATS points which may be counted towards a postgraduate qualification.

Applicants can choose not to take the course for academic credit and will therefore not be eligible to undertake the academic assignment offered to students taking the course for credit. Applicants cannot receive CATS (Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme) points or equivalence. Credit cannot be attributed retrospectively. CATS accreditation is required if you wish for the course to count towards a further qualification in the future.

A Certificate of Completion is issued at the end of the course.

Applicants registered to attend ‘not for credit’ who subsequently wish to register for academic credit and complete the assignment are required to submit additional information, which must be received one calendar month in advance of the course start date. Please contact us for more details.

Please contact if you have any questions.


This course requires you to complete the application form and to attach a copy of your CV. If you are applying to take this course for academic credit you will also need to complete section two of the reference form and forward it to your referee for completion. Please note that if you are not applying to take the course for academic credit then you do not need to submit a reference.

Please ensure you read the guidance notes which appear when you click on the symbols as you progress through the application form, as any errors resulting from failure to do so may delay your application.

Level and demands

The main prerequisite for the course is enthusiasm for the subject. The course is designed to introduce students to the history and philosophy of EBHC and no background or education in history or philosophy will be required. Students will also generally be expected to have an undergraduate degree.

Selection criteria

This course can be taken with academic credit (assignment of up to 4,000 words) or without academic credit, please indicate on your form which option you are applying for.

Admissions Criteria:
To apply for the course you should:

  • be a graduate or have successfully completed a professional training course
  • demonstrate an interest in the history or philosophy of evidence-based healthcare, either through graduate study or professional work
  • be able to combine intensive classroom learning with the application of the principles and practices of evidence-based health care within the work place
  • have a good working knowledge of email, internet, word processing and Windows applications (for communications with course members, course team and administration)
  • show evidence of the ability to commit time to study and an employer's commitment to make time available to study, complete course work and attend course and university events and modules.


Accommodation is available at the Rewley House Residential Centre, within the Department for Continuing Education, in central Oxford. The comfortable, en-suite, study-bedrooms have been rated as 4-Star Campus accommodation under the Quality In Tourism scheme, and come with tea- and coffee-making facilities, free Wi-Fi access and Freeview TV. Guests can take advantage of the excellent dining facilities and common room bar, where they may relax and network with others on the programme.

IT requirements

Please ensure that you have access to a computer that meets the specifications detailed on our technical support page.