Foundation and Access Courses

Last updated: 29/08/2021

There may be an alternative route to medicine or dentistry for you if you don't meet the requirements for standard entry courses or have had barriers in your education.

Read on to find out more.

Medicine/dentistry with a preliminary year

These courses are aimed primarily at students who got great A-Levels, but didn't take the sciences. 

Your first year is a science foundation course, after which you go on to a standard 5-year medicine or dentistry degree.

Which universities offer medicine/dentistry with a preliminary year?

Currently there are two universities in the UK that offer medicine or dentistry with a preliminary year:

For 2022, only the University of Manchester is offering the preliminary course for Medicine.

A student checking out alternative routes to medicine / dentistry

Am I eligible to apply for medicine/dentistry with a preliminary year?

To gain entry, you’ll need AAA grades. 

What if I don’t have the grades?

For Cardiff, you cannot do more than one science subject at A level. Both Cardiff and Manchester have specific requirements regarding GCSEs. 

At Manchester for Medicine and Dentistry, you’ll need:

  • At least seven GCSEs at grade A (7) or A* (8/9)
  • A minimum of grade B (6) in GCSE English Language and Mathematics
  • At least two science subjects at GCSE minimum grade B (6)

For Dentistry at Cardiff, you’ll need:

  • English language or Welsh language at GCSE grade B/6 or an equivalent. Preference will be given to applicants who hold a grade A/7 at GCSE or equivalent
  • Six GCSEs including grade A/7 in the single sciences or a minimum of grade AA or grade 7 in the Double Award, or equivalent qualifications (level, subjects and grade)

What is Medicine/Dentistry with a gateway year?

This widening participation strategy is designed for high achieving students who have had barriers to their education as a result of socioeconomic or educational circumstances. 

A student’s chance of getting into medical or dental school shouldn’t be dictated by their financial status or their personal circumstances. Gateway year programmes aim to encourage students with the academic potential to study medicine and dentistry to apply whatever their background. 

Some courses are 6-years long whereas others are 1-year and then allow progression into medicine or dentistry. They tend to have lower grade requirements than other types of medical or dental courses. 

Which universities offer Medicine with a gateway year?

Currently, there are 18 universities offering medicine with a gateway year:

Which universities offer dentistry with a gateway year?

There are two universities offer dentistry with a gateway year:

University of Bristol and King's College London

Am I eligible for medicine/dentistry with a gateway year?

The requirements vary between universities. Common criteria include:

  • Neither of your parents have attended university 
  • Having been in care
  • Live in an area with a postcode in quintile 1 or 2 in the POLAR4 young participation index. Check your postcode.
  • Household income lower than a specified amount
  • Live in a region near the university
  • Attending a state school, or specifically aspiring state schools
  • Attending a summer school held by the university 

You don’t have to meet all the criteria - usually two or more. 

Check each university's website for more details on eligibility. 

What are transfer courses?

Another great alternative route into medicine is a transfer course. You can start a degree in a related subject and then transfer to medicine after a year. 

The degree that you do your first year in, will usually have lower grade requirements than medicine, which means you’re more likely to get into that. 

The Dental School Council states that no transfer schemes are available for dentistry. 

Which universities offer transfer courses for Medicine?

Am I eligible for transfer courses into Medicine?

All universities will have slightly different requirements but generally you’ll have to perform consistently high in all assessments in the first year of your original degree. These courses are extremely competitive with only a handful of places up for grabs.

A student who does not have the right A-levels but wants to pursue medicine / dentistry

What are access courses for medicine and dentistry?

Access courses are college-based programmes for individuals who would like to pursue medicine or dentistry but do not have A-levels in biology and chemistry. 

These courses are meant for mature learners, not students who have recently failed to reach the necessary A-level grades for medical school.

Prior GCSE and other academic qualifications still play a part when applying to access courses, with the applicants having to show that they have the academic calibre and enthusiasm needed to pursue a medical degree. 

The applicants should also demonstrate their awareness of what a career in medicine entails, by completing relevant work experience and carefully reflecting on it afterwards.

It is essential to do thorough research as access courses differ in terms of their entry requirements and other factors. 

For example, it is important to check if the college has any links with medical schools that offer a guaranteed interview scheme, and which medical schools recognise the access course offered as a suitable academic qualification.

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