Guide to UK Applications • Undergraduate

Study Medicine in the UK: A Complete Guide for Undergraduates

POSTED ON 07/27/2023 BY The Red Pen

A medical student studying a heart prototype and taking notes.

The UK has a long tradition of educating medical students. UK-trained doctors practise medicine globally and are recognised for their clinical skills. In 2022, the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, University College London, Imperial College London and King’s College London ranked among the top 20 medical colleges in the world. Here’s everything you need to know about studying undergraduate medicine in the UK. 

Is getting admission to a UK medical programme difficult

Medicine is one of the most competitive courses in the UK. The Guardian reports that 2022 was the hardest year ‘in living memory’ to enter a UK medical programme. According to the article, UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) says fewer than 16 percent of applicants received offers to study medicine and dentistry. 

Moreover, universities that receive funding for their medical programmes must ensure that most students are British residents (not just citizens), meaning there’s a quota for international students who want to study medicine in the UKThough there are places for international students, it is limited to approximately 320 seats across all universities in the UK. Medical programmes can only admit up to 7.5 percent of international students. For example, the University of Oxford has only 14 places for international students yearly!

Book a free 15-minute consultation and maximise your chances of admission.

What is the education system for studying medicine in the UK? 

Completing medical studies can take five to ten years (sometimes more), depending on the university and your specialisation. The years of study are divided into three parts: 

1) Undergraduate studies 

Undergraduate medical education in the UK typically takes five years to complete. However, some institutions like the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, University College London (UCL), Imperial College London (ICL), University of St. Andrews, and the University of Edinburgh have six-year courses. After completing undergraduate studies, students earn an MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) or BM BCh degree. 

Most UK medical courses divide their MBBS programmes into two-three years of preclinical studies with lectures, case-based learning, and practical training to build a solid medical base. After preclinical studies, students require two-three years of clinical training in a hospital. 

2) The Foundation Programme 

On completing the MBBS programme, students enrol in the Foundation Programme. This two-year training programme is essential for those who wish to practise as doctors in the UK. Students are employed full-time during the Foundation years (F1 and F2). After completing the course, they are deemed fully registered to practise by the GMC. 

3) Specialisation

After completing the Foundation years, junior doctors pursue speciality training in their desired medical fields, such as paediatrics, endocrinology, cardiology, etc. The duration of this training varies depending on the speciality, typically spanning three to eight years. For example, General Practice (GP) follows a distinct pathway and has a shorter training period of three years. But certain surgical specialisations like neurosurgery and orthopaedic surgery can take up to eight years of training. Upon completing the training program, doctors receive a certification to work as consultants.

What is the teaching style of undergraduate medicine in the UK? 

There are significant differences between medical courses in how you are taught and assessed. It is essential to understand which approach suits your learning style. UK medical programmes use six teaching methods: 

Traditional: In this teaching style, students begin by studying scientific theory before transitioning to clinical practice.

Integrated: As the General Medical Council (GMC) recommends, most medical courses now adopt an integrated approach. Integrated medical courses combine scientific knowledge with clinical training. Students simultaneously study topics such as the circulatory system, covering anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, and pathology. 

Problem-based learning (PBL): This approach emphasises a patient-focused learning environment where students actively engage with real cases in groups. Facilitators take a backseat in this style, although most UK medical programmes incorporate problem-based learning along with tutor input, lectures, and seminars.

Case-based learning (CBL): In CBL, students work in small groups to analyse virtual cases designed to stimulate discussion about specific medical areas.

Inquiry-based learning: Similar to PBL, inquiry-based learning prompts students to think critically by posing questions, presenting problems, or providing scenarios rather than simply presenting facts.

Multi or inter-professional learning: This teaching style goes beyond course content and focuses on how professionals from different fields collaborate.

What are graduate entry courses for undergraduate medicine in the UK?

Graduate courses to study medicine in the UK are accelerated programmes offered to those with an undergraduate degree. Unlike the traditional five to six-year degree course, this course takes four years to complete. Degree requirements defer by the university. Some allow any undergraduate degree. Others prefer a science degree or a biomedicine degree. There are limited places for graduate entry. Therefore, institutions offering it face intense competition among applicants. The University of Warwick provides the largest graduate-entry course in the UK, with an intake of 193 graduates each year. Other universities include: 

  • Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry (Queen Mary University)
  • Cardiff University 
  • King’s College London
  • Newcastle University
  • University of Birmingham 
  • University of Cambridge 
  • University of Nottingham
  • University of Oxford 
  • University of Sheffield
  • University of Southampton 

Speak to a UK expert about which medical degree to pursue. 

What are the best universities to study medicine in the UK?

Forty-four universities offer medical courses accredited by the General Medical Council (GMC), the UK’s regulatory body for medical education and practice. If you are hoping to get into one of them, it is a good idea to know which ones are a good fit for you. Here are some of the well-known universities offering medical courses in the UK: 

University Course Duration Acceptance Rate*  International Medical Seats
University of Cambridge Six years 14 percent 20
University of Oxford Six years 7.6 percent 10
University of Glasgow Five years 23.4 percent 70
University of Edinburgh Six years  19 percent 35
Imperial College London Six years 13 percent 25
King’s College London Five years (six with intercalated degree) 18 percent 30

Disclaimer:  All figures are approximate for the academic year 2022-2023. 

Source: University websites

*Acceptance Rate = Number of offers /Total number of applications

1) University of Cambridge 

The University of Cambridge is revered for its exceptional quality, rigorous curriculum, research and commitment to producing skilled healthcare professionals. It is located in Cambridge, England, near several research institutes, including The Babraham Institute. Additionally, there is the Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre, a collaboration between the university, the NHS, and pharmaceutical companies. 

The University of Cambridge offers two medicine courses at the undergraduate level. The six-year standard course for students who don’t have a degree in another subject. The first three years cover the basic sciences of medicine, such as anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and pharmacology. The final three years involve clinical training in hospitals and other healthcare settings. 

Its graduate entry course takes four years and is for students who have already completed a degree in another subject. The first two years of the course cover the basic sciences of medicine, just like the standard course. However, the third and fourth years are devoted to clinical training. 

Unlike other universities where clinical studies are introduced after the first two-three years, the University of Cambridge allows students to interact with patients and observe clinical practice right from the beginning. 

2) University of Oxford

Studying medicine at the University of Oxford is a unique and rewarding experience. The university is one of the oldest in the world, and its medical programme consistently ranks among the world’s best.

Located in Oxford, the university has 38 self-governing colleges. The medical programme is conducted in the University Science Area, a modern campus on the outskirts of the city centre. The campus has several teaching and research facilities, including the Medical Sciences Teaching Centre, the John Radcliffe Hospital, and the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine.

Like Cambridge, the University of Oxford has a four-year clinical course for graduates with a science-related degree and a six-year course for those who don’t have a degree. The latter has pre-clinical (three years) and clinical (three years) studies. The pre-clinical section comprises two main parts:

  • First BM: It covers the study of human anatomy, medical sociology, psychology,  experimental evidence, development, physiology, pharmacology, and biochemistry. Animal tissue studies are mandatory. Formal assessment includes written papers, compulsory sessions, and practical work. 
  • Final Honour School (FHS): It enables students to acquire scientific data analysis skills, become authorities in their areas of study, and join top-ranked research communities. They work with research papers, propose hypotheses, and undertake experimental projects. The options include neuroscience, pharmacology, cardiovascular science, and more, with extensive opportunities for learning from leading biomedical research groups. 

Most of the teaching for the clinical component occurs in hospitals and general practices. The core clinical curriculum is taught and assessed during the first two and a half years, followed by pursuing elective subjects of interest. 

3) University of Glasgow 

Founded in 1751, the Glasgow Medical School within the University of Glasgow is one of the largest in the UK. Located in Scotland, it has a long and distinguished history of producing world-class doctors, such as Sir William Macewen, pioneer of modern brain surgery, and Sir Robert Muir, who did groundbreaking work in immunology. 

It offers a five-year undergraduate medical programme with an innovative curriculum. The university also uses various teaching styles, including small-group teaching, problem-based learning, lectures, vocational and clinical studies, labs, and e-learning. 

The first two years include studying the basics of medicine, such as biomedical sciences, anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology. The next three years focus on clinical systems such as pathology, microbiology, haematology, clinical biochemistry, and clinical pharmacology. Students learn at hospitals and in general practice, with dedicated academic days. Teaching is structured around 5-10 week clinical attachments, and students rotate through general medicine and surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, child health, general practice, psychiatry, and various hospital sub-specialities. Preparation For Practise (PFP) is the final component of the course. It involves shadowing foundation-year doctors in hospitals and includes a lecture programme. Successful completion of the PFP programme is a prerequisite for graduation.

4) University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh is home to Edinburgh Medical School, one of the first four medical schools in the UK. The school has produced some of the most famous doctors in history. Notable alumni include James Young Simpson, who discovered the anesthetic properties of chloroform, and Charles Darwin, whose education undeniably influenced the development of his theory of evolution by natural selection.

The university is in the heart of Scotland’s capital city. Edinburgh Medical School is one of the largest medical colleges in the UK. It spans several campuses at the BioQuarter, Western General Hospital, the University central area, and Royal Edinburgh Hospital. 

The six-year undergraduate medical degree course at the University of Edinburgh equips students with the contemporary challenges of medical practice. In the first two years, students study biomedical and clinical sciences and learn practical clinical skills, such as resuscitation, interviewing patients, and developing clinical reasoning. In the third year, students face a new challenge with full-time, research-based study leading to an honours degree. Meaning, upon graduation, along with their medical degrees, they will also receive an intercalated, research-based BMedSci (Hons) degree. In the fourth and fifth, students are placed in hospitals across south and central Scotland for clinical studies. They explore speciality areas, such as obstetrics and gynaecology, child life and health, and psychiatry, while completing individual research with their clinical tutors. 

Students are encouraged to apply their learning in the sixth and final year. There is an emphasis on general and acute medicine, emergency medicine, surgery, anaesthetics, and intensive care. You will have the opportunity to assist a junior doctor and, under supervision, undertake some of the duties of a Foundation Year 1 doctor. 

5) Imperial College London

Imperial College London is a public research university established in 1907 by the Royal Charter. It is the only university in the UK to focus entirely on science, engineering, medicine, and business. 

Located in South Kensington, London, the campus is home to several world-renowned research institutes, including the Francis Crick Institute, the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute, and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. The campus comprises hospitals, such as the Royal Brompton Hospital, the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, and the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

The undergraduate course for medical students at Imperial College London is a six-year programme. The first two years focus heavily on sciences, including anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, and microbiology. Students also gain experience in clinical skills, such as medical history taking, physical examination, and basic procedures. They begin supervised learning experiences in the third year in different clinical settings and explore specialities such as surgery, paediatrics, obstetrics, and gynaecology. In the fourth year, students undertake a clinical or science-based research project. The programme delves further into clinical training and electives during the fifth and sixth years. 

6) King’s College London 

King’s College London is a massive university with one of Europe’s largest healthcare student bodies. Located in London, it has access to several research institutes. Its partner hospitals include Guy’s Hospital, King’s College Hospital, and St Thomas’ Hospital  – three of London’s most renowned and busiest teaching hospitals. 

The course is divided into three ‘Stages’ with an optional intercalation year between Stages 2 and 3. The MBBS degree takes five years to complete at King’s College London (six if you choose an intercalated degree). 

Stage 1 provides a foundation in biomedical and population sciences, while Stage 2 combines science and clinical practice around the human life cycle and common pathological processes. It focuses on caring for patients with common conditions in various clinical settings. Stage 3 is oriented towards future practice and includes the opportunity to undertake elective study abroad. 

Inter-professional training and increasingly realistic simulation are important parts of the curriculum. The intercalated degree is a one-year BSc course that allows you to study the subjects of your choice in greater depth across the university’s clinical partners. 

Need help shortlisting medical programmes in the UK? Contact us now!

What is the cost of studying undergraduate medicine in the UK

While undergraduate medicine courses in the UK are highly sought after, they can be expensive, especially for international students. Here is the approximate cost of studying medicine in the UK. 

Annual International Student Tuition Fees for 2023 Entry Annual Living Expenses  Total Cost of Attendance
University of Cambridge  £63,990  £12,400 £4,58,340 (for six years)
University of Oxford £39,740 (Year 1, 2, 3)

£52,490 (Year 4,5,6)

£11,610 £3,46,350 (for six years)
University of Glasgow £53460 £11200 £3,23,300 for five years
University of Edinburgh £35,000(Year 1, 2, 3)

£49,900(Year 4,5,6)

£9950 £3,14,400 for six years
Imperial College London £50400 £19,580 £4,19,880 for six years
King’s College £45,420  £15180 £3,03,000 for five years

Disclaimer: All figures are approximate for the academic year 2022-2023. Some programmes involve additional costs, for example, studying abroad, compulsory field courses, and additional fees. 

Source: University Websites

What is the average salary after studying medicine in the UK

In the UK, medical professionals earn an average annual salary of over £40,000. The salaries vary depending on duties and responsibilities. Entry-level positions typically offer £20,000 per year, with the potential for an increase after the first year of employment. Here are examples of approximate salaries you can expect in different medical professions:

  • Physicians: £47,677
  • Clinical Psychologists: £41,207
  • Psychiatrists: £79,368
  • Physiotherapists: £30,221
  • Consultants: £87,635
  • Radiologists: £86,872

What are the application requirements to study undergraduate medicine in the UK

1) Applying through UCAS 

You must submit your application to study medicine in the UK online through The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). You can choose up to four universities that offer medical courses on your application form. You also have a fifth UCAS choice, but you should ideally select complementing courses, like biochemistry, biological sciences, biomedical sciences, natural sciences, psychology, or physiotherapy. Choosing your four medical courses should depend on your predicted grades and your research on different universities – their acceptance rates, interview offer rates, and the number of seats for international students. 

2) Academic records 

Academics play a crucial role in various global fields, particularly if you plan to study medicine in the UK at the undergraduate level. Therefore,  meeting the minimum entry requirements is necessary. Generally, studying mathematics, chemistry, or other sciences at the highest level in grades 11 and 12 is essential while attaining an  A*/A grade or its equivalent. UK universities accept A Level and IB curricula. Most universities also accept graduates from Indian national boards such as ISC or CBSE, but state boards like HSC may not fulfil their requirements. 

3) English proficiency tests 

International students (especially from non-English speaking countries) must take English proficiency tests like the IELTS or TOEFL. Not only are they required by universities but also by the government for student visas. The minimum required score for IELTS is 7.0, and approximately 100 for TOEFL.

4) The UCAT entrance exam 

The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is necessary for UK undergraduate medicine and dentistry courses. It evaluates essential qualities such as problem-solving abilities, empathy, abstract reasoning skills and various abilities required by medical and dental schools. It is not based on a specific curriculum but assesses innate skills and aptitude. It comprises five subsections containing several multiple-choice questions, each separately timed. Here are a few features of the UCAT: 

Duration 120 minutes
Registration Account registration opens: May 24

Test bookings open: June 20

Test bookings close: September 22

Exam dates July 11 – September 29
Preparation Use official practice tests and practice tips
Frequency Offered multiple times a year
Validity One application cycle. Cannot be carried forward
Cost In the UK & EU: ≅ £75

Outside UK & EU:  ≅ £120

*All details are subject to change each year. Please check the official website for updates. 

It may be worth noting that the BMAT, another medicine entrance test for UK universities, will be discontinued from 2024 onwards. Universities that have accepted the BMAT will either use the UCAT or introduce their own tests. Therefore it’s essential to check university websites for this information. 

5) Work experience 

Universities offering medical courses consider relevant work experience. However, the type of experience required can vary among different institutions. In general, they will expect you to have gained an understanding of the responsibilities associated with medicine. 

You can explore various healthcare settings through paid or voluntary positions and attempt to secure work experience with a general practitioner. These include working in a care home, engaging with young children, or obtaining a first aid qualification and applying it in practical situations. The key is to ensure that you reflect on the insights gained from your experiences when crafting your medicine UCAS personal statement.

6) Personal statement 

When completing your UCAS application form, crafting a personal statement within the limited 4000-character count is crucial. It serves as an opportunity for you to articulate your reasons for pursuing a medical degree and highlight the skills and qualities that make you well-suited to becoming a doctor. Given the restricted space, each word carries significance, so use them carefully.

Your personal statement should demonstrate your awareness of the demands and responsibilities associated with the medical profession. Admissions committees for medical programmes appreciate evidence of your engagement in voluntary care or research beyond the confines of the classroom.

A mere observation of a doctor’s work briefly at a local hospital is insufficient. But writing about prolonged work at a care facility, such as an old age home or a centre for students with disabilities, presents a more compelling case. This involvement showcases your capacity for patient care and indicates your compassionate and empathetic nature, which are crucial qualities for aspiring doctors. Applicants can also demonstrate their appreciation for research by going beyond the standard curriculum and actively participating in a research project. 

Read this two-part guide on writing a compelling UCAS personal statement – Part 1 and Part 2

7) Interviews 

Medical and dentistry applicants in the UK must participate in interviews. Two main types are Traditional Interviews and Multiple-Mini Interviews (MMIs). 

Traditional interviews involve a panel of medical professionals, staff, and students, lasting 20-40 minutes. Several universities, such as Queen Mary University of London, University College London, University of Cambridge, University of Glasgow, and University of Oxford, still use Traditional Interviews. They typically ask questions about experiences, personal statements, industry knowledge, and opinions on medicine. Here are some questions you may encounter: 

  • Give us a situation where you faced a problem as a team leader. How did you solve it?
  • Why this university and why medicine?
  • What are the problems in the current healthcare system?
  • Speak about your past work experience. How did you go about getting the internship/volunteer position? What did you learn?

MMIs are a new interviewing style developed by McMaster in 2002. Institutions like the University of Manchester, King’s College London, and the University of Bristol use MMIs. These interviews comprise multiple stations where applicants engage in activities and discussions to test their skills. Usually, there are six to 12 stations, and interviewees spend approximately 10 minutes at each one. The main advantage of this interview style is that each station is marked independently, so if you feel that you have not answered a question correctly, you can redeem yourself at another station. You may encounter some of the following questions in your MMIs: 

  • I am a chain smoker. Convince me to stop smoking. 
  • Why do you think teamwork is essential in the medical field?
  • Talk about the medical regulatory body in your country. 

Alternatively, you may be given a task and asked to complete a suture by following the instructions. Irrespective of the interview style, it is important to present oneself professionally while adding a touch of individuality. Confidence, clarity, and the ability to ask for clarification are essential during the interview. 

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University of Cambridge
Academic & Subject Requirements English Language Proficiency Scores Entrance Exam Personal Statement  Work Experience Interview


A Level: A*AA

Chemistry and at least one of Biology, Physics, Maths 

IB: 40–42 points, with 7,7,6 at a Higher Level.

Must include HL Chemistry and at least one HL Biology, Physics or

IELTS: 7.5. Minimum 7.0 per component


TOEFL: 110, with 25 or above in each element

Previously BMAT. Yet to announce the entrance test after
Required  Prefers relevant work experience in a health or related area. Traditional 
University of Oxford
Academic & Subject Requirements English Language Proficiency


Entrance Exam Personal Statement  Work Experience Interview


A Level: A*A*A

Chemistry and at least one of Biology, Physics or Maths

IB: 39 points, including core, with 7,6,6 at a Higher Level. 

Must include HL Chemistry and at least one HL Biology, Physics or

IELTS: 7.5. Minimum 7.0 per component


TOEFL: 110, with 25 or above in each element

Previously BMAT. Yet to announce the entrance test after
Required  Prefers relevant work experience in a health or related area. Traditional
University of Glasgow
Academic & Subject Requirements English Language Proficiency Scores Entrance Exam Personal Statement  Work Experience Interview


A Level:  AAA

Chemistry and one of Maths, Physics or Biology. 

IB: 38 points, with 6,6,6 at a Higher Level. 

Must include HL Chemistry and Biology. SL Physics or Maths and SL

IELTS: Must be achieved within the last two years of
UCAT Required Must discuss during interview. Traditional
University of Edinburgh
Academic & Subject Requirements English Language Proficiency Scores Entrance Exam Personal Statement  Work Experience Interview


A Level: AAA Chemistry and one of Biology/ Human Biology, Maths
and Physics
IB: 37 points, with 7,6,6 at a Higher Level. Must include HL Chemistry and at least one other science. SL Mathematics
and English, if not taken as HL
IELTS: 7.5 in each component


TOEFL: 110 with at least 25 in each component. Doesn’t accept
TOEFL MyBest Score

UCAT Required Required MMIs
Imperial College London
Academic & Subject Requirements English Language Proficiency


Entrance Exam Personal Statement  Work Experience Interview


A Level: Minimum AAA 

Chemistry and Biology plus a third subject. 

IB: Minimum 38 points

Must include 6 in HL Biology and Chemistry. SL English.

Accepts Maths Application & Interpretations and Analysis and

IELTS: 7.0 Minimum 6.5 in all components


TOEFL: 100. Minimum 22 in all components

Previously BMAT. Yet to announce the entrance test after
Required Experience in a healthcare setting is strongly favoured. MMIs
King’s College London
Academic & Subject Requirements English Language Proficiency


Entrance Exam Personal Statement  Work Experience Interview


A Level: Minimum A*AA

Must include Chemistry and Biology. 

IB: Minimum 35 points, with 766 at Higher Level

Must include HL Chemistry and Biology. Score includes TOK/EE

IELTS: 7.5 Minimum 7.0 in all components


TOEFL: 109 Minimum 27 in writing, 25 in other components 

UCAT Required Expect work undertaken in a caring environment and/or observation in a
medical clinical setting.

*All details are subject to change each year. Please check the university websites. 

Studying medicine is a transformative experience. Many renowned institutions, like the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, and the University of St Andrews, offer exceptional MBBS programmes in the UK. You can make an informed decision about your future by understanding the intricacies of the UK MBBS fee structure, scholarships for MBBS in the UK, and career prospects. With the guidance of our admissions counsellors, the path to pursuing MBBS in the UK for international students becomes more accessible, leading to a fulfilling and successful career in medicine.

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