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Guide to Studying Medicine in the UK

From the discovery of penicillin in 1928 by Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming, to the foundation of the public-owned National Health Service (NHS) in 1948, the UK has made a proud and significant contribution to the world of medicine. With the country continuing to be a world leader in medical advances and boasting some of the most respected scientists on the planet, it’s not surprising that students from all over the world are so keen to study medicine in the UK.

But where in the UK should you study this vital and fascinating subject, and how much will it cost you to do so? If you’re looking at higher education in medicine here in the UK, we’ve put together a dose of information that might help you reach a healthy decision.

Where are the best places to study medicine in the UK?

According to The Complete University Guide and its University Subject Tables of 2018, the top five places to study medicine in the UK are:

  1. University of Oxford
  2. University of Cambridge
  3. University of Swansea
  4. Queen Mary University of London
  5. University of Glasgow

The list gives a ranking for each university, considering factors like entry standards, student satisfaction levels, quality of research and prospects after graduation to give an overall score out of 100. Oxford scores the maximum 100 here, and even Glasgow in fifth place scores an excellent 97.4.

If you are unable to secure a place at the top five universities, or even if you can but are tempted to study elsewhere, the list gives a total of 34 UK universities offering medicine courses, none of which score lower than an impressive 89 out of 100 for their overall rating.

How much does it cost?

As of Autumn 2017, yearly fees for international students taking undergraduate courses start at approximately £10,000 and can be as high as £35,000. Medical courses usually veer towards the higher end of this spectrum, and with some courses running for six years, the total cost could run well into six figures.

UK tuition fees vary from course to course, and from university to university. For an accurate figure, it's best to check the fees and course duration for the particular university and course you're considering.

If it seems a lot of money, bear in mind that courses in the UK are usually shorter than, for example, the US, meaning your total outlay might be lower over the duration of the course. In any case, the fee is likely to be money well spent, with the UK boasting some of the best and most reputable universities and courses in the world, and medicine graduates in the country enjoying some of the most lucrative career opportunities. UK newspaper The Telegraph reported in 2017 that 95.3% of students in subjects related to medicine were able to find employment quickly after their course had come to an end.

G8way Membership

Considering the costs involved, it’s imperative to protect your Visa position with G8way membership. What you pay out to study medicine in the UK may be expensive, but it's an investment, and you should safeguard it in the same way that you would with any other major purchase.

Imagine if you needed to go back to your home country for some time, perhaps due to illness or for family reasons? With the money and time that medicine courses take up, it would be a real shame if a disruption to your studies were to make it all count for nothing. With G8way membership being easy and affordable, this can be a huge weight off your mind once it’s arranged, allowing you to focus fully on your course.

If you’re keen to keep your costs down further, consider looking away from the capital. The cost of living in London and the South East is significantly higher than in most other parts of the country, so you may find it more affordable to look at medicine courses offered by universities in Scotland (such as Glasgow and Edinburgh), Wales (Swansea) or Northern England (Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle).

What can I expect from a UK medicine course?

Let’s be clear – medicine is a highly competitive field of study, so universities can afford to be extremely selective with who they take on board. Most will expect top marks at secondary education level, and may want to see some evidence of experience or application in medical fields outside of the academic world, such as in a hospital, clinic or care home.

At five to six years, medicine courses are rather longer than the standard three to four years taken up by most other UK courses, so enrolling in one is a commitment. With most courses, you'll be expected to undertake two years of training on the university's premises to prepare you to apply your medical knowledge and skills in an appropriate setting. After that, the remaining three or four years of your course will be spent undertaking clinical training in a more hands-on environment, such as a teaching hospital, giving you real-world experience of your discipline.

With most UK medicine courses funded by the NHS with a view towards training medics of the future, recent years have seen some shorter four-year courses introduced. These cover more or less the same material, but at a faster pace, so they are likely to cost you less time and money. However, this means that places on them are even more hotly competed for, and that you'll need to be up to the task of learning at a faster pace.

What can I do afterwards?

Medicine graduates in the UK rarely struggle for work, and the career opportunities a degree in medicine can open are rewarding and diverse. As well as being an obvious pathway towards becoming a GP or hospital doctor, students often follow up a medicine course by moving into fields like psychiatry and cardiology. In almost all cases, they find themselves not only making money, but also making a real difference to the lives of everyday people.

The biggest employer in the UK is the NHS, and with the country’s population growing and life expectancy increasing, this is unlikely to change any time soon. The constant need for more doctors, surgeons and other medics means that those who emerge from their medical studies with a qualification set themselves in good stead for highly paid employment in the UK.

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