Studying Medicine In The UK

A medical education in the UK offers top-quality schools, an international community and a wide choice.

The UK offers tremendous opportunities to study medicine. The language of instruction is English, but you will be part of a truly international community, meeting staff, students and patients from all over the world. You will also learn how medicine is practised not only in hospitals, but also in community settings.

Studying medicine

Studying medicine is exciting, fascinating, challenging and ultimately rewarding.

You will, of course, need to learn about the complex way in which bodies work, and people behave. Crucially, you will also learn to recognise when things are going wrong, and how to put things right. But there’s more to being a doctor than knowing a large number of facts. It’s much more about developing the way that you think, and learning how to listen and understand people so that you can help them to the best of your ability. You will learn how to behave and respond in a way that will inspire them to trust you, and you will learn to recognise when things are too difficult for you to deal with alone.

Because there is so much at stake, it is really important that you do your research. If it is at all possible, talk to someone who is a doctor and find out what they can tell you about medical school. Find out about the different sorts of medical schools and think about what might suit you. You might also like to see if there is any possibility of doing some voluntary work in the caring sector. This will help you decide if a life in the caring professions really is for you. If it is, and you can see yourself studying medicine, then the UK would be a good place to study and train.  

UK medical schools

There are 31 medical schools in the United Kingdom and they all offer primary medical qualifications that are recognised by the General Medical Council. So how do you decide which one to choose?

Most medical programmes last five years, although some offer a preparation year for people whose qualifications do not match the entrance requirements for the five-year programme. Others offer four-year programmes for candidates who already have a degree.

There are at least four things that you need to consider when you are deciding where to apply:  

The first thing to think about is you. How do you learn best? Do you want to get a thorough understanding of the sciences before you start to deal with patients, or would you prefer to learn the sciences in the context of patient problems? Either of these can help you learn to be a doctor, but you should choose a system which you feel would suit you best

The second thing to think about, then, is the actual curriculum and style of learning that the medical school offers. All of the medical schools will help you to develop your learning style, but each has their individual strengths

The traditional model of undergraduate medical education involves around two years of preclinical studies, where you will learn the basic sciences which support medical practice, through lectures and practical classes. This is followed by three years of clinical studies, where you will spend most of your time learning from doctors, and of course patients, in a clinical setting.

There are alternative approaches, and there are several medical schools which aim for a more integrated approach, where there is early clinical contact, a high proportion of small group work, supported by fewer lectures.

It may well also be possible for you to study for an intercalated degree after the third or fourth year. If that is something that interests you then you should think about applying to a medical school where your particular interest is catered for:

Do you want to go to a small medical school, with around 100 students in each year, a large one with around 400 students, or something in-between?

You will also want to think about where you might like to study; would you like to be in a large city, or a smaller town? Would you prefer a university with a small campus, where you have a reasonable chance of knowing all of the other medical students? Or would you rather go to a large university where there is likely to be more happening, but where you are much less likely to know everyone? Each of the alternatives has advantages and disadvantages; you will know best what suits you.

The General Medical Council

Although each of our medical schools is different, they all deliver programmes which lead to a primary medical qualification which is recognised by the General Medical Council. This means that you can be confident that they are of the right standard. They will each help you develop as a scientist and scholar, a practitioner, and, importantly, a professional. The General Medical Council inspects and advises each medical school to make sure that this happens. If you want to find out more about what is covered in a medical programme, then you can find the information on the GMC website.

If you want to learn more about the possibilities for studying medicine in the United Kingdom you can get the contact details of all of the medical schools in the United Kingdom from the Medical Schools Council’s website (see below). Here you will find information on the different courses offered in the UK, some useful frequently asked questions and some valuable links and resources. 

Written by the Reverend Dr David Taylor
Liverpool Medical School, on behalf of the Medical Schools Council 
Pictures courtesy of Liverpool Medical School