It’s a really big decision.
Your choice of medical school will affect your life for years to come, so it’s important to choose the best university for you.
There are over 30 medical schools in the UK but you can only choose four on your UCAS application. All medical schools teach slightly differently, but all must adhere to standards set by the General Medical Council (GMC), so that you meet minimum requirements when you graduate.
After reading this article you will know which factors are most important for you and will have the tools to make the best choice.
Once you've thought about your choices, read 'How to get into medical school'.
The first and most important thing to consider is the entry requirements of each medical school. This may sound counterintuitive but there is no point in choosing a medical school with the requirements of which you cannot meet. Establish your options and then thoroughly research the best choices for you.
Although entry to any medical school is tough, some are more focused on academic achievement than others. Some place weight on the results of admissions tests like the UCAT, some take more account of the personal statement and others consider the overall impression they have of you as a person.
It is very unlikely that a medical school will make an exception for an application that fails to meet one of their minimum entry criteria, regardless of how good the application is in other ways.
An important part of medicine is knowing your own strengths and weakness and playing to them -starting with your application. Do your research and make logical decisions about your application choices.
Be ambitious: it is worth applying to your dream medical school as long as you meet their minimum requirements. However, ensure that you have other, well-researched options, which are places with requirements and values that match you and your application.
Remember, that there is no medical school that is universally easier to get into than others, but there may be some that you stand a higher chance of getting into based on your personal strengths.
Learn more about getting the grades for medical school.
The entry requirements for universities vary from year to year. But note, chemistry A level is compulsory for most universities, along with a second science subject (maths, biology or physics).
Before deciding on a location, do some thorough research. At this stage, it's a great idea to take a trip around the city to get a feel for it - when possible.
Given the current situation with Covid-19, virtual tours are becoming popular. They are a great opportunity to ask the right questions and think about your needs.
For university students in general, staying local was almost unthinkable in 2013, with around 7% choosing to stay at home. UCAS’ recent study indicated that 25% are now considering staying local.
Medical school teaching styles are typically classified into traditional, problem-based or integrated teaching. Traditional medical courses include Oxford and Cambridge, problem-based courses include Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool and Glasgow. Most medical schools currently adopt the integrated style, which is also recommended by the GMC. The table below summarises how these teaching styles differ:
One study concluded that Problem-Based Courses 'reported greater student satisfaction with feedback [but] also showed lower performance at postgraduate examinations’. That being said, this method is often used as part of the GMC’s recommended integrated style.
Make sure you know why you chose the course before your interview! Learn more about medical school interviews.
Get ahead on your learning with the top 5 medical podcasts.
Depending on whether you are applying for direct or Graduate Entry Medicine, you'll have different options - although some universities offer both.
This depends on the university in question. Some accept any degree, providing a 2:1 is achieved, whereas others require a science-based degree.
Clearly, if your objective is getting into med school, subjects which relate to medicine such as neuroscience and biochemistry will strengthen your application regardless of the university in question.
Choosing a science-based subject will show that you have wider interest and transferable skills which you can bring to your medical studies. They will also help you learn parts of the curriculum more easily. For example, a degree in neuroscience means you will have a strong foundational knowledge in neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, molecular/cellular biology and possibly even psychology.
Here's the top 10!
Check out the university league tables for medical schools.
The Guardian’s University Guide 2020
Top Tip: Make your 4th choice a university with lower requirements
Jen was in doubt about her grades. Her school predicted her AAB, which excluded her from most med schools. Jen was pretty sure she could get AAA if she worked hard enough and found focus, but it was a tall order.
She spoke to her school's advisor, who suggested she use one of her choices on a university with lower entry requirements. Jen chose Central Lancashire, because it required AAB and wasn't too far from home. Her other choices were based on the location she wanted, which was in or around London. If the worst came to the worst, she would sacrifice the location to make sure she got a place.
In the end, Jen got her As in Chemistry and Biology, but slipped in her non-science subject and ended up at Lancashire. If she hadn't been smart when weighing up her choices, Direct Entry Medicine wouldn't have been an option.
Despite disappointment with her grades, Jen's experience at Lancashire was fantastic, and is now working as a junior doctor.
‘I realised it wasn’t about getting into the right medical school, it was about getting into any medical school’
The full list of A-level requirements for medical school.
Here are some real examples…
Medical school cohort size: Over 400 students
Resources: An anatomy dissection room, Consultation Skills Learning Centre, and library
Diversity: 11,000 international students from more than 160 countries
Extensive Clinical Experience: In hospital and community settings
Cultural Resources: Imperial War Museum, Whitworth Gallery, and more.
Medical school cohort size: 125 students
Setting: A 560-acre parkland site 3 miles from the city centre and a stone's throw from the Yorkshire Dales.
Engagement & Strong Bonds: With such a low number of students, staff can get to know students better and students can form friendships more easily.
Relaxing environment: Given its rural setting and low population, life is much more relaxing than in a major metropolis like Manchester.
The annual tuition fee for medicine is £9,250. This full amount can be covered by the UK government in the form of a tuition fee loan, but this only applies to domestic students.
Buckingham University is the exception to the rule. It is a private medical school that charges £38,000 a year with no government subsidy.
Given this, tuition fees will probably not be a big factor in your choice of university. The only thing that may sway your decision is scholarship availability. This is determined by each university in any given year and they are highly competitive.
Finally, there is an NHS Bursary, which is available to both domestic and international students. This does not depend on your choice of university, but on your individual circumstances, such as your income, location, and whether you have children. Some students can claim travel expenses.
Medify offers bursaries for students on the basis of academic merit, financial difficulties, extracurricular achievements or other awards. Find out how you can apply for one.
Intercalation means getting an extra degree, normally between years 3 and 5. It is a very intensive programme of learning.
You can use this time to delve deeper into an area of biomedicine that you are particularly interested in, such as neuroscience. If you want something completely different you can even do philosophy or music.
At universities such as Imperial, UCL, Oxford, Cambridge and Nottingham, intercalating is not optional, whereas at other universities it may not be offered or will depend on your grades.
It is important to note that this is an extra year of study, not a year out!
UPDATE: Graduates entering a foundation programme from 2023 will not be able to include additional educational achievements of this type in their applications.
They will often cost extra, and for postgraduate study this can be in excess of £7,000.
Check availability at www.intercalate.co.uk .
There are different ways of measuring the research impact of an institution. Two indicators used in determining the QS World University Rankings for Medicine are the H-index citations and research citations per paper.
The H-index is a measure of productivity and impact, which takes into account both the number of published papers and number of citations.
Based on these two indicators, the top eight medical schools in the UK are:
As we have mentioned, your choice of medical school is likely to be influenced more by which ones will accept you than by other factors. On the other hand, since you have four choices (+ one non-medical choice), you could factor in extra-curricular activities as well.
Top 10 Med School Societies (According to Student Hut)
1st: Snowsports - Exeter
2nd: Atlas Theatre Company - Sunderland
3rd : Men's football - Exeter
4th: KCL Hockey - King
5th: Muay Thai Boxing - Birmingham
6th: Islamic Society - Queen Mary U. of London
7th: Brumski & Board - Birmingham
8th: Nightline - Manchester
9th: Burn FM.com - Birmingham
10th: Cheerleading - Bournemouth
Where you go to medical school will not affect your application for a junior doctor’s post when you finish your degree. The application for your first job as a doctor will be an online process and depend upon four factors.
The Four Factors are:
Therefore, focus on applying to medical schools that you love and hope to thrive at, rather than making a selection based on how good you think one medical school is compared to another.
Because of the ranking system, at an academically rigorous university you would need better grades to get a good ranking than at a less academically rigorous institution.
The different degree classifications from medical school (i.e. MB BChir/MBBS/MB ChB) are all equivalent.
Get Into Medical School