What It's Like to Study at the 10 Best Medical Schools in 2018 | Top Universities

What It's Like to Study at the 10 Best Medical Schools in 2018

By Sabrina Collier

Updated February 17, 2021 Updated February 17, 2021

The QS University Rankings by Subject 2018 includes a ranking of the 500 top medical schools around the world, based on a methodology which assesses academic and employer reputations, research impact and more. Here, we take a closer look at the top 10 medical schools in the world and what it’s like to study at each institution.

You can learn more about studying medicine in general here, and can view the full 2018 medical school ranking here.  

10. UCL (University College London)

Ranked 10th for medicine this year is the UK’s UCL (University College London), well known as one of the most prestigious of London’s universities and as the home of medical advances such as the discovery of adrenaline and the immune system.

Studying here means you’ll be based in central London, giving you ideal access to clinical attachments (work placements) as required for your course.

UCL’s MBBS program is competitive, with seven applicants per place in 2016. The course takes six years to complete, with each year focused on a number of themed, integrated modules.

Notable alumni of UCL include Josephine Barnes, the first female president of the British Medical Association, Hugh Owen Thomas, who is considered the father of orthopedic surgery in Britain, and doctor, academic and science writer Ben Goldacre.

9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)


The highest-ranked university overall in the QS World University Rankings® 2018, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is up from joint 12th last year to now rank ninth in the world for medicine. MIT is very close to Boston (around 30 minutes on foot), giving students easy access to the historic city.

Although it doesn’t have its own medical school, MIT runs a popular joint MD-PhD program with Harvard Medical School (HMS), and also offers a Harvard-MIT program in Health Sciences and Technology (HST), which brings MIT and Harvard together along with Boston-area hospitals for a unique collaboration that “integrates science, medicine and engineering to solve problems in human health”. Find out about MIT’s most successful alumni here.

8. Yale University

Yale University

Ranked eighth among the top medical schools in the world for another year, Yale University’s School of Medicine was founded in 1810 and is responsible for medical innovations such as the first X-ray performed in the US, the first successful use of penicillin in the country, and the first use of cancer chemotherapy.

Yale School of Medicine employs The Yale System, making for a unique study experience compared to other medical schools. It means you won’t be graded or ranked among your classmates in years one and two, exams are anonymous, and teaching is conducted through small seminars, conferences and tutorials. You’ll also be encouraged to self-evaluate and think independently within your studies. 

7. University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)


The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)’s David Geffen School of Medicine is the seventh highest-ranked medical school this year, and is named after business magnate David Geffen, who donated US$200 million to the school in 2002.

The school is positioned adjacent to the main UCLA campus and plays an integral part of the university both in proximity and function, allowing students to collaborate with other student groups and immerse themselves in student life.

As well as studying at one of the most respected medical schools in the world, students of the David Geffen School of Medicine benefit from the school’s idyllic location in sunny Los Angeles – a huge city with a diverse population and an excellent cultural scene.

6. Karolinska Institute

Karolinska Institute

The next in our countdown of the top medical schools in the world is based in Sweden. Karolinska Institute is one of the largest and most prestigious medical universities and is located in Solna, a municipality within the Stockholm urban area. Karolinska is known for awarding the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology every year, and is a relatively small university of 6,000 students, making it feel like a close community.

Student unions play a key role in university life in Sweden and Karolinska is no exception, with a Medical Students' Union and a Dental Students' Association each organizing activities like team sports, choir and theater visits (as well as visits to the pub).

Although Karolinska’s main medical program is taught entirely in Swedish, the institute offers global master’s programs taught in English, as well as an international bachelor’s program in biomedicine.

5. Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University

Ranked fifth among the world’s top medical schools, Johns Hopkins University was the first research university to be founded in the US (1876), and its School of Medicine was founded in 1893. It’s located in Baltimore, the largest city in Maryland, and students benefit from studying at one of the most historic cities in the US, with more statues and monuments in Baltimore than any other US city.

Famous alumni of Johns Hopkins’ School of Medicine include medical scientist and pioneer for women in science Florence R. Sabin, Denton Cooley (the surgeon who performed the first implantation of a total artificial heart), and Walter Dandy – considered one of the founding fathers of neurosurgery.

4. Stanford University

Part of Stanford Medicine, Stanford University’s School of Medicine is ranked fourth this year, and is one of the hardest medical schools in the US to gain admission to, with an acceptance rate of only 2.5 percent in 2016.

Stanford is located about 20 miles from San Jose and 27 miles from San Francisco, giving you good access for exploring both cities in your spare time. The campus itself is thriving, with more than 625 organized student groups to choose from.

The school’s M.D program integrates science and clinical experience with in-depth study and independent research, with an educational mission “to prepare physicians who will provide outstanding, patient-centered care and to inspire future leaders who will improve world health through scholarship and innovation”.

3. University of Cambridge

The UK’s University of Cambridge is ranked third in the 2018 medical school ranking. Students benefit from studying at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, one of Europe’s largest and most impressive centers of medical education, clinical practice and biomedical research.

Cambridge offers both standard (bachelor’s level) and graduate courses in medicine. Its standard course is six years long and is made up of pre-clinical studies for the first three years, in which you’ll study the medical sciences before learning to apply your knowledge with clinical studies in the last three years.

Answering on Quora, one student described studying at Cambridge as a “tough yet fascinating and fulfilling experience”.

2. University of Oxford


Cambridge’s rival the University of Oxford is the second highest-ranked for medicine this year. Like Cambridge, its medical training program lasts six years. Students study pre-clinical medicine in years one to three, gaining a BA in Medical Science after the third year, before finally gaining a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (BM, BCh) qualification at the end of the sixth year.

The course places emphasis on scientific method and reasoning, and in years one and two students are taught via a mix of lectures, tutorials, seminars, practical laboratory work and computer-assisted learning. You’ll be able to specialize in a chosen area of biomedical science in terms six to nine and will undertake an experimental research project in a field of your interest.  

1. Harvard University


Number one in the medical school ranking this year is Harvard University, which is located in the Longwood Medical Area of the historic Mission Hill neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, across the river from the main campus. The Longwood Medical Area is one of the most thriving medical communities in the country, home to renowned hospitals and research institutions.

Harvard Medical School’s MD program consists of two curricular tracks, Pathways and Health Sciences & Technology (HST) – the latter of which is taught in collaboration with MIT. The school enhances the interaction between students and faculty through academic societies, which facilitate small learning groups, peer evaluation and personal growth. 

Study medicine at Harvard and you’ll be following in the footsteps of many notable alumni, including Sidney Farber, who is regarded as the father of modern chemotherapy, Fe del Mundo, the first woman to be admitted at the school and the founder of the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines, physician, engineer and astronaut Robert Satcher, and philosopher William James.

You can read more about what it’s like to study medicine at Harvard here.


Top medical schools elsewhere in the world…


Highest ranked institution


University of Cape Town, South Africa (ranked 101-150)


University of Tokyo, Japan (25th)

Australia & New Zealand

University of Melbourne, Australia (17th)

Latin America

Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil (51-100)

Middle East

King Abdulaziz University (KAU), Saudi Arabia (251-300)


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This article was originally published in February 2018 . It was last updated in February 2021

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Written by

The former Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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