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The Best Medical School UK: 2023 Edition

The Best Medical School UK: 2023 Edition

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.

What is the best medical school in the UK? The UK has one of the highest standards of medical education in the world… But who comes out top?

The best UK medical school in 2023 is Swansea Medical School. Swansea has been selected by combining the data from The Guardian and Complete University Guide’s league tables. Swansea placed first with The Complete University Guide and fourth with the Guardian.

But there’s so much more to this than just league tables. There are lots of different factors that can affect which the best medical school for you is.

It all depends on how much weight you put on different aspects of the student experience. To help you decide, I’ve gone through all the data and have picked out my top medical schools for eight different categories in 2023!

Best UK Medical School In League Tables

There are a tonne of different organisations that compile ranking lists for universities.

When it comes to medical schools, the two most popular are The Guardian and the Complete University Guide.

They both come up with pretty similar lists and use very similar categories to score the universities.

  • The Guardian focuses a lot on student satisfaction and has a unique criterion for graduates’ careers after six months
  • The Complete University Guide meanwhile has more of an academic spin, including data on the proportion of university staff involved in research
2022 RankThe GuardianThe Complete University Guide
1.EdinburghSwansea
2.AberdeenOxford
3.Brighton SussexDundee
4.SwanseaCambridge
5.OxfordEdinburgh
6.DundeeGlasgow
7.CambridgeAberdeen
8.St AndrewsQueen Mary
9.KeeleKeele
10.BristolExeter


As you can see, the only thing they agree on is that Keele should be in 9th place!

Otherwise, both lists are very Scottish heavy and include both Oxford and Cambridge.

Interestingly, Swansea rose nine places from last year to this one, finishing up top of the Complete University Guide’s list.

Taking fourth place from The Guardian, they’re also arguably the highest placing university overall.

I think this just goes to show if you ask two different people which the best universities are you’ll get two different answers!

The reality is there is no definitive ranking system and each one will slightly favour different aspects of the student experience

I’m a strong believer that you can have an absolutely fantastic experience anywhere you go. And a lot of that will be determined by the friends you make and experiences you have while at university.

Best Medical School For Student Satisfaction

According to the Complete University Guide, the best university for student satisfaction is Brighton and Sussex Medical School, with a very close second being the University of St Andrews.

These two universities have traditionally done very well in this respect, both in the top three in 2020 and 2021.

Brighton and Sussex was founded in 2003 as a collaboration between (you guessed it) the universities of Brighton and Sussex. Students are members of both universities, meaning they get full access to both institution’s facilities!

Most of the teaching takes place on the University of Sussex campus, being a blend of lectures, practicals and small group-based learning.

One really strong aspect of the school’s curriculum is its emphasis on early clinical exposure. Students from the pre-clinical years regularly have placements in both primary and secondary care

Best UK University For Medicine

For this category, I’ve looked at a university’s ranking as a whole, not just for its medical school.

For 2023, the University of Cambridge takes the top spot! Admittedly, not too many surprises there…

A doctor stops to speak to a patient in a wheelchair

The medicine course at Cambridge is six years long compared to the standard five. It’s split down the middle with three years pre-clinical and three years of clinical placements.

It’s undoubtedly a top pick for those who enjoy the academic side of medical studies- there’s the option to intercalate three years of research between years four and five!

With such a prestigious reputation, it’s not easy to gain a spot at one of the best universities in the UK. Typical offers require A* A* A

Cambridge also uses the BMAT as an admission assessment. It’s essentially an aptitude test with additional focus on science and maths.

Best Lecture Based Medical School

When it comes to teaching a medical curriculum, there are two main approaches taken by universities:

Lecture-based learning: the classic image of hundreds of students packed into a lecture hall with a speaker at the front.

Problem or case based learning: a more modern teaching style that revolves around case-based discussions. Essentially, students troubleshoot their own knowledge gaps when faced with different scenarios.

Problem Based LearningLecture Based Learning
Generally a clinical spin right from the get-goMost start with a foundation in scientific theory
Team-based with lots of interactivity and discussionSolo working and learning when in lectures
Lots of self-directed study and control over your timeLecture times are dictated to you
Learning comes from personal research and othersBooks and lectures provide most source material
Can be difficult to present fact-rich topics such as anatomyExcels at communicating detailed and complex topics


The reality is most courses provide a mixture of the two learning styles.

It’s important to remember even with ‘lecture-based learning’ medical schools seminars are generally used to provide a contrast to sitting in lectures all day.

Which Medical Schools Are Lecture Based?

The medical schools that primarily teach their curriculum through lectures are:

  • Aberdeen
  • Anglia Ruskin
  • Aston
  • Brighton and Sussex
  • Bristol
  • Buckingham
  • Cambridge
  • Dundee
  • Edge Hill
  • Edinburgh
  • Exeter
  • Kent
  • King’s College
  • Leeds
  • Newcastle
  • Oxford
  • Sothampton
  • St Andrews
  • St George’s
  • Sunderland
  • Swansea
  • Lancaster
  • UCL

Best Lecture Based Medical School

Taking number two spot from The Guardian, Aberdeen is undoubtedly worthy of the title of best lecture-based medical school. 

Being the northern-most medical school in the UK, Aberdeen has an incredibly unique special feature as part of its curriculum.

It’s the option to experience Remote and Rural medicine in years four and five of the course.

Students who select this option spend all of fourth year in Inverness, with frequent visits to rural clinics and GP practices.

This is a fantastic opportunity to practice medicine in more isolated and austere environments, with placements in fifth year ranging from Stornoway to Orkney to Shetland!

Best PBL Medical School

The medical schools that primarily teach through either problem-based or case-based discussions are:

  • Barts
  • Cardiff
  • Glasgow
  • Hull York
  • Imperial
  • Keele
  • Lancaster
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester
  • Nottingham
  • UEA
  • Plymouth
  • Belfast
  • Sheffield
  • Warwick

Best PBL/CBL Medical School

The University of Manchester’s medical school was the first in the UK to implement PBL as a learning model- so they should know a thing or two about it!

Manchester is the UK’s largest medical school. World-class facilities coupled with an extensive patient base in the metropolitan city make for a winning combination.

A group of students partaking in a problem based learning session

Manchester Medical School also offers an unmissable opportunity- to study overseas!

Through their European Studies option, students have the opportunity to learn a language and go on an overseas placement.

You attend weekly language classes through years 1-4, culminating  in a four month placement at one of their partner universities in Europe!

Best Medical School To Intercalate With

Intercalating is essentially taking time out of your medical studies to do a year of research.

The benefits of this are:

  1.  You get an extra degree which makes you more competitive when applying for jobs
  2. You can have a complete change of subject matter, and if you’d like, location
  3. You build skills and knowledge that you can use for further research

A few of the medical schools even let their students expand their intercalated year into full PhDs if they meet certain standards!

My answer to which is the best medical school to intercalate with is a bit of a sneaky one and I’ll tell you why. . .

Nottingham Medical School

Nottingham Medical School actually give you a free BMedSci within your normal 5 year degree!

This means you get to avoid all the disadvantages that an intercalated degree can be seen to have:

  1. No extra year at university! Your course length is still only 5 years and you don’t have to drop down into the year below
  2. You don’t have a delay to the start of your earnings and avoid the associated costs of studying an extra year
  3. There’s no hiatus in your medical studies which could leave you with a lot of catching up to do before finals

Outside of medicine, if you’re a sportsperson, Nottingham is the place to be.

State-of-the-art sporting grounds support a thriving student body’s vast array of societies and activities.

Not to mention the lake they have on campus…

Best Medical School For Surgery

If you already have your heart set on becoming a surgeon, there’s no harm in getting a head start.

A notoriously intricate speciality, surgeons need to have expert knowledge of the anatomical area they’re operating in.

And that’s why medical schools that provide full-body dissection can offer you the best start to your surgical career. 

There are generally three ways anatomy is taught in medical school:

Dissection – medical students study cadavers (people who have donated their body to medical science) and are actively involved in dissecting the tissues.

Prosection – you observe an experienced teacher dissect the cadaver to demonstrate anatomy rather than cutting it yourself.

Models – these can be anything from plastic models of different body parts all the way to a 3D virtual dissection table!

The Anatomage Table is an incredible interactive table replicating full body dissection. It’s currently only used by a handful of medical schools but this number will likely soon rise.


The medical schools that currently offer full-body dissection are:

  • Anglia Ruskin
  • Barts (only the 4 year course)
  • Cambridge
  • Cardiff
  • Dundee
  • Glasgow
  • Keele
  • King’s College
  • Leicester
  • Newcastle
  • UEA
  • Nottingham
  • Sheffield
  • St Andrews

So my choice for the best medical school for the aspiring surgeon would be… Dundee!

Dundee Medical School was ranked third by The Complete University Guide and offers full-body dissection on all its medicine courses. 

With the Cairngorms National Park situated just to the north, and the highlands beyond that, Dundee would also be an excellent pick for the adventurous outdoor lover. 

Dundee in fact offers a mixture of both dissection and prosection.

This means you get the best of both worlds- you’re able to get stuck in and dissect yourself, while also having anatomy expertly demonstrated to you by skilled professionals.

You can find 4 other medical schools that I think would all make great choices if you’re an aspiring surgeon here.

Best Medical School In The World

We’ve seen how UK medical schools stack up against each other, but how about the rest of the world?

QS Top Universities compile a world ranking list for medical schools each year. Their most recent list looked like this:

RankUniversityOverall Score
1.Harvard98.9
2.Oxford96.4
3.Stanford94.8
4.Cambridge94.1
5.Johns Hopkins93.2


So, the best UK medical school on the world stage is Oxford! Narrowly beating Cambridge and just being edged out of top spot by Harvard.

Similar to Cambridge, the course at Oxford is again six years long. Another similarity is they’re both elite institutions that can select the cream of the crop. 

Cambridge’s three year averages for application years 2018-2020 were:

Interviewed: 25%

Successful: 9%

Intake: 159

The pay off, however, if you do get in is you’ll be part of a ground-breaking research institution, having your lectures delivered by world leaders in their field. 

There’s no denying there are few better places to be if academic medicine is your thing. Perhaps you’ll be part of the team that discovers the next COVID vaccine?

Final Thoughts

There are lots of factors that can determine which the best medical school in the UK is.

Are you interested in student experience? Research opportunities? Teaching methods? Or perhaps good old reputation and rankings?

Whatever the case, if you choose a good fit for you, you’re guaranteed to have the time of your life learning and exploring the subject of medicine. 

P.S. Now you know about the high-flyers, find out which universities I’ve singled out as the worst medical schools in the UK here.

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.