Graduates who wish to apply to study medicine have the option of applying to standard undergraduate medical degrees, which are typically 5 years long, or graduate entry medicine (GEM) courses, which are 4 years long. It is important to note that a student loan to cover tuition fees is not available to graduates applying to a standard undergraduate medical degree. A loan to cover tuition fees is, however, available to graduates studying on a GEM course.
Graduate applicants possess a number of qualities not found in a typical 18 year old who is applying directly from A-level study. A graduate will have proven through their degree that they are able to successfully study to a graduate level and those who have undertaken degrees in related fields will have accumulated a wealth of relevant knowledge and skills. Medical schools recognise the additional experience and maturity possessed by an older applicant, particularly if they have spent time gaining experience working in healthcare or another professional environment. The absence of a student loan to cover tuition fees, which currently stand at £9250 for all but the final year of the course, which is paid by the NHS, will, however, present a barrier to many graduates from pursuing this route.
A GEM degree is an incredibly popular route into medicine for both science and arts graduates. GEM courses are popular because they are completed in a year less than most standard courses and there is financial support available to cover tuition fees, with the NHS paying £3715 of tuition fees during all but the first year and a student loan available to cover the remainder. Many graduates are attracted to GEM courses as they allow study with an older cohort, with coursemates having a range of skills and experiences from their past studies and careers to enrich the collective learning experience.
There are currently 14 medical schools that offer GEM courses. Competition for places is fierce and the pace of learning is intense. The universities currently offering GEM courses are shown below along with an indication of their entry requirements. Universities will consider applicants who hold a 2:2 degree, but they will ask for an additional qualification, usually a Master’s degree.
There is no set upper age limit to commence a medical degree although most universities state that they will take the length of time that a graduate would be employable in the NHS into account. There are many students commencing both GEM and standard courses who are in their thirties and forties, and a few students who are in their fifties. Those who are returning to education are advised to contact the admissions offices of the universities that they intend to apply to in order to discuss their qualifications. Admissions tutors are available at open days and are invaluable when it comes to understanding a university’s specific requirements.
School leavers who fail to secure a place on a medical degree following A levels should carefully weigh the pros and cons of undertaking a BSc with a view to moving onto a GEM course. Although a BSc degree in a related subject would certainly benefit you (as described above) and enhance your application, there are a number of negatives that should be considered. Undertaking a BSc will make reapplying to standard courses unfeasible for many due to the lack of student finance to cover tuition fees. This may reduce your options to GEM courses where the competition is far greater than for standard courses. This route will also entail a minimum of 7 years of study at university, which may result in the accumulation of a huge debt.
If you find yourself in the above position then it may be worth considering a gap year during which you can enhance your application by gaining more work experience. If you failed to achieve an offer during your first application cycle but you achieved the required grades then you can reapply in a very strong position as an applicant who has achieved the A level requirement. If you gained an offer but narrowly missed the required grades then it is worth contacting universities to enquire about their re-sit policy. It would be far quicker and cheaper to take a year to re-sit an A level or two than to undertake two degrees if your heart is set on medicine.
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