MSc in Human Anatomy and Evolution

Understanding the processes by which the human species evolved over time is crucial for understanding our modern anatomical form. The MSc in Human Anatomy and Evolution provides you with a rare opportunity to study anatomy from an evolutionary perspective.
This programme will provide you with a deep insight into the growth and development of the human musculoskeletal system, helping you to understand and appreciate the diversity and evolution of our living and extinct primate relatives, and how anatomical form relates to our species environment, development, and evolution history. 

About the programme

This MSc programme combines comparative anatomy, anthropology and archaeological study to investigate how the human body has evolved over time, and sheds light on the mechanisms behind the anatomy of our species. Our programme is designed by experts, to create experts. You will learn the most up-to-date tools, theory and practical insights from within the field. 

By completing this programme, you will be able to understand in detail human anatomy and evolution, including the evolution of our closest relatives, the primates, with a particular focus on musculoskeletal anatomy and its interfaces with ecology and behaviour.

The course will equip you with knowledge and cutting edge practical experience required to interpret functional and evolutionary anatomy. You can gain hands on experience of virtual modelling techniques and have the option to gain practical knowledge of anatomy through dissection of human cadaveric material.

This programme is delivered by research-active subject experts in small teaching groups, with a high professor-student ratio – so you will benefit first-hand from their expertise and hone your research skills.

This programme is based in Hull York Medical School’s Centre for Anatomical and Human Sciences, which is located at the PalaeoHub on the University of York campus. We value our Masters students in our research community, and on joining this programme you will be welcomed into a supportive and collaborative research environment.

This distinctive MSc is an ideal option for graduates in archaeology, forensics, zoology and biology fields and intercalating medical students, who want to develop their understanding of how function and adaption have shaped our modern human form.

The course is highly relevant for those who want to reconstruct past human behaviours, those who are interested in learning biomechanical simulation and virtual modelling techniques which can be applied to future practice and research, and for anyone who wants to develop their skills as an independent researcher. 


The programme is made up of 180 credits, including seven core modules and a core research project/dissertation (80 credits). You have 20 credits for optional modules.

Core modules

Musculoskeletal biology: Tissue structure and mechanics

The musculoskeletal biology module will allow you to develop an advanced knowledge and understanding of skeletal and dental tissues. It will focus on the structure and development of these tissues and, by introducing you to biomechanics, their function.

Weekly topics include tooth development and function, including: enamel, dentine, cementum and periodontal ligament; cartilage and bone development, growth and remodelling; the structure and function of muscle, tendon and ligament; the mechanical properties of skeletal and dental tissues; and the interface of tendons and ligaments with bone.

Each week a topic is introduced in a lecture and, using a combination of self-directed learning and presentations and discussions in the seminar, you will critically assess the literature to broaden and deepen your learning around the topic. The practical class will cover comparative anatomy and histology.

Tutor: Dr Sam Cobb
Term: Autumn
Credits: 20
Assessment: Poster presentation 40%, timed exam 60%

Human evolutionary anatomy

This module provides the opportunity to develop an advanced knowledge and understanding of the hominin fossil record. It focuses particularly on the interpretation of anatomical material and current methods. The module will begin with an overview of the hominin fossil record and in subsequent weeks will focus on different anatomical regions.

Each week a topic is explored using a combination of self-directed learning, and presentations and group discussion via a seminar - during which you will critically assess the literature to broaden and deepen your learning around the topic.Practical sessions will expose you to casts of the major fossil specimens as well as comparative material.

Tutor: Dr Laura Fitton
Term: Spring
Credits: 20
Assessment: Written assignment (open book) 60%, timed exam 40%

Human functional anatomy

This module provides the opportunity to deepen your knowledge of the human musculoskeletal system from the perspective of function and evolution. Through a combination of lectures, seminars, and a combination of prosections and dissections, you will cover topics including general limb anatomy, the anatomy of limb functions, skull form and variability and evolution of the masticatory system.

Tutor: Dr Sam Cobb
Term: Spring
Credits: 20
Assessment: Oral presentation 40%, timed exam 60%

Analysing anatomical variation I

This module introduces you to a method of analysing shape called an overview of geometric morphometrics (GM). During the course the basics of GM will be covered and including a review of key multivariate morphometric methods. We will present examples using GMM software. You will gain experience in using different software tools during the course of the practical sessions.

Tutor: Professor Paul O'Higgins
Term: Autumn
Credits: 5
Assessment: Laboratory workbook 100%

Analysing anatomical variation II

This module builds upon knowledge gained in Analysing Anatomical Variation I to carry out more advanced studies using Geometric Morphometrics (GM). More complex examples and statistical tests will be carried out during the weekly practical sessions.

Tutor: Professor Paul O'Higgins
Term: Spring
Credits: 5
Assessment: Laboratory workbook 100%

Virtual anatomy and 3D modelling I

This module introduces you to the theory and practice of virtual anatomies and provides you with the basic skills needed to create 3D virtual musculoskeletal models.

Weekly topics include: musculoskeletal imaging modalities, model manipulation, image segmentation and 3D model visualization.

Tutor: Dr Laura Fitton
Term: Autumn
Credits: 5
Assessment: Laboratory workbook 100%

Virtual anatomy and 3D modelling II

This module will provide you with the skills and knowledge for advanced virtual model creation. Each week builds on the previous, allowing you to develop a virtual reconstruction in relation to particular theme. Weekly topics include scan artifacts and effects, mirror imaging and transformations, warping and scaling, quantification and advanced visualisation and biomchanical modelling.

Tutor: Dr Laura Fitton
Term: Spring
Credits: 5
Assessment: Laboratory workbook 100%

Research project/dissertation

This module will allow you to undertake an in-depth project in a topic related to human anatomy and evolution. You will be encouraged to choose a subject from the research areas of members of tutorial staff (currently including mammalian hard tissue biology, development and ontogeny, geometric morphometrics, functional morphology, imaging techniques).

With the support of a tutor, you will review the recent and significant literature, formulate a research question, write a detailed project proposal, undertake original research (which can include projects based on systematic review of the current literature / reanalysis of existing datasets), present your aims and preliminary results in a 15-minute presentation, and write up your research in a 15000-word dissertation.

Tutor: Dr Emily Hunter
Term: Spring-Summer
Credits: 80
Assessment: Oral presentation 20%, dissertation 70%

Optional modules

Our place in nature

This module will provide you with an advanced understanding of the ecology and evolution of the group of mammals to which we belong.

It will give a broad overview of primate evolution, from the origins of the order around 65 million years ago to the present days. The module will look at genetic and fossil evidence for primate evolution, and competing hypotheses of primate phylogeny.

As evolution and ecology are interlinked, you will study principles of primate ecology and behaviour, including size, diet, habitat exploitation, activity pattern, socioecology, sensory biology, life history, and community structure, with reference to the extant families of primates. You will also consider the hominin radiation in the context of the evolution and ecology of other primate groups.

The module will start with a general introduction to the mammalian and primate radiation before focusing on the specific topics mentioned above. The material will be presented via an hour-long lecture and seven two-hour seminars, supported by pre-recorded online lectures.

Tutor: Dr Emily Hunter
Term: Autumn
Credits: 20
Assessment: Essay 60%, oral presentation 40%

Becoming human; evolving minds and societies

In this module, we consider the fascinating question of what it means to be ‘human’. We ask if there are critical characteristics of humans which mark us as different from other species, and how, when and where we might identify them in the archaeological record.

This module is run via the Department of Archaeology. It addresses human societies, from those of our common ancestors with chimpanzees, to early human activities 2 million years ago in East Africa, Homo ergaster and Homo heidelbergensis and lastly Neanderthals. You will question the key changes taking place in each period and in each consider what defining patterns of humanity we might identify emerging within the archaeological record.

This module is run via the Department of Archaeology at the University of York and subject to availability.

Tutor: Dr Penny Spikins
Term: Autumn
Credits: 20
Assessment: Essay 100%

An ideal option for Intercalation

If you are considering taking a year out from your undergraduate Medicine programme to intercalate, and you are interested in developing your knowledge in human anatomy and the evolution of our species, this programme is ideal.

We believe that that our Masters programmes give you the skills to be a better clinician, as well as giving you a competitive edge when applying for foundation year training and jobs.

I am an intercalating medical student - during my first year of medical school I studied parts of the MSc and I absolutely enjoyed every minute of it. I have especially enjoyed primate ecology and evolution. It's amazing to learn about primates and how many aspects of their lives relate to human life as well. Virtual anatomy has also been a favourite, and I look forward to any opportunities to use it in my later career.

Austyn Burkholder graduate MSc in Human Anatomy and Evolution


The skills and techniques you learn will position you as a leader in the field of human evolutionary anatomy. As well as providing a platform for more advanced research, the programme will equip you for careers in a whole range of academic, medical and archaeological fields. Past students have gone on to research careers in anatomy, forensics, anatomy teaching, laboratory and museum work, or continued with their medical careers with a new insight into anatomy. A significant number of our past students have also gone into gain fully-funded PhD positions.

Entry requirements

This programme is open to strong graduates in anatomy, anthropology, archaeology, biology, psychology, forensics, zoology and other related fields, with a minimum 2.1 degree or equivalent.

For intercalating medical students, a minimum of 3 years of successful MBBS or comparable medical qualifications is required.

Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to demonstrate evidence of proficiency with one of the following:

  • IELTS: 6.5, with no less than 6.0 in each component
  • PTE Academic: 61, with no less than 55 in each component
  • CAE and CPE (from January 2015): 176, with no less than 169 in each component
  • TOEFL: 87, with a minimum of 21 in each component
  • Trinity ISE: Level 3 with Merit in all components
  • Duolingo: 110, minimum 100 in all other components

Fees and funding

Tuition fees

The fees for part time study are for the current year only, fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.

Fees for 2021/2022 are:

UK (home) tuition fees

  • Full time (1 year): £9,730
  • Part time (2 years): £4,865
  • Part time (3 years): £3,243

International (including EU) tuition fees

  • Full time (1 year): £23,300
  • Part time (2 years): £11,650
  • Part time (3 years): £7,767
Graduate Scholarship

We are pleased to offer a 10% reduction in fees to University of Hull and University of York undergraduate students and alumni applying to this Masters programme.

More information

Government Master's Loan

If you're starting a Masters you may be entitled to a government-backed loan. Visit the Government website for details.

Other sources of funding

Our parent universities also have details of further funding opportunities. Please see the University of Hull and the University of York websites for details.