If you are considering applying to medical school in the United Kingdom, your research may be leaving you with more questions than answers. Doctors have been trained by UK universities for almost 300 years and many medical breakthroughs were discovered and developed here, so it is clear why the UK has such a great appeal for Canadian students. Furthermore, medical education in the UK has a different timeline than in Canada. Typically, students apply directly into medicine the autumn of their final year of secondary school. Then they complete five or six years of medical training at university and begin two years of foundation training before transitioning into their specialties.
Students in Canada can apply to any of the 31 UK medical schools directly from high school via Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Check out each school individually and review entry requirements and program details before making your decision. Typically, you will need to have high grades in Biology, Chemistry, Maths and English. Programs are highly competitive as most UK schools are bound by government regulations which restrict them to allowing only 7.5% of their total student population to come from outside of the country.
Additionally, some schools offer a transfer route from Biomedical Science to Medicine. Students can apply to the BSc course in Biomedical and if they have really good grades, they can transfer to Medicine. This offers students who do not meet the rigorous marks for the Medicine programme an opportunity to prove themselves at university, while still graduating in a similar timeframe.
If you have already earned an undergraduate degree or higher, you may be eligible to apply to a four- year graduate entry program offered by at least half of the UK medical schools. Again, entry requirements vary, so take the time to review all of the program options.
In addition to high marks, for most schools students will still need to write an entrance exam. For direct entry from secondary school either the United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) or the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) are required. Graduate entry programs may accept one of these tests, but typically they require the Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) or in rare cases the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).
Like many other schools, the UK medical schools will require you to have a personal statement, letters of recommendation and relevant work or volunteer experience. Ultimately, schools want to see what you have learned from your work experience through your personal statement and during your interview. Most schools will want to interview you, and interview styles and formats vary, so it’s important to ask whether you will be expected to do a one-on-one, group, panel or Multi-Mini interview. The interview is a highly important part of the medical admissions process.
Once you have been accepted to a UK medical school, it is important to understand how your training will take place and where you will do your clinical rotations. Most schools are directly affiliated with one or several hospitals in the UK and students will do clinical rotations there during their final two or three years. Some schools offer both UK and international clinical sites including the United States and Canada. Choosing which school is right for you may depend on where you ultimately want to practice.
The UK: Progression routes after graduation can include foundation training in the UK, residency in the United States or Canada, or additional training around the world. Spots for international students to progress onto the foundation program in the UK are not guaranteed and are often dependent on current immigration and visa policies, so it is important to check with your schools about this option.
The US: Many students will opt to enter the Residency Match process in the United States, as spots are often more readily available for International Medical Graduates (IMGs). The Match is managed by the National Residency Match Program (NRMP) and is a competitive process for both US graduates and IMGs. This process will require you to write the USMLE Step 1, 2CK and 2CS licensure exams.
Canada: Graduates wishing to return to Canada will enter into the Canadian Residency Match via CaRMS. You will be considered a Canadian Studying Abroad (CSA) and will match after students who went to a Canadian medical school. However, you will be able to match in the first round with the majority of applicants. Each province has its own additional considerations, so it is important to investigate those thoroughly. Matching is never guaranteed and will require a strong performance on the Medical Council of Canada Evaluating Exam (MCCEE).
For Canadians looking at medical schools abroad, it is important to consider your ultimate goals. If you wish to return to Canada, as many do, you should consider programs that offer US and Canadian clinical experience, have a history of matching students in Canada, and offer support through the residency match process. Students should review the CaRMS data on IMG match rates and do a full risk assessment. According to CaRMS, in 2012 over 400 IMGs matched in Canada with a majority of them matching at university programs in Ontario (this represents about 20% of the total IMG applicant pool). However, students who graduated from European universities see their chances go up by 33%. Furthermore, the chance of matching for recent graduates is more than double that of others.
Studying medicine in the UK is a unique and rewarding experience that many Canadians participate in every year. Deciding if medical school in the UK is right for you must be a well-researched choice. Below are some sites to help you with your research.
- General Med Council- UK
- Medical Schools Council
- Universities and Colleges Application Service
- Canadian Residency Match Service
- International Medical Education Directory
- National Residency Match Program
- Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates
By Rose Gnade and Shannon Smith, Medical Programmes Managers for INTO St George’s, University of London