London is a world capital teeming with outstanding colleges and universities that draw students from around the globe. When it comes to medical schools, though, it’s home to a handful of great options.
Medical school works a little differently in the United Kingdom than it does in the United States, where it lasts for four years, followed by three to seven years spent as a resident.
In the U.K, aspiring doctors attend school for four or five years, in which they take science courses and get hands-on clinical experience, followed by the Foundation Programme. During that two-year program, doctors receive a provisional license for the first year and then their full license as they move into year two.
And more people than ever seem to be interested in pursuing careers in medicine in Britain. In 2021, the number of people who applied for undergraduate medicine courses, a total of 28,690, increased nearly 21% from 2020.
When they eventually enter the workforce, they’ll join a large, and fairly young, workforce. The U.K. had approximately 300,600 registered doctors in 2020, most of whom, about 94,000, were between the ages of 30 and 39.
Below, we’ll break down the best medical schools in London, ranked according to where each school placed on the US News Global Medical Universities list.
6. St. George’s, University of London
Students begin their careers in medicine at the country’s specialist health university when they attend St. George’s.
The South London school has two options for students to pursue an undergraduate degree in medicine, both of which prepare them to begin the Foundation Programme after graduation.
Students earn the same degree no matter which path they take, leaving with a bachelor of medicine/bachelor of surgery (MBBS).
The biggest difference between the programs is that the main medicine one takes five years to complete, while the graduate entry track lasts just four. The graduate entry program is designed for students who already have a bachelor’s degree, and it compresses the first part of the medical degree program, allowing students to finish it in less time.
In each program, they learn in various state-of-the-art labs and a patient simulator while also gaining hands-on clinical experience with actual patients starting in their first year.
They benefit, too, from attending the only university in the country whose campus is also home to a major teaching hospital, St. George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where they get to experience practicing in different specialties.
Students also can take an extra year to earn an international bachelor of science degree or a master’s degree in different subjects at St. George’s or another school. In that case, it would take a student six years to earn their medical degree.
5. Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry
Part of Queen Mary University of London, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry can trace its history back centuries to two groundbreaking institutions, St. Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College and London Hospital Medical College.
Today, Barts offers MBBS programs in which students begin seeing patients during their first term of study.
Like other British medical schools, Barts has both four- and five-year medicine programs, with the shorter option designed for students who previously earned health or science degrees.
Across the university’s three campuses, students take core classes to develop their fundamental skills, and the university also emphasizes the importance of research in the curriculum and has open-plan research labs and other modern facilities.
Additionally, they can elect to take other classes based on their personal interests, such as law or community health.
Prospective students interested in earning a degree from Barts don’t have to stay within the confines of London, either, as the university also offers its five-year medicine program in Malta. Barts faculty members teach the classes in English, and students also learn from local clinicians that Barts has trained.
A Barts degree tends to get graduates far in their careers. Recent alumni have found jobs with such institutions as the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College Hospital, and
University Hospitals of Leicester.
4. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Located in the city’s Bloomsbury neighborhood, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine opened in 1899. In addition to its England campus, the school also has facilities in Uganda and the Gambia, with 3,500 staff members spread across all of the sites.
While the school does not offer a doctorate of medicine, students can earn a doctorate of public health (DrPH), a master of philosophy (MPhil), or a PhD. Students who aspire to careers in public health care will want to pursue the DrPH, while those who want to focus mainly on research would be better off in the MPhil/PhD program.
Full-time students have four years to complete their studies, and some are able to submit their research thesis in three years. The school grants part-time students eight years to finish their degrees.
All DrPH students attend the London campus for their first term, in which they’ll take their core modules, and usually spend at least one term there in each subsequent year. Those years will include work on the two research-based endeavors, an Organisational and Policy Analysis Project and the research thesis.
In addition to the doctoral programs, the school has an extensive list of master of science degrees that run the gamut of health care, including some available via distance learning. Subjects range from tropical medicine and medical microbiology to topics that focus more on health care management than practice, such as health data science.
3. GKT School of Medical Education
Part of King’s College London, the GKT School of Medical Education has both undergraduate and graduate degrees and also offer opportunities for postgraduate research.
Future doctors have four options when it comes to pursuing an MBBS at GKT, starting with the traditional five-year program and the four-year graduate entry medicine program open to people already working in healthcare or those who have earned honors degrees in biomedical or life sciences subjects.
But the school also has what it calls an “extended medical degree” course eared toward A-level students and others taking specific educational paths. This option path gradually introduces students to medicine and gives them extra support academically, and students finish it in six years. Additionally, the school has an option for dentists to earn an MBBS and eventually work as oral and maxillofacial surgeons.
Called the medicine maxfax entry program, it takes four years to complete.
Regardless of which route they go, students can undertake their clinical training at hospitals and medical practices throughout southeastern England and gain experience at several teaching hospitals the school has partnered with, including King’s College and St. Thomas’s.
And when the time comes for students to take their electives, they may be eligible to head overseas as part of GKT’s exchange program with other top medical schools.
2. University College London UCL Medical School
University College London’s medical school has produced some of the country’s leading medical professionals since it opened in 1834. Current students take classes spread over three campuses in the city, including one in Bloomsbury that contains a new 16-story medical facility where they gain clinical experience.
About 350 people graduate from the six-year undergraduate medical program, walking away with an MBBS. Students also earn a bachelor of science as part of this course unless they already have an undergraduate degree and are entering the medical program as graduate students.
Those interested in working in academic medicine and/or research have an additional option for study, the MBPhD program, which is only open to select students pursuing an MBBS or similar degree. They can apply for admission between their fourth and fifth years of studying for the MBBS.
Research opportunities also abound at UCL, whose medical school contains the Research Department of Medical Education. It consists of a variety of academics and researchers who help train the next generation, those pursuing doctorates at the school or working as post-doctoral researchers.
Several UCL alumni have gone on to lead the country’s finest medical organizations, such as Margaret Turner-Warwick, the first elected female president of the Royal College of Physicians.
1. Imperial College School of Medicine
While the Imperial College’s School of Medicine only formed in 1997, its history stretches back centuries, to the founding of several London medical schools that later merged to create the present-day school. Today, it is one of the biggest in Europe.
Students start seeing real patients from the get-go at the Imperial College School of Medicine, where they can earn an MBBS. Similar to other medical schools, the Imperial College has two MBBS programs, a six-year one for regular undergraduates and a five-year option for those who already have science degrees.
In the traditional six-year program, students also earn a bachelor of science on their way to their terminal degree. The college may even give “exceptional students” a chance to earn a PhD in addition to their medical degree.
The college’s reach is widespread, with campuses located in London’s northern and western regions and partnerships with medical facilities that include hospitals and NHS Trusts. Imperial also offers an overseas course through a partnership with Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
The MBBS program is divided into three phases, with lessons presented not only in lectures and labs but also small groups and clinical experience in a variety of health care settings. In addition to classroom and clinical training, students also develop professional skills as they learn about the values and behavior they’ll need to succeed in their careers.