Will my degree be recognised?
This is a highly important consideration when choosing to study medicine abroad. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information that we give you in this respect and so would advise you to check with General Medical Council about the suitability of any particular university's medicine qualifications.
However, we can confirm that there are many medical schools around the world that specialise in teaching international students. Many of these universities' graduates are working in the UK healthcare sector although often they may have amassed considerable experience abroad in addition to their studies.
All qualifications taught within the European Union should be judged as equal but it is worth checking with the GMC as they will know more about the relative quality of medical qualifications than we or an education agent can.
We certainly know universities whose qualifications are recognised by the GMC, and whose quality of teaching is recognised worldwide. These universities are not soft options; going abroad is not recommended under any circumstances to students who would be incapable of following a UK medical degree or who are not fully committed to becoming a doctor.
Does it make sense to study medicine abroad?
Let's be honest, most British students who go abroad to study medicine have first of all tried to get in to a medical school in this country. As you will no doubt know by now, there are far more students who wish to study medicine than there are places available. Even the best exam results you could ever achieve may not be enough to get you a place and a lot of people miss out for reasons that are not a reflection on their ability or passion for the profession. Students who miss out are often encouraged to reapply in the UK; this just adds to the pressure for places year on year and while it may be an advisable strategy as it gives you time to gain additional experience, it is not the only one. You don't need to put your life on hold because of the British university admissions system.
There are some universities abroad that offer graduate entry routes into medicine but these are few and far between. Some universities may allow admission into the third year of a 5 or 6 year MBBS qualification but this is unusual.
If you are passionate about becoming a doctor and you want to get straight on with your studies, there are universities abroad that can help you. You need to be careful in your choice of university but there are some highly reputable medical schools that can help you achieve your dream and your objectives.
What grades do I need to get in?
Good ones. And often these will not be enough. The main reason why we say this is because it is tough to follow a medical degree abroad and you must be academically capable. Otherwise you will be wasting your time. Some medical universities will accept you with less than perfect grades if they perceive that you have a passion for the subject and you can demonstrate your ability in other ways.
The actual entrance requirements vary quite dramatically. Universities in Central Europe often have their own entrance exams. These are typically a multiple choice exam on chemistry and biology. If you can get a good grade at A' level in these subjects you shouldn't have any trouble passing the exam. Some universities also have an exam in maths or physics.
Public universities in Italy select students purely on the basis of their results in the entrance exam. The deadline for these universities is usually in March and the exam currently takes place in May in the United Kingdom. If you performed exceptionally well in your UK exams but were perhaps let down by your interview performance, these could be options for you.
Some countries have entrance requirements that British students are extremely unlikely to meet. For example, the University of Malta is a very popular option because it does not charge tuition fees. However, you will not even be considered for entry with an A or AS level in a foreign language and a humanities subject in addition to maths and sciences. This could however be a viable option for students with the International Baccalaureate.
What else should I bear in mind?
There is usually a disadvantage involved in studying medicine abroad.
Cost can be a major issue when thinking about studying medicine abroad.
Language can be another issue; if you go abroad, you might very well be able to study in English but you cannot expect your patients to speak English. This is not an issue in the pre-clinical years but you will be expected to learn the local language by the time you enter your fourth year (at the latest). Most universities will ensure that a translator is present during any patient consultations but you will be expected to communicate with your patients and take medical histories etc.
It can be difficult to transfer between universities. If you are planning on starting your medical studies abroad with a view to moving to a British medical school you are likely to be disappointed. In some cases, transferring is impossible because of the different ways in which medicine is taught.
There are a number of education agents operating in the UK who offer to find students places at international medical schools. In our experience it is often unnecessary to use a UK-based agent. However, the customer support of some Central European medical schools leaves a lot to be desired and you might find it easier to apply through an intermediary. It is worth checking in advance exactly which fees would be payable by you as the student and exactly which services the agent is authorised to offer.
If you cannot find a place in the UK you may wish to take a general science undergraduate qualification and then look to study medicine at postgraduate level.
Where should I look for medicine degrees abroad?
There are two main regions where you can look for universities that welcome applications from British medicine students and there are two emerging regions: the Caribbean and Central Europe are well established but there are an increasing number of options for British students elsewhere in Europe and Australia. It is also possible to study in Ireland but the entry requirements are extremely high. If you cannot get a place at a British medical school, you are unlikely to find a solution in Ireland. You can search for all medical degrees taught in English on our website.
Medical schools in the Caribbean follow the American education system and many students there go on to do their residencies in US hospitals. These universities are considerably more expensive than studying in the United Kingdom. The tuition costs of a year at a medical school in the Caribbean are likely to be around US$35,000.
Medical schools in Central Europe have developed an excellent reputation over the last 20 years of offering education in English. Some of these locations may seem a little run down but the teaching methods are often world class. There are currently around 25 universities in Central Europe offering medical qualifications in English. There are also medical schools in Ukraine and Russia but there are recognition issues with some of these institutions.
There are an increasing number of options for studying medicine in Western Europe and the Mediterranean.
The University of Groningen in The Netherlands offers a standard BSc degree in medical science. This does not qualify you to become a doctor but successful completion of this degree means you can go on to take their Masters in medicine. The downsides of this route are that the Masters is taught only in Dutch and there are very few places available (no more than 70 for international students every year). As the approach to learning at Groningen is very different to most UK medical schools it is extremely unlikely that you will be able to transfer to an English-speaking medical school to complete your studies. However, learning Dutch is an integral part of the degree and you will not be left on your own to learn outside your studies.
Elsewhere in Southern Europe there are a number of universities in Italy, Malta and Cyprus that offer you the chance to qualify as a doctor. Tuition fees are usually around €25,000 per annum at private universities but Malta does not charge tuition fees at all. There are also six public universities in Italy that teach medicine in English (Milan, Pavia,two in Rome, Naples and Bari) with means-tested tuition fees of between €800 and €3,000 per year. However, the entry requirements can be quite complicated (see above) and the number of applicants far exceeds the number of places available. For example, in 2012 Universita di Milano received well over 1,000 applicants for 60 places.
There are currently no options to study medicine in Spain in English although several universities have been trying to get this option off the ground for at least four years. We keep a close eye on the situation in Spain and it may change soon but currently there are no options to study medicine in English there. We will be sure to amend this information as soon as we receive confirmation of any change from the Spanish Ministry of Education but not beforehand.
Studying medicine in Australia or New Zealand is possible but it will be expensive and your chances of getting in are very low. Most countries in the Anglophone world have a shortage of places in their medical schools. Some universities in Australia are able to accept a limited number of British students but tuition fees will be similar to the cost of studying in the Caribbean. Employment prospects for doctors in Australia are excellent, however.
In the USA most students complete a general science or pre-med undergraduate degree and then go on to medical school at postgraduate level. This is an incredibly expensive route to follow. Medical schools in the USA are extremely unlikely to accept students who have completed their undergraduate studies at a non-US university. However, there are some routes for students who have not studied science at undergraduate level to enter a fast-track progression towards a career as a doctor.
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