Studying Medicine in Global Destinations: Medical Education in the UK

Studying Medicine in Global Destinations: Medical Education in the UK | The Red Pen

4th in a 4-part series about global medical education

The UK has recently become a popular destination for students looking to study medicine abroad, allowing you to directly apply for medicine at the undergraduate level; right after grade 12. Completing your medical education in the UK usually requires seven or eight years of studies and training, including five or six years of your MBChB/MBBS, an optional BSc year and two foundation years. The core purpose of British medical education is to train doctors on behalf of the National Health Service. Though there are places for international students, this is capped at approximately 350+ spots across colleges. For example, at the University of Oxford, only 15 places are available for international students.

Therefore, medical education in the UK here is extremely competitive. To succeed, you need:

  • Strong grades in high school and appropriate subjects
  • Work experience in areas such as dispensaries, old age homes, orphanages etc.
  • A detailed personal statement including relevant care/research activities
  • Top scores in the entrance tests
  • A successful interview

Applications are made through the UCAS platform, where you can apply to four medical programmes and one related programme of your choice. The related programmes can include biomedical science, natural sciences, biochemistry, psychology or physiotherapy. The application deadline is 15 October (the year before intake), and the final decision is on a rolling basis.

Read on to know more about medical education in the UK:

1) Educational Requirements:

Each college and programme has individual entry requirements. Many colleges will accept graduates from Indian national boards such as ISC or CBSE. However, at times, a state board such as HSC may not meet the requirements. Along with this, almost all colleges have certain prerequisites. For example, the University of Cambridge requires a total of 40-42 points in the IBDP with a seven, seven and six in your Higher Level (HL) subjects. However, at the University of Exeter, an overall score of 36, including a six in both HL biology and chemistry, is accepted. As a general rule, you should have studied chemistry and biology in grades 11 and 12. If studying the IBDP curriculum, chemistry is compulsory at the HL, and either biology, physics or mathematics should be taken as well. Also, keep in mind that some courses may have specific requirements for the mathematics stream relating to the new IBDP math syllabus. (Math at HL is preferred but not required).

It is also advisable to take an English language proficiency test such as the IELTS or TOEFL, especially if you have studied with an Indian board.

2) UCAT/BMAT Test:

Most UK medical schools now also require applicants to sit for additional entrance tests such as the Universities Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT), (previously known as UKCAT) (required by 30 universities) and the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) (required by nine universities).

The UCAT tests your aptitude for becoming a medical student, while the BMAT tests your subject knowledge and your aptitude for medicine. It is important to note that no college will accept both.

The UCAT can be taken anytime from August to November, whilst the BMAT has only one set date in early November. More competitive colleges, such as the University of Oxford, only accept the BMAT test results.

3) Interviews:

If shortlisted, you will be required to either take part in a traditional panel interview or multiple mini-interviews (MMI’s). In the traditional interview, interviewers ask candidates set questions that test students for their medical awareness, relevant scientific knowledge and ethical modes of conduct.

These qualities may be touched upon during the interview, which can occur anytime between the end of October and March.

4) Personal Statement:

To demonstrate that you are aware of what the medical profession entails, medical programmes like to see that you have involved yourself in voluntary care or research outside the classroom. Simply shadowing a doctor in your local hospital for a couple of days does not justify that you have the right skills to be a successful doctor. Working in a care facility, whether it is a nursing home or a centre for students with disabilities for a prolonged period, is a better indication to universities that you understand patient care. It shows them that you are caring and compassionate, which is critical for future doctors. In addition, medical programmes like to see that you understand the value of scientific research. In fact, many medical programmes in the UK award students a second degree, a BSc, in addition to the MBBS. Candidates can demonstrate their understanding of research by going above and beyond their curriculum and working on a research project.

5) Additional Information:

Another key point to note is that at some colleges, such as University College London, the University of Oxford and Imperial College London, you must be 18 years old by October 1 or November 1 of the year of intake. This is due to early clinical contact in these programmes. Some colleges, such as Lancaster University, University of Manchester and King’s College London, have a different structure, where the first few semesters are preclinical, and the age requirement is applied later. It is important for you to individually determine your preferences for the type of academic environment that suits you.

Once you have completed your academic studies, you will have to undertake two years of rotation to complete your education. Your placement during your rotation is based on your ranking at your college plus the results of the Situational Judgement Test (SJT), which you take in your final year. After completing your rotation, you can pursue different training pathways, depending on your interests and specialisation. If you choose to practice in another country, most will accept your degree; however, you will have to register with that country’s medical board and take some qualification examinations.

When reviewing medical courses outside your country of residence, consider the qualification you will get at the end of the degree as well as where you would like to practice in the future. Usually, international degrees from the UK are accepted worldwide; however, you should check the acceptance in your country. Along with this, colleges in many countries change their acceptance policies every few years, so make sure you are aware of the requirements in your country of choice. For India specifically, you might have to take the NEET examination before leaving to study. Additionally, several international degrees are accepted here. However, as this list keeps getting updated, it is important to check the degree’s eligibility before applying.

If you are considering studying medicine in the US or Canada, read this article. For other European countries, click here. To know more about other global destinations, read this article. For any further information about medical studies abroad, get in touch with us.

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