Private Medical Schools UK: Fees, Entry Requirements & More

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.

Private medical schools offer a slightly alternative path to becoming a doctor in the UK.

They’re independently accredited institutions, meaning they don’t always have to play by the same rules as all the other public medical schools.

The two private, or independent, UK-based medical schools are the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Buckingham. Both of these institutions offer a primary medical qualification that is recognised by the General Medical Council so graduates are able to work as doctors in the UK.

The downside of not being government backed is that private medical schools miss out on a lot of the subsidies the government offers universities for training medical students.

Which, in turn, means extra costs are passed on to you as the student in the form of tuition fees.

However, despite the fees, a private medical education can still be an incredibly valuable investment in your future, one that will pay dividends for years to come as you progress through a career in medicine.

The Advantages Of Independent Medical Schools

As medicine applications become ever more competitive, private medical schools can offer a number of distinct advantages over their public cousins.

Unlike public medical schools, independent medical schools don’t have quotas on international student places.

Normally, medical schools are made to restrict the number of students who are classified as international for fee purposes to a maximum set by the government.

Not being constrained by these rules means private medical schools can accept as many (or as few) international students as they’d like.

A second distinct advantage of the two private medical schools based in the UK is that neither of them require the UCAT or the BMAT.

That’s right, there’s no entrance exam required to apply!

This can be a massive bonus if all the strange shapes, puzzles and questions of the UCAT make your head spin or if you just want to reserve your mental energies for focusing on school work.

Applying to medical school through an online portal

Lastly, possibly the biggest advantage of an independent medical school to you as an applicant is that they each have their own application portals.

You don’t apply to them through UCAS but rather you apply to them directly.

As a result, you’re not constrained by the normal limit of four medical schools per application cycle. You can apply to four through UCAS as well as applying to any private medical schools you want to.

By casting your net wider, you’re only increasing the odds of getting an offer to study medicine.

University Of Central Lancashire (UCLAN)

UCAT/BMATNot required
Personal StatementYes

The first of the two UK-based private medical schools I’m going to look at is the University of Central Lancashire.

The UCLAN is actually a bit of a funny one because they only have a very limited number of places available for UK students.

Not only that, but to be considered as a home student you have to live in the North West of England!

They’re really then a medical school mostly aimed at international students.

If you are an international, you’ll unfortunately pay considerably higher fees than the £9,250 charged to home students.

As a full-time student studying medicine you’ll have to pay £46,000 per year.

For this price though you do get an incredibly modern curriculum with patient interaction from your first year in diverse urban and rural clinical placements.

The University of Central Lancashire also boasts state-of-the-art on-campus clinical skills laboratories that have a vast range of equipment- including a number of high-fidelity human clinical simulators.

Coupled with a spiral curriculum that progressively builds your knowledge as you move through the course, the groundwork you need to work as a doctor will be well set by UCLAN.

University Of Buckingham

GCSEsC in English & Maths
UCAT/BMATNot required
Personal StatementYes

The University of Buckingham was in fact the first independent UK medical school to open its doors to students back in early 2015.

Buckingham actually condenses the traditional 5-year undergraduate medicine course into only 4.5 years- which is great news for students who want to enter the world of medicine as soon as possible.

Another big plus for Buckingham is their slightly lower A-level requirements than the majority of other medical schools.

Instead of the traditional AAA (or even A*AA), Buckingham only asks for ABB including chemistry and/or biology.

The University of Buckingham Medical School received GMC accreditation in May 2019 and received some resoundingly positive feedback on their course:

“Excellent professional, academic and pastoral support that extends throughout the University and clinical learning environments.”

The GMC regarding the University of Buckingham

The fees for both home and international students are £38,496 per annum, putting the total cost of your degree at £173,232.

Private Medical Colleges To Avoid

There’s an incredibly important distinction to be made between the two universities I’ve talked about above and any other private UK-based medical college.

The two universities above will award you with a medical degree that is recognised by the General Medical Council (a.k.a. the GMC).

The GMC is who every practising doctor in the UK is registered with. If you’re not recognised as a doctor by the GMC then you can’t work in the NHS.

Screenshot of the GMC website
A screenshot from the GMC website explaining their role

It’s a vital distinction to make because there are a large number of private medical colleges that offer medicine courses based in the UK. However, at the end of one of these courses, you won’t be any closer to being a doctor than when you started in the eyes of the GMC.

The institutions below all offer a primary medical qualification that is not recognised by the GMC:

  • European College of Medicine, London (ECM)
  • Grace University School of Medicine, London
  • London College of Medicine
  • London School of Medicine
  • London Medical School
  • School of Health and Neural Sciences, Nottingham
  • American International School of Medicine, UK satellite campus
  • St. Christopher’s College of Medicine, Luton
  • Kigezi International School of Medicine, Cambridge
  • Medical College London, Montserrat

This isn’t an exhaustive list, just the ones that the GMC is currently aware of.

The way they work is they award you with a medical qualification from an overseas university. Despite all, or the majority, of your study having been carried out in the UK.

Unfortunately, the GMC has deemed that these courses do not meet the standards of a UK-awarded qualification.

Therefore, if your dream is to work as a doctor in the NHS, you should therefore avoid all of these institutions.

Final Thoughts

If you have the means at your disposal, I think that attending a private medical school can be a totally viable method for kickstarting your medical career.

As well as the two GMC-accredited universities in the UK, there are even more options available if you look abroad.

From Europe to America to the Caribbean, there are plenty of choices out there if you’re willing to look a bit further afield.

Just bear in mind that there can be significant variations in the quality of tuition you receive as you get further and further away from a traditional public UK medical school.

That’s not to say you can’t receive a world-class education elsewhere, but just you should just make sure you’ve done your research before applying to a foreign university.

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.