Why Transferring from Biomedical to Medicine is so Difficult in the UK

Published on 09/07/2024 in
Why-Transferring-from-Biomedical-to-Medicine-is-so-Difficult-in-the-UK

Studying biomedical sciences is one of the many viable and popular pathways to getting into healthcare. It provides a strong foundation in health and disease that can lead to a successful career in research, laboratory work, pharmaceuticals and even medicine with some extra steps.

However, many students have struggled to transfer from Biomedical Science to Medicine programmes in the UK, not because of a lack of knowledge but due to strict entry requirements and limited transfer opportunities.

In this blog, we’ll give you all the reasons that make transferring close to impossible in the UK, while providing you with the best alternatives for you to become a successful doctor. 

The key takeaways of this blog include:

  • There are 46 medical schools across the UK, and each has a very limited number of seats available.
  • Many UK medical universities are very competitive, with acceptance rates under 10%. This means that getting accepted in the first place is extremely difficult, let alone securing a transfer spot.
  • Most medical schools in the UK do not have formal transfer policies with some explicitly stating that transfers are not accepted.
  • There are several promising alternatives for Biomedical students in the UK to become successful doctors.

The 6 Main Reasons That Make Transferring to Medicine So Difficult

Transferring from a Biomedical Science degree to a Medicine degree in the UK is especially difficult, mainly because there is a very limited number of seats available for medical students. The other main contributing factors include:

1. High Competition

There are 46 medical schools in total across the UK, all of which are extremely competitive. In recent years, the UK typically has close to 30,000 medical applicants per year, but only around 7,000-9,000 available places for medicine annually. This means that at most 1/3rd of applicants will be able to get into medical school, but realistically, it’s closer to 1 in 4.

Competition for medical schools in the UK

This high level of competition makes it difficult for students to gain admission, even as first-time applicants, let alone as transfer students. UK medical schools prioritise candidates who meet all entry requirements through the standard application process, which makes transferring even more difficult. 

2. Limited Transfer Policies

Most UK medical schools do not have formal transfer policies at all. On the contrary, some med schools such as the University of Edinburgh explicitly state that they do not typically consider transfers into their Medicine programmes at all​. Instead, they prefer new applicants who have followed the traditional application route and have not studied at degree level yet. 

To make matters worse, In some cases, transferring into a medical programme might only be possible if a current student drops out. After all, a spot needs to be open for a transfer student to be able to get in. Without a vacancy, schools are unlikely to accept transfers, as they need to maintain their established cohort sizes. 

3. Government Quotas

As mentioned, medical schools in the UK have a fixed number of places controlled by government quotas. This, along with other factors, has contributed to the United Kingdom's ongoing struggle to adequately staff its healthcare system with enough capable doctors.

Allowing transfers would complicate maintaining these quotas and will potentially hurt first-time applicants who have followed the standard application route.​

4. Strict Admission Requirements

Medical schools typically require high A-level grades (usually AAA or AA*A) in specific subjects such as Chemistry and Biology​. Biomedical science requirements typically do not align with those for medicine, which can make it difficult for some students to meet the necessary criteria for transfer.

5. Entrance Exams

Medical students must perform well in entrance exams like the UCAT as part of the admission process (previously, the BMAT was also used). Biomedical Science degrees do not typically require the UCAT, so prospective transfer students will need to sit it in order to be eligible to transfer.

6. Course Structure Differences

Medicine courses have a distinct structure compared to Biomedical Science, with a strong emphasis on clinical practice and patient interaction from early years. This structural difference makes it hard to integrate transfer students into the curriculum easily. 

💡 However, there are several ways that students who want to get into medicine can go around this:

The Top Alternatives to Transferring to Medicine in the UK

It is safe to say that transferring into a medical course in the UK is extremely difficult. However, there’s no need to lose hope because there are 2 incredible opportunities for Biomedical students:

#1. Transferring to a Medical School in Europe

All reputable European medical schools are accredited and provide internationally recognised medical degrees. The best part is that university transfers in Europe are much more widely accepted, and most med schools have a special system in place to make it easier. 

The most important criterion is for biomedical students to have studied the necessary courses that will allow them to continue their studies in medicine. Yes, it’s as simple as that. If you would like to learn more about the topic, we’ve written a special guide on How To Transfer From Biomedical Science To Medicine.

If you would like to learn more about transfers between European med schools in general, feel free to read our dedicated articles:

Young happy marathon runner greeting with group of supporters at finish line after the race.

All you need to do is sign up for a free consultation and we will help you get transferred to an internationally recognised medical programme in Europe.

#2. Graduate-Entry Medicine

Another successful pathway into medicine for Biomedical students is to complete their degree and then apply for a 4-year graduate-entry Medicine programme. These courses have a condensed curriculum and are specifically designed for students with a bachelor’s degree in a health-science-related field. They build on existing knowledge and focus on clinical skills and patient care to create a straightforward path for graduates to kickstart their careers in medicine. 

These programmes are accessible and widespread not only throughout Europe but also in the Caribbean. This means that you will either be studying in a prestigious European city or a paradise-like island destination. The best part is that some med schools even offer clinical training in the UK, and you can easily return home to practise medicine once you graduate.

If you’re a Biomedical graduate or soon-to-be, you can hop on a call with one of our expert advisors, who can recommend the best medical school for you according to your goals and needs. We’ve helped thousands of students just like you become successful doctors throughout the world.

Conclusion

Simply put, transferring from Biomedical Science to Medicine in the UK is an exceptionally difficult pathway that only a handful of students will be able to complete. Not only are spots for medicine incredibly limited, but some medical schools don’t even accept transfers at all.

Luckily, Biomedical Science students don’t have to rely on finding a spot in a UK med school to transfer into, because there are 2 other viable and proven pathways into medicine. By either transferring to a university in Europe, or applying for a 4-year graduate-entry Medicine programme you can still achieve your goal of becoming a doctor.

Article written by Dr Sam El Mais
Dr Sam El Mais, MD, MSc, BSc, graduated from a renowned medical school in Romania in 2019. He uses his professional knowledge and personal experience to guide students on crucial aspects such as university selection, admissions processes, and cultural adjustments.
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