The Times Good University Guide 2010 ranked Oxford University 1st for Medicine in the UK, with Cambridge University coming a very close 2nd. Why are the Oxbridge Medical courses consistently ranked far above the rest for the quality of teaching?
Having been through the Oxbridge Medical degree all of our tutors will testify to the high quality of teaching received throughout their time at Oxbridge. As many of them have subsequently gone on to study at different medical schools they are ideally placed to answer question above. They can also help students to decide whether they would enjoy studying at Oxford or Cambridge over some of the other top UK Medical schools.
Although Cambridge and Oxford are similar in their traditional approach to studying Medicine, that is, to study the biomedical science as a subject in its own right before commencing on to the clinical applications, the courses are not identical. We have outlined both course structures for your information.
Oxford Medical Course:
Medicine at Oxford is a 6 year course starting with 3 years Pre-clinical studies followed by 3 years of clinical study. A-level students will apply for the course named A100 (Graduate entry and fast-track entry have slightly different course structures and numbers).
The Pre-Clinical stage consists of:
- The first BM (Bachelor of Medicine) including a course in Priniciples of Clinical Anatomy
- The Final Honours School (FHS) which leads to a BA in Medical Sciences
The Clinical stage consists of 3 years of clinical study in different placements in hospitals around the Oxfordshire area, with the John Radcliffe Hospital acting as the main teaching hospital. This course leads to a BM, BCh (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery).
This part of the course is heavily science-based with a particular emphasis on the academic and research side of Medicine. Students will be taught in much greater detail about the science underlying the functioning of the entire body and the associated topics of genetics, pharmacology, pathology and biochemistry.
By the end of the 2nd year students will have learnt all of the medical science required for final year examinations. In fact, students at this stage from both Oxford and Cambridge will have a greater level of knowledge in this field than any other Medical course in the country. This strong emphasis on academic medicine taught by the world’s leading researchers and medical scientists does, however, mean that less time is spent with patients and the clinical aspects of medicine at this stage. As a result, this course is not for everyone and students should consider carefully what type of medical education they would most enjoy.
After successful completion of the Pre-Clinical course, students are invited to apply for the Clinical course. They may do so at Oxford, and indeed the majority too, but they also have the option of applying to Cambridge or to one of the London-based Medical schools including UCL, Imperial College, King’s College, St. George’s and Bart’s.
Cambridge Medical Course:
Medicine at Cambridge consists of 3 years Pre-Clinical and 3 years Clinical study. A-level students will be applying for undergraduate admission, course number A100. (Graduate and fast-track entry onto the course is also possible although the structure and course numbers are different.)
The Pre-Clinical stage consists of:
- 2 years academic study for the completion of the second MB, also known as the Medical and Veterinary Science Tripos (MVST) parts IA and IB.
- 1 year for the Cambridge BA in a medical speciality of choice.
The Clinical stage:
The Clinical stage consists of 3 years of clinical study in different placements in hospitals around the Cambridgeshire area, with Addenbrooke’s hospital acting as the main teaching hospital. This course leads to a BM, BChir (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery).
The first three years of the Cambridge medical degree are highly academic in nature, preferring to teach the underlying medical science in great levels of detail including the importance of scientific research and relevant recent medical advances, taught by the leading academics in their respective fields, rather than incorporating clinical and non-clinical elements from the beginning. It is called the “Medical and
Veterinary Science Tripos “ (MVST) for this reason- Tripos being a Cambridge term referring to a number of courses leading to a degree.
Students will have acquired sufficient scientific knowledge by the time they finish their second year to sit their final year exams at the end of clinical school. The first two year must
be successfully completed for progression to the 3rd year. Again, this being an academic course, patient contact is limited in these first three years in favour of scientific teaching and self-directed learning. This is something potential applicants should think carefully about before applying.
After successful completion of the Pre-Clinical course, students are invited to apply for the Clinical course. There are places for half of the undergraduate students on the clinical course, and acceptance onto the Clinical Course will depend on academic performance in the Pre-Clinical course. The other half of the undergraduate students will go to Oxford or to one of the London-based Medical schools including UCL, Imperial College, King’s College, St. George’s and Bart’s.
This part of the course is to learn the clinical side of Medicine and to implement the knowledge acquired at the Pre-Clinical stage.
How do I know which course is best for me?
Deciphering Medical courses can be confusing, especially when students have not encountered these areas of science and clinical medicine in their A-level teaching. Understanding whether the Oxbridge course is for you, and more importantly, justifying it to an interviewer, can be quite daunting.