Digital Health Leadership

Our innovative Postgraduate Diploma and Master's in Digital Health Leadership is the world-class training course underpinning the NHS Digital Academy.

Award titles

Postgraduate Diploma

ECTS: 60 credits
Duration: 1 year part-time
(standalone course)

Master's degree

ECTS: 90 credits
Duration: 2 years part-time
(including PG Dip)

Your Autumn term and academic year 2020–21

This course will begin on schedule in the Autumn and we plan to reopen our campuses. We are looking forward to seeing you in person, if travel and visa arrangements allow. If you can’t travel to campus in time for the start of term, we want to reassure you that your academic Department has made plans which make it possible to offer  you  a  high-quality remote educational experience during the Autumn term.

Your teaching will be a combination of on-campus (in-person) and remote learning (online). We call this ‘multi-mode’ delivery. Depending on official government guidance throughout the entirety of next academic year, the ‘multi-mode’ balance may be subject to change. We hope to be able to offer you increased on-campus teaching and learning activities throughout the year.

For more information about multi-mode delivery, your learning experience and the steps we’ll be taking to keep you safe on campus if you are able to join us, please see our COVID-19 information for applicants and offer holders.

Key information

Start date (PG Dip): 9 September 2020
Start date (MSc): 17 September 2020

Campus: Online and residentials across the country

Interested applicants can get in touch with the NHS Digital Academy


This world-class training course underpins the NHS Digital Academy, a virtual organisation set up to develop a new generation of excellent digital leaders who can drive the information and technology transformation of the NHS.

Part of a suite of work governed by the National Information Board, the Academy will support the Five Year Forward View Next Steps strategy by providing staff with the skills they need to use information and technology to reduce pressure on services and improve care quality.

The academy was set up in response to Professor Robert Wachter’s Making IT Work report, which observed that the NHS was lacking in leaders who could drive forward this digital transformation. Commissioned by NHS England the Academy is delivered by a partnership of Imperial College London, the University of Edinburgh and Harvard Medical School.

Study programme

Postgraduate Diploma (PG Dip)

The programme employs a blended learning approach, including online and residential learning.

The online component of the programme uses the best-in-class platforms to give you a highly engaging experience, supporting individual learning and creating a vibrant community of digital leaders.

Residential learning will take place across various sites, including London, Manchester and Scotland. You will be supported by experienced academics and other members of staff, from the Institute of Global Health and our partners. Industry partners are also involved as faculty and as mentors for participants.

You are expected to commit to five to eight hours (sometimes up to 10-15 hours) of study per week and attend up to twelve days of in-person residential sessions spread across 12 months. Residential sessions are planned for the following dates but may not go ahead or they may be delivered virtually. 

  • 9 to 11 September 2020
  • 1 to 3 December 2020
  • 21 to 23 April 2021
  • 1 to 2 July 2021

You are also supported both online and offline by a mentor network consisting of experienced academics and industry professionals.

Master’s degree

If you successfully complete the Postgraduate Diploma, you can choose to continue to the Master’s (MSc) component of the programme. This MSc is fully online and lasts for 12 months.

The MSc year involves the development of a dissertation of practice. Here you will explore and address an obstacle or impediment to digital readiness or digital maturity in your organisation.

Who should apply?

The NHS Digital Academy programme is for CIOs, CCIOs and aspiring digital leaders across the NHS and social care.

The programme is suited for those who are:

  • a senior leader within the NHS and social care sector
  • ready and committed to developing your leadership skills and behaviours whilst undertaking a digital health-related academic qualification (PG Dip Digital Health Leadership)
  • excited by the opportunity to immediately apply new skills, learning and behaviours to a transformational change project within your organisation


The Academy will nurture the growth of a vibrant, self-sustaining professional community – a well-connected network of CIOs, CCIOs and digital leaders who are constantly innovating, collaborating and sharing ideas.

We want our participants to raise the bar in terms of best practice in the digital leadership profession, and act as exemplars to others in the field. Peer support networks will be encouraged on a geographical basis so that people can build strong relationships and stay connected.

  • a senior leader within the NHS and social care sector
  • ready and committed to developing your leadership skills and behaviours whilst undertaking a digital health-related academic qualification (PG Dip Digital Health Leadership)
  • excited by the opportunity to immediately apply new skills, learning and behaviours to a transformational change project within your organisation


Modules shown are for the current academic year and are subject to change depending on your year of entry.

Please note that the curriculum of this programme is currently being reviewed as part of a College-wide process to introduce a standardised modular structure. As a result, the content and assessment structures of this course may change for your year of entry. We therefore recommend that you check this course page before finalising your application and after submitting it as we will aim to update this page as soon as any changes are ratified by the College.

Find out more about the limited circumstances in which we may need to make changes to or in relation to our courses, the type of changes we may make and how we will tell you about changes we have made.


Postgraduate Diploma

The Postgraduate Diploma will include the following six modules:

  • Essentials of health systems
  • Adopting and tailoring the project and programme lifecycle
  • Health information systems and technologies
  • User-centred design and citizen-driven informatics
  • Decision support, knowledge management and actionable data analytics
  • Leadership and transformational change

Each module contains between four and seven weeks of online learning, followed by a three-week online assessment period. There are also up to 12 days of in-person residential learning.

The learning experience is tied to a workplace project so you can apply the skills and knowledge you acquire. We expect that up to 50% of students’ working hours will be spent on activities that are relevant for the programme.

Master’s degree

If you elect to pursue the MSc, you will complete a research project comprising a 10,000 word final report.

Through the dissertation project, you will demonstrate your critical thinking, resulting in new knowledge in the emerging field of Digital Health Leadership.

The MSc year is divided into three tutorials that walk you through the development of the first three chapters of the dissertation. You then move into a self-paced section during which you conduct the study, write up your findings and develop a set of organisation specific recommendations.

Teaching and assessment

Teaching methods

The programme prominently features online learning, using best-in-class digital learning platforms to deliver most modules.

You will also have up to 12 days of in-person teaching and learning, and will include the following:

  • Lectures
  • Interactive workshops
  • Group work

During your placement, you will continue participating in the course. Your workplace project will be a core part of both your job and the course. We expect that up to 50% of your working hours will be spent on activities relevant to the course.

Assessment methods

The programme will employ a variety of formative and summative assessments.

Summative assessment will include:

  • Scenario-based multiple-choice assessment
  • Engagement and participation in the online Platform
  • Reflective essays relating to the application of skills acquired during the programme to workplace projects
  • Blog posts and videos assessed against learning outcomes
  • Practical exercises at residentials and write-ups of these exercises
  • Structured essay outlining a personal leadership development plan
  • Collaborative group exercises
  • Participation in group work and interactive residential sessions

For Master’s students, you will additionally complete a research project. This involves a final report (up to 10,000 words) on your workplace project and the lessons learnt.

Entry requirements


Entry requirements

In order to be considered for the NHS Digital Academy, you must:

  • be a Chief Information Officer, Chief Clinical Information Officer or aspiring digital leader in the NHS or social care
  • have five years of relevant experience in informatics or digital health
  • have executive level support from your organisation
  • be available to attend all residential learning sessions (listed in the overview section of this page)
  • provide two references (professional or academic)

Our minimum academic requirement is at least a 2.2 UK Honour's degree in relevant degree subject.

If you do not hold a degree, please do still apply as we will consider your application.

International qualifications

We also accept a wide variety of international qualifications.

The academic requirement above is for applicants who hold or who are working towards a UK qualification.

For guidance see our Country Index though please note that the standards listed here are the minimum for entry to the College, and not specifically this Department.

If you have any questions about admissions and the standard required for the qualification you hold or are currently studying then please contact the relevant admissions team.

English language requirement (all applicants)

All candidates must demonstrate a minimum level of English language proficiency for admission to the College.

For admission to this course, you must achieve the standard College requirement in the appropriate English language qualification. For details of the minimum grades required to achieve this requirement, please see the English language requirements for postgraduate applicants.

How to apply

How to apply

Making an application

Interested applicants can get in touch with the NHS Digital Academy

ATAS certificate

An ATAS certificate is not required for overseas students applying for this course.

Further information

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