UK Medical Courses: Overview

January 9, 2015

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Medical degrees in the UK vary widely between medical schools, in addition to which, the same medical school itself may offer several different types of medical degrees. There are essentially three main types of medical degree courses: the standard course, the foundation course and the graduate-entry course.

There are 31 medical schools in the UK, of which 23 are in England, 5 in Scotland, 2 in Wales and 1 in Northern Ireland. 29 of these schools offer standard courses, 10 offer foundation courses and 15 offer graduate entry courses. Some medical schools have all three types of course, while others may have only one type.

Getting to know the mentors at the hospital Standard courses

The duration of standard courses ranges from 5 to 6 years and they are open to all, from graduates to school leavers and mature students. Standard courses are the most common, with the majority of medical students choosing this option.

While the eligibility requirements for graduates is different from the entry requirements for school leavers and mature students, all students who are accepted into the program study alongside each other and take the same exams.

School leavers and mature students are usually required to have biology and chemistry A-level or equivalent and obtain at least an AAB overall. Graduates are typically required to have a minimum 2.1 in any subject. A few courses only accept students who have specific degree subjects. Biology and chemistry A-level are also necessary requirements for graduates, but the required grades may differ from those required by school leavers. Most, but not all, UK medical schools offer the standard medical degree course.

Foundation Courses

The duration of a foundation courses is typically 6 years long. Foundation courses are designed to offer access to medicine to students from less privileged backgrounds and to those who do not have science A-levels. They are generally open to school leavers, mature students and graduates too.

The course usually involves a foundation year during which students learn the basic sciences such as biology, chemistry and physics. Some medical schools also cover some clinical teaching in the foundation year. Students who successfully complete the foundation year, directly join the 1st year of the standard course in the same school. The entry requirements are different for each of the medical schools. Only 10 medical schools in the UK offer foundation courses.

Graduate Entry Courses

Only students who have already obtained a university degree are eligible to apply for the graduate-entry courses. These courses last 4 years and are very competitive, with a very high number of students applying for each available seat. Students on these courses get more financial help from the government as compared to those on other medical courses, so they ultimately work out less expensive as compared to standard and foundation courses.


Intercalating refers to taking an additional year during the standard or foundation medical course which enables students to obtain a BSc qualification in addition to the medical degree. It is possible to intercalate at most medical schools, with a wide range of degree subjects on offer.


These are clinical placements that individual students choose sometime between their 3rd and 4th year. Many students opt to undertake their elective in another country, usually working in a hospital for a couple of months and then travelling for a while after that.

About Gap Medics

Gap Medics offer medical work experience placements overseas to students who are looking to boost their application to medical school. If you are interested in getting a real insight into life as a doctor, getting some impressive experience to help your application shine, all whilst having the adventure of a lifetime, call us on (0)191 603 1111 or email