The 5 Worst Medical Schools 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.

Out of all the medical schools in the UK, which are the worst?

Bottom-of-the-barrel universities that you should ideally avoid on your UCAS form if you can help it.

The 5 worst medical schools in the UK are:

  1. University of Central Lancashire
  2. Lancaster University
  3. University of Plymouth
  4. University of Nottingham
  5. Cardiff University

Now there’s actually a lot more to this answer than just the list above.

If you’re wondering why I’ve selected the universities I did, or want to find out why I think ‘what’s the worst medical school?’ is actually the wrong question prospective applicants should be asking, you’ll have to read on!

Worst Medical School For Home Students

If you’re a home student, meaning you live in the UK and wouldn’t have to pay international fees, then there is one medical school that you should probably avoid.

This is because UCLan “only [has] a very limited number of places available for UK students.”

The whole medical school is really geared up for international students.

Not only do they have a very limited number of spots for home students, to be eligible to apply for one of these places you have to live in the North West of England!

If you want to study there, you have to live in either Lancashire, Cumbria, Cheshire, Merseyside or Greater Manchester.

A tram travelling down Princess Street in Greater Manchester

If you do meet the geographical cut though, there are some strong incentives for applying.

UCLan is one of the few medical schools that doesn’t require you to take the UCAT to apply. It also has relatively low grade requirements regarding both GCSEs and A-levels.

It’s just unfortunate that you won’t be able to take advantage of these policies if you don’t live in one of the required counties- and even if you do, there’ll be cut-throat competition for such a small number of home places.

Worst Medical School For International Students

Now, if you’re an international student things are very different.

UCLan would undoubtedly be a tempting option but there is another medical school close by that you may want to steer clear of.

Lancaster’s target intake for 2022-23 is a paltry 4 international students!

Out of a year of 129, only 4 spots are reserved for internationals.

This is the lowest ratio of international:home student target intakes I could find on the Office for Student’s website.

Only 3.2% of the year would be made up of international students. This is compared to somewhere like King’s College London that aims to take in approximately 7.5%.

The reason you might want to think twice before applying to Lancaster as an international is I’m positive the competition for such a small number of spots will be sky-high.

That being said, if everyone thinks the same way and doesn’t apply then you may be in with a shot…

Worst Medical School For Surgeons

Some people know what specialty they want to go into even before their first lecture at medical school.

If you’re one of those people, who is already set on surgery, then there’s one medical school that should be at the bottom of your list.

Putting Plymouth on this list does pain me a little. I actually did my foundation years down in Plymouth and had an absolutely fantastic time.

So I’ve got no doubt that if you do go to Plymouth Medical School you’ll have a blast.

However, working in the South West did mean I came into contact with a fair few Plymouth graduates.

And, by their own admission, their anatomy knowledge was not always up to scratch.

Anatomical models in a medical school classroom

I think a lot of this comes down to how Plymouth teach anatomy: they don’t offer either dissection or prosection to their students.

Instead, everything is learnt through a virtual anatomy table or plastic models.

As great as virtual 3D dissection is, I just don’t think it’s ever going to be able to replace hands-on experience with a real cadaver.

And if you want to become a surgeon, you’re going to need expert anatomical knowledge regarding whichever area of the body you’re operating in.

Worst Medical School For Student Satisfaction

Every year, universities across the UK are scored and then ranked on a large number of different criteria regarding their performance.

The two most popular of these rankings are The Guardian and The Complete University Guide.

In my opinion, one of the most important ranking factors used by these two organisations is that of student satisfaction. This lets you know what real students actually thought of the course.

For 2022/23, The Guardian calculated Nottingham to have a score of only 54.8/100 for the category ‘satisfied with the course.’

At the top end of the table, they had St Andrews with a score of 95, Bristol with 89.7 and Leicester with 88.5.

The Complete University Guide also placed Nottingham at the bottom of their rankings, with a score of just 69% for ‘student satisfaction.’

In their top 3 they also had St Andrews and Bristol but actually placed Brighton and Sussex number 1 with a score of 89%.

Whilst student satisfaction isn’t the only factor you should be concerned about as a prospective medical student, it can undoubtedly be a leading indicator for the sort of experience you’ll get at that university.

I can’t say I know exactly why Nottingham graduates were relatively dissatisfied with their course but I would definitely try and find out more if I was thinking of applying there.

Worst Medical School For Graduates

Last but not least, what if you’re applying to medicine as a graduate?

Having already completed a degree, you’re wise enough not to just apply to the first medical school that catches your eye. Where should you avoid in order to not waste one of your precious four UCAS choices?

The reason I’ve selected Cardiff as the worst medical school for graduates is because it’s just so insanely specific as to who can apply there.

If you don’t meet their requirements your application just won’t be considered.

To get onto the graduate course at Cardiff, you need to be on one of their recognised feeder streams or be a dentistry graduate!

This equates to needing a 2:1 or better in one of the following degrees:

  • BSc (Hons) Medical Pharmacology degree, School of Medicine, Cardiff University
  • BSc (Hons) Biomedical Sciences degree, School of Biosciences, Cardiff University
  • BMedSci (Hons) Degree in Medical Sciences from Bangor University
  • BSc (Hons) Medical Sciences Degree, from the University of South Wales

As you can see, there really isn’t much wiggle room if you didn’t study a science-based undergraduate in Wales!

With such a limited scope for applicants, I had to include Cardiff as a warning if you thought you might have been eligible.

Why The Worst Medical School Is A Myth

As I teased at the start of the article, I actually don’t think singling out a ‘worst’ medical school is particularly helpful to anyone.

The reason being is that every medical school in the UK is certified, and held to the same high standards, by the Medical Schools Council.

I genuinely don’t believe there is a single ‘bad’ medical school in the UK!

There will however be medical schools that suit different people differently.

If you are already completely set on becoming a surgeon then perhaps I wouldn’t go to Plymouth. You’d ideally want to go to a medical school that offers full-body dissection.

If you’re a home student, then you’re likely going to have a far better chance of getting an offer than by applying to the University of Central Lancashire.

You’ll have to believe me, as a junior doctor, when I say that once you start work in the NHS no one asks where you studied.

As long as you’re nice to the nurses (and good at your job) then that’s all anyone cares about!

P.S. Now that you know about the bottom 5, you can find out who I crowned the best medical school 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.