Can You Go Straight To Medical School In The UK?

Updated on: December 3, 2023
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Written By Dr Ollie

Every article is fact-checked by a medical professional. However, inaccuracies may still persist.

Depending on which country you study in, you may or may not be required to have an undergraduate degree before attending medical school.

With respect to the UK then, can you immediately start to study medicine after finishing secondary school?

In the UK, students are able to progress directly from school to medical school. Unlike in other countries, such as the US, medicine in the UK can be studied as an undergraduate degree. There is no need to graduate with another degree first before applying to medical school.

After finishing my final year at school, I was able to go straight to Leicester Medical School and start my medical degree.

This saved me time, and a lot of money, compared to having to graduate with another degree first. In this article, I’m going to explore the subject in a bit more detail and pick apart the rules if you are looking to apply to a UK university from abroad.

Can You Get Into Medical School Without A Degree?

Taking the US as an example, to become a doctor there you first have to earn a bachelor’s degree (4 years) before applying to medical school (4 years) to graduate as a doctor.

Medical schools won’t accept students who haven’t taken the right courses as part of a pre-med program during their undergraduate college education.

In the UK however, there is no need for this first bachelor’s degree.

The majority of students will make their applications to medical school while still in school- so that they’re able to progress straight from graduating from school to attending university.

A university student picking through books

Medical schools in the UK select students on the basis of their academic performance at school (GCSEs and A-levels), entrance exam results (the UCAT/GAMSAT etc.), personal statement and interview performance.

Offers are made largely on the basis of the student achieving particular grades at A-level: generally, 3As or better.

If a student meets these grades they’re able to start studying as a medical student. If results day brings a nasty surprise, students unfortunately have to forfeit their spot to another applicant.

Can You Go To Medical School After University?

Although the majority of medical students in the UK won’t have a prior degree, it is also entirely possible to attend medical school after graduating from another subject.

This route is referred to as graduate entry medicine.

Graduate entry medicine courses are one year shorter than undergraduate medicine courses, to reflect the initial knowledge base a lot of science graduates will have as well as the fact they generally come to the table with improved study skills and self-discipline.

So compared to an average 5-year undergraduate medicine degree, a graduate entry medicine course is 4 years long.

Many UK universities offer both undergraduate medicine courses as well as graduate entry medicine courses.

After the first couple of years, these two streams often merge during the clinical phase of the degree.

An important point to note is that as a graduate, you’re not restricted to only applying to graduate entry medicine courses.

Just because you already have a degree doesn’t mean you can’t attend an undergraduate medicine program.

Many graduates do apply to a mixture of both courses due to the fact that undergraduate medicine can be slightly easier to get into.

Do Any UK Medical Schools Require A Degree?

While most UK medical schools don’t require students to have a degree to apply, there are a small handful that exclusively cater to graduate entry medics.

These universities include:

  • University of Chester Medical School
  • Swansea University Medical School
  • University of Warwick Medical School
  • Three Counties Medical School, University of Worcester
  • Ulster University School of Medicine

While most universities will either run only an undergraduate medicine course or an undergraduate and graduate entry medicine course, the medical schools above only accept graduates.

They only run 4-year condensed programs, requiring all students to have already achieved an undergraduate qualification.

The University of Washington in Seattle

In contrast to the specific pre-med courses required by US medical schools, UK universities often have quite generous allowances for what sort of degree is required to attend their graduate entry program.

For example, Aberdeen, Aston, and Bristol medical schools all accept students with any undergraduate degree. Music, art or ancient history.

Many institutions do however require applicants to have a science-based degree or at least hold some science A-levels.

Do You Have To Graduate From A UK School?

If you’re a foreign student, you may be wondering if UK universities require applicants to have graduated from a UK school before allowing them to enrol directly without a degree.

The good news is this is not the case.

UK medical schools consistently accept international students who do not have any UK qualifications.

Many institutions even have a number of places ring-fenced on their courses every year for international students.

The key, however, is that you will need qualifications that are equivalent to both GCSEs and A-levels.

GCSEs are taken by UK school students aged 14-16 and are often the only definitive evidence of what that candidate can achieve in real exams.

This is because when applying for medical school, direct entry students will still be studying towards their A-levels; which are taken aged 16-18.

The exact conversion between your home country’s grades to UK equivalents actually varies depending on which medical school you’re applying to.

This is also the case for exactly what qualifications a university will accept.

If you’re not sure exactly where you’d stand your best bet is to research each individual medical school’s website. They generally have a section specifically geared towards international students that should answer many of the most common queries they get.

Equally, if you phone a member of the admissions team you’ll be able to get an answer tailored to your specific circumstances.

Final Thoughts

I’ve got to admit I’m very glad I wasn’t forced to complete a 4-year bachelor’s program before being able to enrol as a medical student.

I just don’t think I’d have much enjoyed studying a subject that I just wasn’t passionate about.

Thanks to UK medical schools not requiring applicants to hold an undergraduate degree, students are able to train as doctors in a shorter total time with reduced student debt.

About the author
After studying medicine at the University of Leicester, Dr Ollie now works as a junior doctor in London. His interests include medical education and expedition medicine, as well as having a strong belief in the importance of widening access to medicine.