The best medical schools in Australia are often compared to medical schools in the United Kingdom (UK), and rightly so. Both countries have developed a sound reputation for offering some of the best medical courses, clinical ward experiences, and career prospects for medical graduates. In fact, the courses are considered equal to the point that medical students graduating from Australia are able to work in the UK as doctors without undertaking additional ‘barrier’ exams and vice versa, as would be the case for medical graduates from other countries.
According to the QS World Universities Ranking by Subject 2021 for medicine, the Australian and UK medical schools rank in the top 20 amongst other medical schools globally. The QS World University Ranking by Subject is based on academic reputation, research impact, and the reputation of the staff at each university. To name a few, The University of Cambridge (UK), UCL (UK), and The University of Sydney (Australia) are highly ranked universities amongst 51 different subjects.
The Australian medical school system compared to the UK has various differences, starting from the ranking method for interview offers, cost of tuition fee, and application process. However, it is safe to say that an Australian and UK medical schools require applicants to sit the UCAT ANZ or UCAT UK respectively, for undergraduate medical courses; and GAMSAT for post graduate courses.
So where should you study? Whether you are a prospective international student weighing up your options of which country to pursue medicine in, or an Australian/UK student curious as to what the difference is, read on as we attempt to compare and contrast Australian and UK medical schools to find out which one is better for what kind of person.
Exam Requirements To Study Medicine in Australia and UK
In order to pursue medicine in Australia, you are required to sit and excel in the Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test or the GAMSAT. The GAMSAT is a standardised exam used to evaluate an applicant’s ability to study medicine and other health programs at a postgraduate level. As the name suggests, it is a test for applicants to apply in one Graduate Entry Medical Course within Australia, as well as dentistry, optometry, and podiatry courses. The exam is designed to rank your analytical and critical thinking capabilities as well as how well you communicate your ideas in order to be selected for graduate entry level for medicine. The GAMSAT UK follows the same pattern as for students enrolling in Australian medical schools. It is applicable for students who have completed their undergraduate-level entry programs.
While the GAMSAT is for students who are currently enrolled in any key bachelor’s degree or have successfully completed it, the ‘University Clinical Aptitude Test’ or the UCAT on the contrary is for students who wish to enter an undergraduate medicine or dentistry program.
Based on your GPA and GAMSAT score, for a given university, you are then invited to the medical interview for entry into the Doctor of Medicine program.
Discover your medical interview chances with the help of our Fraser’s Medical Interview Offer Calculator.
UCAT (UK and ANZ)
The UKCAT or UCAT has been actively used in the UK for the selection of undergraduate students into medical programs at universities for many years, while the UCAT was launched in Australia and New Zealand in the year 2019. Though it is relatively recent in Australia, medical schools have readily taken up this exam format to assess candidates on their aptitude and attitude, rather than academic acheievemnt. Approximately 26 UK universities use the computer-based test which assesses candidates based on five areas: verbal reasoning, decision-making, quantitative reasoning, abstract reasoning, and situational judgment.
Unlike the Australian medical school exam process, in the UK, there is another popularly conducted exam known as The BioMedical Admissions Test or BMAT. It is used prominently by the Russell Group medical universities within the UK. The BMAT evaluates candidates on three broad components: scientific knowledge, aptitude and skills, and writing tasks. The UK medicine program encourages students to take the UCAT first as the results are released immediately after the test is taken, but if the UCAT results are not in favor as per university’s standards, then the BMAT is recommended as it has two possible registration dates each year for students to depend on for admission process in the UK.
The UK vs Australian Medical School Application Process
Applying to Medicine in Australia
Medical programs in Australia are offered as an undergraduate and a postgraduate course. The former is the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery and the later is known as the Doctor of Medicine course in Australia.
Each university has their own personalised process into considering students for medicine. It is important to understand each criteria carefully and choose courses that suit you best.
For those universities that offer the undergraduate medical program, students currently in their undergraduate degree or those that have completed their Year 12 are deemed fit to apply to the medical coursework (only applicable for a bachelor's degree in medicine).
On the contrary, students that are keen to pursue medicine after successful completion of any degree will have to apply through the GEMSAS portal, considering if your chosen university is under the consortium. For those universities that are not a part of the GEMSAS, it is important that you read through the ‘Entry Requirements’ and ‘How to Apply’ section on the university website and apply according to the university requirements.
Applying to medicine in the UK
Students applying to study medicine in the UK will have to sit the UCAT or BMAT, and the GAMSAT depending upon the applicant’s previous degree of qualification and where the applicant wishes to apply. These tests are highly recommended. The application process must be tailored via the ‘Universities and Colleges Admissions Services’ or the UCAS website based on test results.
After submitting the UCAS application and paying the application fee, which is approximately up to £25 (AUD $45), students will receive an application number and this can be used to easily track confirmations from different medical schools. After completing this stage, students will be invited for the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) process.
The Graduate Medicine in the UK is open to all applicants with a valid bachelor's degree. However, most universities expect the previous degree to be science and/or health-related. Though the PG Medical program is a four-year accelerated degree, some universities have a five-year course as well.
Similar to the Australian medical schools ‘Direct Entry pathway’, in the UK, it is regarded as the ‘Standard Entry Medicine’. This is applicable for students whose educational level at the time of taking the test is equivalent to students currently enrolled in an undergraduate course or have completed the final year of secondary schooling or higher (Year 12). This course type is usually five years long, and it may lead upto 6 years in certain universities. All results under this pathway grant a bachelor’s degree in medicine.
The ‘Graduate Entry Medicine’ is similar to the ‘Graduate Entry Pathway’ in Australian medical schools. To be eligible, students must be in their final year of bachelor’s degree or have successfully finished their undergraduate degree.
However, the biggest difference between the UK and Australian medical schools is the criteria for selection.
Selection Criteria For Admission To Medicine Program
About thirty medical schools in the UK use the UCAT, and about 7 medical schools use the BMAT and the GAMSAT for the application. After the UCAS deadline, the results are automatically sent to the UK medical schools that each applicant applied for. This process is similar to what occurs in Australia where the GEMSAS sends the results to the applicant’s chosen universities.
Australia vs UK Medical Schools Interview Process
If you have received a medical interview offer, be it from an Australian or the UK medical school you should be proud of yourself for getting this far in the admission process. The interview process in both the countries follows a similar format, with little to no change on assessing an applicant based on their non-academic attributes.
There is no way around this, but interviews are intimidating. An interesting factor between the Australian and the UK medicine programs is that both countries give the highest weightage to the interview process and also happens to be the final stage of the application process for medicine.
The Australian medical school interview format involves - The MMI or the traditional panel interview. We have exclusively discussed this in our previous article, you can read further about the interview formats, the structure, and commonly asked questions to boost your performance.
Similarly, the UK medical school lays a huge emphasis on the MMI and the panel interview process.
How Does The MMI Process Occur in Medical Schools?
A vast majority of medical schools have converted to an unconventional method of conducting the interview, i.e., the MMI format. The Multiple Mini Interviews format aims to evaluate the skills that are mandatory to function as a medical practitioner.
The MMI format has a standard means of interviewing its applicants. The interview is conducted in the MMI stations and is hosted by interview/s present at each station. Students invited to the medical interview must spend up to 5-7 minutes per station, answering the scenarios the interviewer puts forth. And the applicant will be interviewed by a fresh face at each station.
The MMI assesses students based on certain themes, such as - motivations for choosing medicine, work experience, problem-solving, leadership, communication skills, empathy, and ethical dilemmas.
However, one differentiating factor between the MMI format in Australia and the UK is that students applying to the former will be assessed based on their strong foundation around the Indigenous and rural health, issues within Australia such as - mental health, obesity, etc, while students applying for the latter must have reliable knowledge around the contributions and policies involving the National Health Service (NHS), England.
This type of medical interview has reduced the pressure on a student to a greater extent as, if a student performs poorly at one station, they can still redeem themselves before entering the next station and give it their best shot.
The UK and Australian Medical Fees
Despite the gruelling admission process, the medicine tuition fees is another commonly recurring concern amongst students as it is constantly on the rise.The Australian medical schools charge domestic students starting from approximately AUD $30,000, depending upon the reputation of the university, the course structure and difficulty to enrol in the medical course.
Most Australian medical schools charge their tuition fee per unit rather than per year.
Most domestic students are eligible to apply to the Commonwealth Supported Places (CSP) where the government pays part of the student’s tuition fees as a subsidy and not a loan. The CSP amount for the medical program at different universities is approximately AUD $11,300. Out of the total spots allocated for CSP, some places are reserved for Bonded Medical Programs (BMP). This scheme within Australian medical schools demands students to work for upto 3 years after completion of the medical degree in a district of workforce shortage defined by the Australian government.
In contrast to this, in the UK, the medical schools located within England and Wales charge a tuition fee starting from £10,000 per year, which is approximately AUD $18,000 per year. Though it seems relatively less expensive compared to Australian medical schools, the cost of living in the UK happens to be higher. However, a bigger advantage to study medicine in the UK is free access to medical care for students, unlike in Australia that demands a health insurance.
There are contrasting differences between the medical schools in Australia and in the UK, however, it is essential to mention that both these countries’ utilise a problem-based learning (PBL) method of teaching and also incorporate a case-based learning approach. The medical course structure involves, first two years of the course within the medical school, followed by practice within clinical wards, and internships that require shadowing professionals within hospitals.
There are also similarities within employment opportunities for medical graduates in Australia and the UK. Students who have successfully completed their medical program have a range of career opportunities ranging from general practitioners, clinician scientists to surgeons.
There is no doubt that pursuing medicine is a rigorous process, however, the education system for medicine within the two countries is designed with precision to guide students on how to draw a balance between their personal and professional work at the clinic.
What To Read Next?
If you found this article useful, check out our Medical Interview Offer Calculator to increase your odds of receiving an interview from a medical school or alternatively try our GEMSAS GPA Calculator that will give you the most accurate weighted and unweighted GPA estimate for each Postgraduate medical school.