The complete guide to the best medical schools UK

Your guide to the best medical schools UK

When it comes to choosing which medical schools to apply to there is a lot to consider: the location, course structure, degree length and university reputation to name but a few. It is therefore not surprising that one question a lot of students ask is 'which are the best medical schools in the UK?'.

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Of course the answer is very personal and different for every student, depending on your learning style and what you'd like to get out of the course, but for the purposes of this blog post we have cross-referenced the Top 5 Medical Schools in the UK from the most recent Guardian, Times and Complete medical school guide league tables.

The Times Online Good University Guide 2018 for Medicine

  1. University of Oxford
  2. University of Glasgow
  3. University of Cambridge
  4. University of Edinburgh
  5. Swansea University

The Guardian University Guide 2019 for Medicine

  1. Cambridge
  2. Oxford
  3. Swansea
  4. Aberdeen
  5. Newcastle

The Complete University Guide Ranking 2019 for Medicine

  1. Oxford
  2. Cambridge
  3. Glasgow
  4. Swansea
  5. Imperial College London

Looking at the lists above, there are 3 UK medical schools which appear in all three league tables: University of Cambridge, University of Oxford and Swansea University. We will, therefore, be looking at each of these 3 medical schools in detail in this blog post.

*Disclaimer: All course information and admission requirements were checked with the respective university website on 8th November 2018. This information is subject to change and you are advised to confirm before applying.

University of Cambridge

As the second oldest university in the English speaking world, Cambridge is steeped in history. There are over 300 medical students in each year but the collegiate system means you'll get the best of both worlds with small group teachings or 'supervisions' in your college, which is often regarded as one of the best teaching models in the world.

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Students can choose to apply either to a specific college of your choice or an 'open' application if you have no preference. For reference, University of Cambridge admission statistics show that neither options change the likelihood of a successful application.

Cambridge course information

Medicine is a 6 year degree at The University of Cambridge which includes a BA degree in the 3rd year of study.

The is a strong focus on preclinical studies with some clinical contact in the first 3 years. The advantage of this is that students will have a strong understanding of the underlying physiology, anatomy and biosciences, but can affect student satisfaction depending on your priorities. Year 3 is dedicated to a separate BA degree and is equivalent to an intercalated BSc at other universities.

Finally, in years 4, 5 and 6 students rotate through placements in hospitals both locally and across East Anglia as well as GP practices in the surrounding area. This builds upon the first 3 years and ensures students are prepared for entering the clinical environment as doctors upon graduation.

Cambridge teaching style

Teaching at the University of Cambridge is traditional in style and divided up into pre-clinical and clinical years. Students will have some early patient contact in the first 3 years, but the majority will take place in the final 3 clinical years. Anatomy is taught using a mixture of dissection and prosection.

Cambridge A-levels and admission exam entry requirement

Entry standards are high with A*A*A at A-level, with Chemistry as a compulsory subject. Candidates must also have at least one of Biology, Maths or Physics at A-level.

For the University of Cambridge, applicants are required to sit the BMAT as part of the selection criteria.

Cambridge interview process

As a guide around 75% of applicants, each year are interviewed. In general, there are 2 interviews, although some students will only receive 1 and others 3. All these are panel style interviews and assess 3 key aspects:

  1. Scientific and related competencies
  2. Personal qualities and communication skills appropriate to a medical student and future doctor
  3. Understanding the professional and career requirements

University of Oxford

The University of Oxford is the oldest English speaking university in the world and has a formidable academic, medical and scientific reputation. Like Cambridge, the University of Oxford has a collegiate system so each student will belong to a small college as well as the main university. This gives students the opportunity to be part of a smaller community and to mix with students from other degrees.

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Oxford course information

Medicine at Oxford is divided into pre-clinical and clinical years. Years 1,2, and 3 focuses on essential clinical sciences with limited patient contact and a BA in medical science in 3rd year.

Students must then apply to complete their final 3 clinical years in either Oxford or London. Entry to clinical years is dependent upon successfully passing the preclinical years (Part I) and obtaining a BA degree (Part II).

Oxford teaching style

Teaching at the University of Oxford is a combination of lectures, seminars and dissections for the entire year group, as well as smaller tutorials within each individual college. These can be as few as 2 students per tutor to really focus on individual learning needs.

Oxford A-levels and admission exam entry requirements

Conditional offers for Oxford are usually A*AA at A-level, with Chemistry being compulsory and at least one of Biology, Maths or Physics.

The BMAT is required is as an admission exam for all applicants.

Oxford interview process

425 candidates are shortlisted each year and students are invited for interview at 2 different colleges over a 2 day period. The style varies depending on the college but is usually panel style with at least 2 college academics and at least 1 practicing clinician.

During the interview the panel will be looking for evidence of key skills such good communication, ethical awareness and ability to work with others. Students will also be assessed on their ability to engage on a topic of discussion as well as their ability to problem solve.

Please note that undergraduates can either apply to The University of Cambridge or The University of Oxford to study medicine, but not both in one year.

Swansea University

Of the 3 universities in this list, Swansea Medical School is unique in that it only offers graduate entry. The medical school boasts top research facilities, which has enabled them to reach the Top UK 30 of Research Excellence in 2014.

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Located on the Gower Peninsula and close to the Brecon Beacons National Park, Swansea is a popular choice for students who wish to participate in outdoor activities and sports whilst studying.

Swansea course information

As a graduate medicine degree, the course is split into 2 phases. Phase 1 which covers years 1 and 2, and Phase 2 which covers years 3 and 4.

Phase 1 comprises of learning weeks, community-based learning, learning opportunities in a clinical and research setting, as well as early apprenticeships.

Phase 2 will mostly be spent on clinical placement in a variety of specialities, including medicine, surgery, child health and psychiatry.

Swansea teaching style

At Swansea medical school teaching in phase 1 is delivered in an integrated fashion with 96 clinical cases. This continues in later clinical years with 'case of the week' topics.

Swansea degree and admission exam entry requirements

Degree requirements (any of the below):

  • 1st or 2.1 in any subject
  • Distinction, Merit, 1st or 2.1 for Integrated Undergraduate Masters
  • 2.2 PLUS a Postgraduate Masters or PhD

GAMSAT admissions exam must be taken prior to applying, with a minimum score of 50 overall and 50 in Paper III (Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences).

Swansea interview process

Applicants are required to take a 30-minute Situational Judgement Assessment as well as 2 separate interviews, each lasting about 20 minutes. During this interview candidates will the assessed on the following:

  1. Communication
  2. Problem-solving
  3. Coping with pressure
  4. Insight and integrity
  5. Passion for medicine/resilience to succeed.

For full details of how rankings work, including the top ten medical schools in the UK, then check out our how to understand the medical school rankings UK blog post. You may also find the definitive guide to medical schools in London useful if you are thinking of studying in the capital.

We hope this blog post has been helpful when it comes to ranking universities in the UK for UCAS, and don't forget that regardless of which university you choose to apply for, your graduate prospects as a doctor are excellent as the GMC regulates and oversees all medical schools so all UK medical degrees are considered equal when applying for foundation jobs.

You can also check out our guidebook for more information on each individual university, as well as tips for writing your personal statement, preparing for admission exams and acing your medical school interview. Finally don't hesitate to get in touch via hello@themsag.com if you need any advice or have any further questions.


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