The UK is known for its National Health Service (NHS), one of the world’s largest publicly funded healthcare systems. Many of the country’s public hospitals have close ties with medical schools.
In the UK, medicine degrees are available at an undergraduate level, usually through a five- or six-year programme. These programmes allow students to gain a broad knowledge of medicine and include work placements and practical sessions. Students can then specialise through further study.
Medical students in the UK are expected to have high grades in chemistry and biology, but requirements vary between universities. UK Consortium universities offering medicine degrees require students to take the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT); and other top universities require students to take the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT). International students are also required to take one of these tests when applying to a UK university.
These are the best universities in the UK for medical degrees, according to Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2021.
The University of Oxford has been the Times Higher Education’s top-ranked university for medicine for the past two years.
Students looking to study medicine at Oxford must take the BMAT in order to be accepted.
The University of Oxford offers a standard medicine course, which gives students a comprehensive knowledge of medical science as well as the skills to adapt this knowledge in a clinical environment.
The first three years are the pre-clinical stage, studying towards a BA honours in medical sciences. The final three years make up the clinical stage, where students work alongside doctors to put their skills into practice. All students on this course also undertake a research project, which encourages them to delve into the scientific research of medicine and develop laboratory skills.
A four-year graduate course for medical studies is also offered.
Notable alumni from the medical school include neurologist and Olympian Sir Roger Bannister, who is known for his research into responses of the nervous system.
Students at the University of Oxford have access to more than 400 clubs and societies.
The University of Cambridge’s medical school students can access medicine and medicine-related courses in the School of Clinical Medicine, the Faculty of Biology, and the department of physiology, development and neuroscience.
The University of Cambridge offers two medicine courses: standard and graduate.
Cambridge requires students to take the BMAT before their application will be accepted.
The undergraduate course combines theoretical and practical work in outpatient clinics, GP surgeries and hospitals.
Graduate and PhD programmes are designed for students who are looking to pursue a career in academic medicine.
Notable Cambridge alumni include 17th-century physician William Harvey, the first to describe the circulatory system in detail.
Medicine courses at the University of Cambridge date back to 1540.
What can you do with a medical degree?
Imperial College London offers two undergraduate courses: BSc medicine and BSc medical biosciences.
The six-year BSc medicine course combines case-based learning and exposure to patient care as well as lectures and tutorials. The course helps students to develop skills in research techniques, which is helpful for those wishing to go into clinical academic medicine.
The school takes a three-phase approach. Phase one focuses on the foundations of health, disease and clinical practice, and includes the opportunity to undertake clinical research projects. Phase two offers module content learning on top of a research project. The final phase is where students use all the skills they have learned in real-life settings.
Imperial College also offers master’s programmes and scholarships for those who have completed their undergraduate medicine studies and wish to further their skills in the field.
Imperial’s Faculty of Medicine is one of the largest in Europe, with campuses across London, as well as numerous partnerships with hospitals and clinics around the UK. Imperial has contributed significantly to the advances of medicine through research projects on bowel cancer, pandemic solutions and hay fever.
UCL, like many other medicine programmes across the UK, offers a six-year undergraduate medicine course. Students undertake tutorials and clinical experience at the Royal Free and Whittington hospitals in London.
The first two years of the BSc medicine course include learning the fundamentals of clinical science. In the third and fourth years, students begin to learn clinical skills. The final two years are spent preparing for practice and specialising.
The university began offering medical courses in 1834, and since then, six alumni have been awarded the Nobel Prize for work in auto-immune disease, adrenaline and the immune system.
King’s College London has partnerships with some of London’s best hospitals: Guy’s, King’s College and St Thomas’. There are two main campuses – Guy’s and Denmark Hill – which house the Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine; the Dental Institute and Faculty of Dentistry, Oral and Craniofacial Sciences; and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience.
King’s College offers a five-year medicine MBBS, a graduate programme and a sport and exercise medical sciences BSc. All the courses focus on practical learning.
If an optional intercalated degree is chosen, students can extend their five years to six.
The course is divided into three stages. Stage one offers foundation skills in biomedical and population sciences, as well as the skills for clinical practice. Stage two studies the human life cycle and pathological processes, focusing on patient care in clinical settings. Stage three is geared towards specialising and developing skills for the workplace. During this stage, students can choose to study abroad, extending their global knowledge of medicine.
Top UK universities for medicine 2021
Click each institution to view its World University Rankings 2021 profile