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Top 9 Ingredients for a Good Medical Degree

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated July 30, 2021 Updated July 30, 2021

This article is sponsored by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) houses the UK’s newest medical school, offering the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) from September 2015. The university’s Associate Dean of Medicine, Prof. Cathy Jackson, shares her top 9 ingredients for a leading medical degree.

1.  An innovative curriculum

The first question to ask is whether the curriculum of your chosen medical degree is informed by the latest practice. At UCLan, we have designed our new MBBS to teach students to look at, question and add to the evidence base of medicine. The course has been designed in partnership with patients, local National Health Service (NHS) leaders and academic researchers to ensure it meets the needs of the real medical world both today and in the future. An innovative medical degree curriculum should include:

  • Integration of academic science with clinical skills. For example, the UCLan MBBS offers both early patient contact and late science teaching, so you continue to develop your knowledge and skills throughout the five-year degree.
  • Interprofessional learning and teaching. The UCLan MBBS incorporates sessions where students of several health professions are taught together, helping them understand how teams collaborate to deliver the safest and most effective care. 
  • A smooth transition to clinical practice. The final year of our MBBS prepares students for independent practice through a series of placements, in which they essentially work as an “apprentice”. Additionally, students undertake a “career taster”, a six-week elective period in a specialism/country of their choice.  This helps them put their studies into practice, fully preparing them to start work after graduation.

2.  State-of-the-art facilities

A good medical degree should also allow students to train using the latest medical facilities. UCLan students will enjoy a new purpose-built facility, housing the new Human Anatomy Resource and Learning Centre, problem-based learning base rooms, teaching rooms and lecture theatre. Additionally, the five Clinical Skills Laboratories house a vast range of equipment –  including a number of high fidelity clinical human simulators – to help students develop clinical skills in realistic hospital, home and GP surgery environments. UCLan students will also complete placements at some of the busiest hospitals in the North West of England, including the Royal Blackburn Hospital and Burnley General Hospital, which have large inpatient and outpatient departments, first-class medical facilities and a purpose-built learning center.

3.  Patient involvement

Any good medical degree will incorporate plenty of opportunities to interact with real patients. One of the key features of the UCLan MBBS is early patient contact, an initiative made possible by the university service user group, COMENSUS. The group comprises a diverse range of people with mental and physical health disabilities, as well as carers. Contact with COMENSUS members and their unique personal experiences will expand students’ knowledge while also helping them develop communication skills and professionalism.  COMENSUS has contributed to the design, development and planning of the MBBS, and will continue to support the program through the admissions process to delivery of teaching and assessment marking.

4.  Small class sizes

Small class sizes aid learning by ensuring every individual student has access to adequate support from both peers and tutors. We are recruiting a small cohort of international students, which will ensure we are able to offer a warm and supportive learning environment in which students are treated as individuals. They will get to know fellow students, lecturers and facilitators personally, working together to achieve their goals.

5.  High quality of teaching

High-quality teaching is a key ingredient in any good degree, and this includes medicine. UCLan has evolved over the years to become a world-class institution, recognized with its inclusion in the QS World University Rankings®.  The university was recently awarded the full five QS Stars rating for its approach to ‘internationalization’, and in 2014 UCLan received five out of five QS Stars for demonstrating excellence in teaching.

With a supportive but academically challenging student culture, UCLan has been producing respected graduates in dentistry, pharmacy, physiotherapy, healthcare and biomedical science for many years. We have built our reputation as a leading provider of multi-professional healthcare education through established partnerships with regional NHS Trusts and the North West Ambulance Service, as well as program approval from regulatory bodies including the North Western Deanery, the General Dental Council (GDC), the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council.  

6.  World-leading clinical experience

One of the benefits of studying a medical degree in the UK is the opportunity to train within the world-renowned NHS. Medical education in the UK has a long history of excellence and of offering training to overseas doctors; leaders in medicine throughout the world trained in the UK. Our hospitals and other clinical settings are renowned for the quality of their teaching and their influential medical research, and the NHS is envied across the world for its ethos of providing healthcare “free for everyone at the point of access”, stemming back to 1948.

UCLan’s student doctors will take up their placements within several NHS Trusts in the North West of England. Within these facilities, students will have the opportunity to observe a wide variety of activities, interacting with patients from different backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of illnesses. Students will become part of a team of professionals and non-medical staff delivering care to the highest standards in the NHS. This enables us to offer an extremely valuable medical education and clinical experience that is in demand across the world.

7.  Intercalation opportunities

Intercalation degrees offer the chance to take time out from a regular MBBS program and gain an additional qualification in a related field, allowing high-performing students to widen their skills and improve career prospects. This opportunity will be offered to high-achieving students at the end of the fourth year of the UCLan program, leading to a master’s level qualification.

8.  Currency of qualification

This is particularly important for medical students who want to be able to practice throughout the world. The UCLan MBBS has been designed specifically for international students, to ensure they are trained to the highest UK standards and to enable them to become safe, effective and knowledgeable practitioners wherever they choose to work. As well as reflecting the national standards outlined by the UK’s General Medical Council (GMC), the curriculum has been closely aligned to the requirements of the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE), to support students who wish to have the option of applying for work in the US.

9.  Quality assurance

In order to practice medicine after graduation, you need to ensure your medical degree is fully quality assured and approved. The UCLan MBBS program has been developed in line with GMC quality assurance processes, and plans are underway to quality assure UCLan and its first undergraduate medical degree. This takes the form of a year by year review following the first cohort to graduation, and in the final year of the program the GMC will be able to approve UCLan for the awarding of primary medical qualifications. As with all new medical schools, the GMC requires that we have contingency arrangements in place, so that in the event of the program failing to go forward, all students will be able to complete their studies. Our contingency partner in this respect is the University of Liverpool’s Medical School.

UCLan is still accepting direct applications from high-caliber, self-funded international students. The UCLan MBBS aims to provide medical training to the highest UK standards, enabling graduates to confidently and competently approach their first working day as compassionate, qualified doctors anywhere in the world.

To find out more, email [email protected]

This article was originally published in March 2015 . It was last updated in July 2021

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