Exploring Medical School Rankings: Your Path to a Medical Career
So, you've decided to embark on a career in Medicine, how exciting!
The next step is to decide where you'll be spending the next 5/6 years (assuming you are applying directly following A-levels). With over 30+ medical schools in the UK and only 4 spaces allowed per UCAS cycle, choosing one to apply to can be a very daunting task. What do you need to consider when applying?
Here is where medical school rankings can somewhat help you navigate this tricky decision.
This guide will briefly outline what factors make up the scoring system for two of the most popular ranking systems, and, what each of these categories mean.
Before we delve into how these rankings work, there are two important points we need to consider first. Firstly, this goes without saying, that you will need to make sure that you meet the minimum entry requirements to apply to a particular medical school. Check out our recent blogs at FutureDoc for advice on the application process. Secondly, the degree at the end of the course is the same no matter which medical school you graduate from. The same goes for applying for foundation positions at various hospitals. Once you graduate, hospitals will not have a preference as to where you got your medical degree from!
With those things out of the way, let's look into the medical school ranking system.
The first ranking system is from The Complete University Guide. There are 5 key domains that are added together to give an overall score out of 100, each medical school is then ranked based on their overall score. The 5 categories and what they mean are as follows –
- Entry standards - average UCAS score of new students entering the university
- Student satisfaction - how satisfied student are with the quality of teaching
- Research quality
- Graduate prospects (outcomes) - success of graduates after leaving
- Graduate prospects (on track) - whether graduates agree that their current job fits with their future plans
As of writing this article, the top 10 ranked medical schools according to The Complete University Guide are as follows - Belfast (10), St Andrews (9), Dundee (8), Leicester (7), Imperial College London (6), Bristol (5), Edinburgh (4), Glasgow (3), Oxford (2), Cambridge (1).
The second list is from The Guardian. The Guardian rankings lists does not include research, giving it a totally different look to the first list, but takes into account nine different scores that once again combine to form a total score out of 100. More significantly, the Guardian's ranking table includes what current students say about their teaching, feedback and the course itself via the annual National Student Survey. The nine categories are as follows -
- Course satisfaction - via the NSS
- Teaching quality - via the NSS
- Feedback - via the NSS
- Staff-student ratio - the number of students per member of teaching staff
- Spend per student - the amount of money spent on each student
- Average entry tariff - typical UCAS scores of applicants under 21
- Value-added score - comparison of the students' degree results with their entry qualifications
- Career after 15 months - percentage of graduates who find graduate-level jobs, or in further study at professional or HE level, within 15 months of graduation
- Continuation rate - the percentage of first-year students continuing to second year
At of the time of this guide, the current top 10 are as follows - Bristol (10), Keele (9), St. Andrews (8), Cambridge (7), Dundee (6), Oxford (5), Swansea (4), Brighton & Sussex (3), Aberdeen (2), Edinburgh (1).
After combining the two league tables, the medical schools have been ranked from 1-36 based on their overall a score (combing all the factors mentioned above) and student satisfaction scores. As the newer medical schools are not yet fully established with graduating cohorts at the time of writing this article, they are ranked lower on this list.
The University of Edinburgh has a strong reputation for academic excellence and is consistently ranked among the top universities in the world. It was established in 1726, during the Scottish Enlightenment, making it the oldest medical school in the United Kingdom and is one of the oldest medical schools in the English-speaking world. It is particularly well-regarded for its medical school, which has a history of producing some of the most influential figures in medicine. For example, Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, was a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. Alongside the University of Oxford and Cambridge University, Edinburgh is seen as one of the three medical research powers in the United Kingdom. Hence why it is ranked number one here.
Aberdeen Medical School was founded in 1495 by Bishop William Elphinstone, making it one of the oldest medical schools in the world. It was initially located in the Old Aberdeen campus, today, the medical school is part of the University of Aberdeen, which is also one of the oldest universities in the UK. Aberdeen Medical School has produced a number of notable alumni, including Sir James Black, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1988 for his work on beta-blockers. This legacy of excellence has helped to shape the current curriculum and teaching methodologies. Aberdeen Medical School has some of the best facilities of any medical school in the UK. The school has invested heavily in modern facilities, including a purpose-built anatomy teaching laboratory, a clinical skills centre, and simulation suites. These resources enable students to gain practical experience in a safe and controlled environment, preparing them for real-world clinical situations. Aberdeen Medical School is considered a top institution for medical education due to its strong academic program, modern facilities, focus on research, and emphasis on developing well-rounded doctors. All this meaning Aberdeen are ranked second here.
- Brighton & Sussex
Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) is a medical school jointly owned by the University of Brighton and the University of Sussex, located in Brighton, UK. It was established in 2002 and offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses in medicine and healthcare-related subjects. The first intake of students began their five-year medical degree programmes in September 2003. The school was opened as a part of the British Government's attempts to train more doctors. Students are technically full members of both universities with access to both sets of facilities. The school gained its licence in 2002, its initial course being a heavily modified version of the University of Southampton course. It admits approximately 136 students per year with all of them being based for the first two years on the split campus at Falmer. Since then, it has become one of the most popular medical schools in the country. According to UCAS statistics, 2005 saw BSMS as the most competitive medical school to gain a place at. In 2017, the National Student Survey ranked the school as 1st in the UK for student satisfaction. The school makes use of five libraries: the University of Sussex library, the University of Brighton library, the Sussex Education Centre Library, the Princess Royal Hospital library and the Brighton and Sussex University Hospital NHS trust library. This is why BSMS is ranked third.
Swansea Medical School was founded in 2004, as part of Swansea University's expansion plans. It is accredited by the General Medical Council (GMC) and is listed in the World Direct. Located in Wales, Swansea University Medical School provides one of a small number of Graduate Entry Medicine programmes currently available in the UK. The course is also unique for being open to graduates of any discipline who meet the entry requirements of the school, which includes the GAMSAT exam (UK/EU and international students) or the MCAT exam (international students only). The 4-year programme, which combines learning weeks and clinical placements, doesn't adhere to the traditional 'body systems' approach but attempts to imitate clinical practice methods regarding how clinicians approach patients and vice versa. In March 2017, the MBBCh Graduate Entry Medicine degree was announced as featuring in the QS World University Rankings. In June 2021, Swansea University Medical School was ranked 1st in the UK by the Complete University Guide. In our ranking for this year, Swansea gets fourth place.
The undergraduate medical program at Oxford is a six-year course, with the first three years focused on pre-clinical studies and the final three years focused on clinical studies. The program emphasizes small-group teaching and hands-on clinical experience, and students are typically assigned to one of the Oxford teaching hospitals for their clinical rotations. Oxford Medical School has a long history that dates back to the 13th century when the University of Oxford was founded. However, the modern medical school was established in 1936 when the University created the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine. The Medical School was ranked 1st in the world by the 2019 Times Higher Education rankings of Universities for Pre-Clinical, Clinical and Health Studies (a position it has held for nine consecutive years). Oxford rounds off our top 5 coming in at the fifth spot.
Dundee Medical School was established in 1897 as the University College Dundee Medical School. It became part of the University of Dundee in 1967 when the University was founded. It has since been at the forefront of medical education and research. It is a leading medical school in the UK and is consistently ranked in the top 5 for medicine in the UK by the Complete University Guide and 6th in our ranking.
The School of Clinical Medicine is the medical school of the University of Cambridge in England. It is one of the oldest and most prestigious medical schools in the world, and is consistently ranked as one of the top medical schools in the UK. According to the QS World University Rankings 2020, it ranks as the 3rd best medical school in the world and 7th in our list. The school is located alongside Addenbrooke's Hospital and other institutions in multiple buildings across the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.
- St Andrews
The University of St Andrews School the oldest medical school in Scotland. The BSc (Hons) programme is three years long; on graduating from St Andrews, students will progress to one of the university's partner medical schools in Scotland or England for a further three years. Partner medical schools include Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Barts and the London, Aberdeen and Dundee. At the end of the six-year programme, students will have completed their training as a doctor.
Keele Medical School is a medical school located in Staffordshire, UK. It was established in 2002 as a partnership between Keele University and the University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust. Keele has a high student satisfaction score as it uses a PBL approach, which involves small group learning, case studies, and clinical scenarios. This approach allows students to develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which are important for a career in medicine. Keele provides its medical students with early and frequent clinical exposure, allowing them to apply their knowledge and skills in real-world settings. This helps them to develop their clinical skills and gain valuable experience working with patients and helps Keele make 9th on our list.
Bristol Medical School is one of the most prestigious medical schools in the UK, and it is well-regarded for its strong research culture, with research being integrated into the curriculum. The school has a strong focus on translational research, which aims to apply scientific discoveries to improve patient care. It rounds off the top 10 in our rankings.
The school runs two undergraduate courses, either a six-year course leading to an MBBS and BSc, or a three-year BSc course in medical biosciences. Graduates of the school are also awarded the Associateship of Imperial College School of Medicine, AICSM, alongside their medical degrees. As of 2019, Imperial College School of Medicine updated their entire curriculum, shifting towards a more integrated spiral curriculum.
Leeds Medical School is part of the Faculty of Medicine and Health at the University of Leeds. The medical school offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate medical degree programs. Every year around half of all Leeds students take a year out to study another related degree (BSc) in a process called intercalating. Many medical/veterinary/dental students from other universities also come to Leeds to study.
The University of Glasgow School of Medicine, Dentistry & Nursing is the medical school of the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and is one of the largest in Europe. The programme in Glasgow is based on integration of clinical and preclinical subjects, and on student-centred learning. Teaching methods include lectures, tutorials, problem-based learning, practical laboratory sessions and clinical bedside teaching.
- Barts (Queen Mary)
Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, is part of Queen Mary University of London. The course here is taught via a problem-based learning teaching style. This means students work with a facilitator to solve clinical scenario problems. Emphasis is placed on practical sessions, work within the local community and learning communication skills – and lectures do not play a significant role.
The University of Liverpool School of Medicine is a medical school located in Liverpool, United Kingdom and a part of the University of Liverpool. It is one of the largest medical schools in the UK, and in 1903 became one of the first to be incorporated into a university.
The school used to have a problem-based learning curriculum, which was replaced in 2014 with a new 'integrated' curriculum for its flagship five-year MBChB course, which has an annual intake of 280 students.
Warwick Medical School is located in Coventry, United Kingdom. It was opened in 2000 in partnership with Leicester Medical School and was granted independent degree-awarding status in 2007. Warwick offers a four-year Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MB ChB) for graduates. Applicants must have an upper second-class degree or a lower second-class degree along with a masters at a Merit or above.
It is part of the University of Exeter and based at the St Luke's Campus and offers a five-year course leading to the award of the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (BMBS) degree. This school was formed in 2013 as a successor to the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry (PCMD). The University of Exeter Medical School is a relatively new medical school, having been established in 2013. In July 2018, the University of Exeter Medical School had its first cohort of graduates.
Newcastle University School of Medicine is the medical school at Newcastle University in England. It was established in 1834 in the city of Newcastle upon Tyne. The medical school follows a modern, integrated, systems-based curriculum, and was the first medical school in the country to operate an integrated medical curriculum. It operated in partnership with Durham University's medical school, which was based at the university's Queen's Campus until 2018 when Durham completed their transfer of its medical school to Newcastle.
- Queen's Belfast
Queen's Belfast's course is a five-year integrated system-based is one of the few medical schools in the UK that teaches students about anatomy through cadaveric dissections. It is also the only medical school in northern Ireland.
The Cardiff University School of Medicine was founded in 1893. It is one of the largest medical schools in the United Kingdom with over 1000 undergraduates. The school has an annual financial turnover of over £50 million, of which nearly half comes from competitive external research funding. The school is based at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.
- Hull York
Hull York Medical School is a joint medical school between the University of Hull and the University of York in the United Kingdom. Hull York Medical School took its first intake of students in 2003. It was opened as a part of the British Government's attempts to train more doctors, along with Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Peninsula Medical School and University of East Anglia Medical School. Hull York Medical School is known for its innovative approach to medical education, which includes problem-based learning, clinical skills training, and early clinical exposure.
Leicester Medical School was founded in 1975, although between 2000 and 2007 it was part of the joint Leicester-Warwick Medical School. As of 2021, the medical school admits 290 students per year including 18 students from overseas. Leicester Medical School is the first UK medical school to adopt a one-iPad-per-student programme at the undergraduate level, commencing in 2013. Leicester Medical School is one of the few UK medical schools offering full-body cadaveric dissection as part of their clinical teaching.
UCL Medical School is the medical school of University College London (UCL) and is located in London, UCL has offered education in medicine since 1834. UCL Medical School is home to a number of world-renowned research centres and institutes. The medical school is one of the largest in the country with a yearly intake of 334 students. The course in UCL leads to the award of the MB BS and BSc (Hons) degrees and is a six-year integrated programme.
- Norwich (UEA)
Norwich Medical School is based at the University of East Anglia, in Norwich. The first intake of students was in 2002. The school has a 5-year MBBS course, with the possibility of intercalation after year 3 or 4. The campus is set on 320 acres of parkland and is home to a range of academic departments, research institutes, and student facilities.
It is part of the University of Sheffield and was established in 1828, making it one of the oldest medical schools in the UK. The school offers undergraduate and postgraduate medical education and research programs. Sheffield Medical School is home to a number of research centers and institutes, including the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience, the Sheffield Cancer Research Center, and the Sheffield Institute for Biomedical Engineering Materials and Devices.
Manchester Medical School is part of the University of Manchester, one of the largest universities in the UK and the third oldest. Manchester Medical School is also home to several research centers and institutes, including the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, the Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine, and the Manchester Molecular Pathology Innovation Centre. The school was founded in 1874 and is one of the oldest medical schools in the country.
Lancaster Medical School is a relatively new medical school located in Lancaster, UK. It was established in 2015 as a partnership between Lancaster University and the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust. The five-year MBChB degree is taught using a problem-based learning (PBL) curriculum.
- King's College London
GKT Medical School is a medical school located in London, UK. It is part of King's College London, and the name "GKT" stands for the three original teaching hospitals that the medical school was associated with: Guy's, King's, and St. Thomas'. It is one of the largest and oldest medical schools in Europe, with a history dating back to 1829. The medical school has an annual intake of around 400 places on the standard MBBS Programme, 50 places on the Extended Medical Degree Programme and 23 places on the Graduate/Professional Entry Programme (GPEP), and an additional 2 places on the GPEP course for Maxillofacial (MaxFax) Entry. The intake numbers vary year to year, it receives more applications for medicine than any other UK medical school.
The University of Southampton Medical School is a medical school located in Southampton, United Kingdom. It was founded in 1971 and is part of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton. The University of Southampton Medical School is known for its expertise in cancer research, with the Cancer Sciences research group conducting world-leading research in areas such as cancer genomics and immunology. The medical school has a strong commitment to global health, with a range of research projects and partnerships in countries such as Malawi and Uganda. The University of Southhampton Medical School is part of the University of Southampton with a site at Southampton General Hospital, offering 5 Medicine courses, all leading to the award of Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (BMBS). Graduates of the BM5/BM6/BM(EU) programme are also awarded an integrated BMedSc (Hons) degree.
The MBChB programme at the University of Plymouth Medical School is a six-year course that includes a foundation year, which allows students to develop key skills and knowledge before starting their medical studies. The medical school is committed to widening participation and has a range of initiatives in place to support students from underrepresented backgrounds to study medicine. The University of Plymouth Medical School is located in the city of Plymouth, which is known for its coastal location and maritime history, as well as its vibrant cultural scene and outdoor recreational opportunities. It was established in 2012 and is part of the Faculty of Health at the University of Plymouth.
The University of Birmingham Medical School is one of Britain's largest and oldest medical schools with over 400 medical students graduating each year. It is based at the University of Birmingham in Edgbaston, Birmingham, United Kingdom. Since 2008, the medical school is a constituent of The College of Medical and Dental Sciences. The University of Birmingham Medical School is located in the Edgbaston area of Birmingham, which is known for its green spaces and cultural attractions, including the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. The MBChB programme at the University of Birmingham Medical School is highly competitive, with around 15 applications received for every place available. The medical school has a strong commitment to community engagement and outreach, with initiatives such as the Aston-Birmingham Pathway and the Birmingham Health Partners.
The University of Nottingham Medical School is a medical school located in Nottingham, United Kingdom. It was founded in 1970 and is part of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham. The University of Nottingham Medical School has a diverse student population, with students from over 60 countries. This Medical School is located on the Jubilee Campus, which is a modern and sustainable campus featuring state-of-the-art facilities, including a clinical skills centre and simulation suites. Upon graduating from the University, students will receive a Bachelor of Medical Sciences (BMedSci) and a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (BMBS). Research is one of the key priorities and areas of achievement for the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. The university has historically taken a pioneering role in the development of Magnetic Resonance Imaging.
UCLan Medical School is a medical school located in Preston, Lancashire, United Kingdom. It was established in 2015 and is part of the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), which is one of the largest universities in the UK. The curriculum at UCLan Medical School is focused on problem-based learning, which involves small group sessions where students work together to solve clinical cases.
- St George's
St George's, University of London is a medical school located in Tooting, South London, United Kingdom. It was established in 1733 and is the UK's only independent medical and healthcare higher education institution. St George's Hospital Medical School was founded in 1733, making it one of the oldest medical schools in the UK. St George's, University of London was the first UK university to offer a four-year graduate entry programme for medicine and has a strong research focus and is ranked in the top 200 universities in the world for clinical medicine and pharmacy (QS World University Rankings 2022). The medical school is closely affiliated with St George's Hospital, which is one of the largest teaching hospitals in the UK and provides a range of specialist services.
Buckingham Medical School is a private medical school located in Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom. It was established in 2015 and is part of the University of Buckingham, which is the only independent university in the UK with a Royal Charter. Buckingham Medical School offers a four-and-a-half-year Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) programme, which is designed to provide students with a strong foundation in medical science, as well as practical clinical experience. The curriculum is focused on problem-based learning, which involves small group sessions where students work together to solve clinical cases.
In September 2016, Aston Medical School started a taught MSc course in Surgery for Specialist Registrars which coincided with Aston's 50th Anniversary. The first undergraduate MBChB students commenced studies in September 2018, following approval of its programme by the General Medical Council. Aston Medical School is a medical school located at Aston University in Birmingham, United Kingdom.
- Anglia Ruskin
Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) is a public university located in East Anglia, United Kingdom. The Anglia Ruskin Medical School is a relatively new addition to the university, with its first cohort of medical students starting in September 2018. The medical school is located on the Chelmsford campus of Anglia Ruskin University, which is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, including a clinical skills lab, anatomy lab, and simulation suites.
Now, time for the most important bit. Just because a medical school is ranked highly, it may not be the most suitable one for you. Similarly, your ideal medical school will not necessarily be the one at the top of a table or with the highest rank. The best way to use these ranking systems is to focus on how well a particular medical school scores in an area that matters to you the most. Let's take Brighton and Sussex Medical School as an example. According to The Complete University Guide, they are ranked 32/35 based on their overall score. However, if student satisfaction is the most important factor to you, sorting by this category Brighton and Sussex are ranked 1.
As well as this, there are other factors that need to be considered when choosing the correct medical school. These are factors that ranking lists such as the ones outlined above do not include. For example, the size of the cohort, location of the main campus/partner hospitals, as well as support for learning or the availability of a particular society/sport.
Once you have decided on a medical school, here at FutureDoc, you can be coached 1-1 by a tutor who is currently at your institute of choice. You can find out more about this here.
Written by Musaddiq Ali