How to understand the medical school rankings UK

Your guide to understanding the medical school rankings UK

Applying to medical school is a big decision - undergraduate courses are 5 or 6 years long so you'll want to make sure that it's the right choice for you. There are many factors to consider, including the location, course structure (e.g. divide between pre clinical and clinical years), student satisfaction ratings and for a more objective overall measure - national rankings.

There are many different league tables, each with their own method of ranking the top medical schools in the UK which can be both confusing and unhelpful for students. So in this blog post, we will be breaking down the different tables, looking at exactly which metrics they use to rank universities, as well as listing the most recent Top 10 medical schools to help guide you with your application.

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Medical school rankings UK

All medical schools in the UK are of a high standard - this is because the curriculum and exams at each university are regulated by the General Medical Council to ensure that all doctors are educated to a high minimum standard and to ensure a consistent level of good quality care for patients.

Because of this, unlike other university degrees, the immediate graduate prospects are the same regardless of which university you choose. During your final year, there is a national application system for F1 junior doctor jobs and the university at which you studied for your medical degree will have no bearing on final result as they are all considered equal.

That said there are obviously differences between each medical school, for example the way that students are taught (usually either lecture based or problem based learning), the divide between lecture based medicine and clinical sessions, and research opportunities, all of which will impact on student satisfaction and the overall university experience.

In the UK there are several organisations who publish annual medical school rankings, each based on a specific set of criteria.

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The Times Online Good University Guide 2018 for Medicine

The Times newspaper scores each medical school out of 100 based on:

  • Student satisfaction
  • Entry standards
  • Research quality
  • Graduate prospects

 Based on The Times scoring system, the top 10 medical schools in the UK are:

  1. University of Oxford
  2. University of Glasgow
  3. University of Cambridge
  4. University of Edinburgh
  5. Swansea University
  6. Imperial College London
  7. Queen Mary, Barts and the London
  8. Newcastle University
  9. University of Bristol
  10. Lancaster University

The Guardian University Guide 2019 for Medicine

Like The Times, The Guardian ranks each university based on a score out of 100. The scoring system is more comprehensive though and takes into account:

  • % satisfaction with the course, teaching and feedback
  • Student to staff ratio
  • Spend per student out of 10
  • Average entry tariff
  • Value-added score out of 10
  • Career prospects (% with job 6 months after graduation)

The top 10 medical schools according to The Guardian rankings are:

  1. Cambridge
  2. Oxford
  3. Swansea
  4. Aberdeen
  5. Newcastle
  6. Edinburgh
  7. UCL
  8. Dundee
  9. Queen Mary
  10. Brighton Sussex Medical School

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The Complete University Guide Ranking 2019 for Medicine

    The Complete University Guide also ranks each medical school out of 100 based on:
    • Entry standards
    • Student satisfaction
    • Research quality
    • Graduate prospects

    The top 10 UK medical schools according to The Complete University Guide are:

    1. Oxford
    2. Cambridge
    3. Glasgow
    4. Swansea
    5. Imperial College London
    6. Dundee
    7. Queen Mary, University of London
    8. UCL
    9. Edinburgh
    10. Newcastle

    QS Top Universities - World University Rankings

    In addition to UK rankings, there are also league tables such as QS Top Universities which considers medical schools globally based on their:

    • Academic reputation
    • Employer reputation
    • Research citations per paper
    • H-index citations

    For 2018 8 UK medical schools scored high enough to be ranked in the top 50 medical schools globally. They are:

    • Oxford University at No 2
    • Cambridge University at No 3
    • UCL at No 10
    • Imperial College London at No 11
    • Kings College at No 15
    • Edinburgh at No 21
    • Glasgow at No 40
    • Manchester at No 41
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    How to use medical rankings to help decide which UK university to apply to

    As you can see there are huge variations in how the different universities rank depending on the league table, which can be confusing and it can be difficult to know how much weight to give to the rankings when deciding on where to study medicine.

    Our advice would be to not focus on the rankings alone when deciding on which UK medical school to apply to. Instead, use it as a guide to help you:

    1. Identify which universities you would be interested in applying to

    As an initial guide, medical school rankings tables are a quick and easy way to identify which universities offer the course in the UK, and which are the most famous/have a good overall reputation.

    Once you have a shortlist you can then research each institution in more detail, finding out specific details such as their location (remember as a medical student you will be spending a large proportion of your time away from the main campus in teaching hospitals), admission requirements and course structure.

    2. Decide between your shortlist 

    Once you have made your shortlist our advice would be to first decide on which metrics are most important to you, then consult the rankings to compare between the different universities.

    For example, if student satisfaction is high on your list of priorities then The Guardian would be a good league table to look at as it breaks down the % satisfaction in more detail, according to how happy students are with the course, the teaching standards and the feedback that they receive.

    Likewise, If you are interested in intercalating with a BSc during your degree then research quality and potential opportunities are important metrics to consider.

    We hope this blog post has helped you to understand both how university rankings work and how you can use them to help guide your decision regarding which medical school to apply to.

    Good luck and don't hesitate to get in touch at hello@themsag.com if you have any further questions or would like more advice to help decide which UK medical schools you should apply to.


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