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What makes Oxbridge different to other medical schools?

In our last post, we mentioned some of the common misconceptions regarding Oxbridge; though the universities may look similar to Hogwarts, we can confirm you don’t have to be the next Hermoine to get an offer! In reality, there is no Oxford or Cambridge ‘type’. Students there come from all over the world and from various walks of life. The admissions tutors are committed to recruiting the best students nationally and internationally through a fair process based on achievement and potential. If you meet the academic requirements, show your passion for medicine and your ability to thrive in an Oxbridge environment, you are on the right track and this won’t go unnoticed by the admissions panel. 

Before we begin, please make a note of a few reasons you may have for applying to Oxbridge and how you think the experience may be different compared to other medical schools.

Stuck? Not to worry, we’ve got you covered!

So, what makes Oxbridge different from other medical schools?

Oxford and Cambridge are regarded as two of the most prestigious medical schools in the UK with a strong emphasis on medical research. The course at Oxbridge follows a ‘traditional’ style, where the course is clearly split into three years of preclinical and a further three years of clinical studies. The third year of preclinical studies includes the completion of a compulsory intercalated degree. The other medical schools in the UK follow a more integrated structure, with a few specialising in PBL (problem-based learning).

It is important to research and reflect on whether a course where there is little to no patient exposure in the first three years would be best suited for you. That being said, the advantage of the Oxbridge course structure is that you will have a strong foundation of the science underpinning medicine, which will help you solve problems from first principles and feel better prepared when dealing with patients.

The tutorial/supervision system is a unique selling point for Oxbridge. During the preclinical stages of the course, students see their tutors (who are leading experts in their field) and are regularly taught in small groups. This teaching is tailored to individual needs and interests, allowing students to clarify any doubts they may have following lectures. 

Additionally, the collegiate system is an essential part of the Oxbridge experience. The course is centralised with the medical school setting the curriculum and organising lectures and practicals, but students reside and have their tutorials/supervisions with the tutors at their college. Colleges also provide pastoral care, facilities (such as libraries, gyms, canteens, etc.), and most importantly, a community of undergraduate students, lecturers, and other members of staff who are there to help ease your journey and to support you if needed. The collegiate system also allows you to mix with students reading a variety of subjects. In addition, you can represent your college in different sports/activities you may be interested in!                                                                                                                          

We know that this must be a lot to take in, so we hope we have made life easier by summarising the main similarities and differences between Oxbridge and other medical schools below: 

– You will graduate with the same degree from Oxbridge as any other medical schoolThe content of your course will be exactly the same but the method of teaching is different– Collegiate system at OxbridgeSupervision/tutorial style system.
– More academic and science-based interview compared to other medical schools.
– Intercalated degree is compulsory – the course is 6 years long
– Intercalated degree is a Bachelor’s (BA – equivalent to BSc) – you cannot do an intercalated Masters (though the BA is upgraded to a Masters after a few years!).
– Intercalation must be done in the 3rd year of the 6 year course Oxbridge has a significant amount of easily accessible funding available for students to support their research and studies.
– Very little clinical experience in Years 1-3 (though this can be sought independently through hospitals).
– Fewer Teaching Hospitals attached to the Universities Extremely traditional course with many contact hours that are lecture-based.
– Very few problem-based learning cases.
– Terms are much shorter (~8 weeks long) and so you get much longer holidays (but lots of work to do in them!).
– You cannot have a part-time job during term time.
– You live in College accommodation for all 3 years of your pre-clinical course (this is guaranteed).
– Most people have a Term Time Licence and move out of their accommodation during term time to save on rent – this involves packing and unpacking at the start and end of every term (You can opt to have a Full Year licence to avoid this).
– Accommodation can be quite old and cold compared to the fancy new accommodation at some universities/
– You will have weekly essays (up to ~3 a week; one from each module). 
– You will have essays as part of your exams (other unis is just MCQs).
– You do not always get Wednesday afternoons off! 
– MedSoc sports aren’t as big as other universities as the less competitive sports are often played at a College level with intercollegiate competitions.

We recognise that we have just given you a lot of information to process, which you should help guide you with your own research and decision of where you want to apply. We hope we have given you a realistic insight into what makes Oxbridge different from other medical schools and hope that you have a better idea as to whether Oxbridge suits you. In the next blog post, we will be addressing what makes Oxbridge special from the perspectives of current and former medical students, as well as comparing Oxford and Cambridge  Feel free to comment down below with any questions you may have. Thank you for reading this blog post and we hope you join us next time!

You might be wondering what we just explained about the course structure translates into, so we added some sample timetables. 

Below is a sample timetable for a 1st Year Cambridge medical student:

FAB = Anatomy MIMS = Biochemistry HOM = Physiology

ISBM = Statistics Module SECHI = Social and Ethical Module 

2nd Year:

NAB/NHB = Neuroscience BOD = Pathology MODA = Pharmacology

(other 2nd year modules not shown include: HNA – head/neck anatomy)

 Oxford – 1st Year (Anatomy Modules not shown) 

This is probably more helpful than the timetable below as it takes into account more than the first term! Go to Structure and ‘Typical Week’ 

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