Medicine: Course Structure
The course consists of a series of lectures, practicals and college tutorials and will provide you with the knowledge and understanding that you need to make a start in clinical medicine. The course will provide you with an understanding of science and of scientific method that will both prepare you for a world where medical practice is rapidly evolving and enable you, perhaps, to make your own distinctive contributions to that evolution.
The following chart provides an outline of the six years of the medical course at Oxford. Text version of the chart
The pre-clinical section (the first three years of the six-year course) is taught in two main parts:
- First BM (including the Principles of Clinical Anatomy course at the end of year 3)
- Final Honour School (leading to a BA degree in Medical Sciences)
Further information is given below.
At the start of the third year students can apply to the Oxford Clinical School to undertake their clinical training. Oxford students starting this course in 2021 or later will no longer have the option of transferring to a London Medical School for their clinical training. Oxford students may apply to or may be allocated to a different Oxford college for years 4 to 6.
Further information on both the structure of, and admission to, the Oxford clinical stage of the course can be found on the clinical study website.
At the end of the six-year course students receive the BM BCh degree, which is a primary medical qualification (PMQ). Holding a PMQ entitles you to provisional registration with the General Medical Council, subject only to its acceptance that there are no Fitness to Practise concerns that need consideration. Provisional registration is time limited to a maximum of three years and 30 days (1125 days in total). After this time period your provisional registration will normally expire.
Provisionally registered doctors can only practise in approved Foundation Year 1 posts: the law does not allow provisionally registered doctors to undertake any other type of work. To obtain a Foundation Year 1 post you will need to apply during the final year of your undergraduate programme through the UK Foundation Programme Office selection scheme, which allocates these posts to graduates on a competitive basis. All suitably qualified UK graduates have found a place on the Foundation Year 1 programme, but this cannot be guaranteed, for instance if there were to be an increased number of competitive applications from non-UK graduates.
Successful completion of the Foundation Year 1 programme is normally achieved within 12 months and is marked by the award of a Certificate of Experience. You will then be eligible to apply for full registration with the General Medical Council. You need full registration with a licence to practise for unsupervised medical practice in the NHS or private practice in the UK.
Although this information is currently correct, students need to be aware that regulations in this area may change from time to time.
There is some discussion about whether to remove provisional registration for newly qualified doctors. If this happens then UK graduates will receive full registration as soon as they have successfully completed an MBBS (or equivalent) degree. It should be noted that it is very likely that UK graduates will still need to apply for a training programme similar to the current Foundation Programme and that places on this programme may not be guaranteed for every UK graduate.
The General Medical Council has recently introduced a formal medical licensing assessment (MLA) that UK medical graduates need to pass in order to be granted registration with a licence to practise. UK medical students graduating from the academic year 2024-25 will need to pass the MLA as part of their medical school degree before they can join the medical register.
First BM (BACHELOR OF MEDICINE)
The first five terms will introduce you to the fundamental aspects of the structure and function of the healthy body, and to the basic mechanisms underlying disease. You will learn the principles of medical sociology and of psychology for medicine and be asked to consider the experimental evidence that supports our scientific understanding. This will involve learning about scientific method, experimental techniques, and data interpretation; and you will become increasingly critical of what you read in books and of what you are told in lectures.
Attention to clinical significance will be encouraged by working with patients in general practice, an experience that will introduce the wider and interpersonal aspects of clinical medicine.
For each system of the body, you will study development and structure, and physiology and pharmacology in a co-ordinated way, to help you develop an integrated understanding of how the body works, and you will learn about the regulatory roles of the nervous and endocrine systems. Studying molecular and cell biology, and the biochemistry of metabolism will enable you to understand the materials of which the body is made and the properties and interactions of cells and tissues. You will study the structure and function of the brain and some fundamental aspects of psychology. You will learn about disease processes, such as infection and cancer, and you will see the effects of illness on patients and their relatives. You will learn about the immune system and also about modern genetics and its developing importance in medicine.
In the First BM the principal formal assessment is by written papers in each subject. Presently there are seven papers (four essay-based and three conducted online) in four subjects both at the end of the first year and towards the end of the second year. In addition, in order to pass the Examination, students must also have a satisfactory record of attendance in compulsory teaching sessions and achievement in practical work.
In addition, a course on Principles of Clinical Anatomy at the end of the third year (after your BA degree, but part of the pre-clinical course and a pre-requisite for progression to a clinical school), is designed to teach you about the clinically important aspects of anatomy that will be of immediate use to you in your clinical training.
You should be aware that some practical studies involving living animal tissue are an obligatory component of the course.
The BA Year (Final Honour School of Medical Sciences)
A unique aspect of the Oxford Course is the Final Honour School (FHS) of Medical Sciences, which aims to develop interpretative and critical skills, and leads to an Honours BA in Medical Sciences. The FHS year should be the academic highlight of a medic's time at Oxford, and during this year medical students will:
- Acquire the skills required to generate and critically analyze scientific data;
- Become an authority in the areas that they study;
- Join a research community which ranks alongside the top in the world for biomedical sciences;
- Appreciate how research underpins modern biomedical science.
During the FHS students will be expected to become fully accustomed to working from research papers and primary sources in the literature, and they will be encouraged to think both critically and creatively (for instance, to propose their own hypotheses and test them against the published results).
Students will gain an in-depth knowledge and understanding in specific areas of biomedical science, as they will be able to pick to study two options out of ten offered in depth.Such options may include:
- Neuroscience (systems, cellular, or cognitive and behavioural)
- Pharmacology and signalling
- Cardiovascular science
- Metabolism and endocrinology
- Molecular pathology
As part of this year, every student undertakes an experimental research project, working within one of the numerous research laboratories across the University, or even beyond Oxford. Students propose their own topic, and the possibilities are therefore extensive and largely at the discretion of each student. Oxford is internationally recognized for its biomedical and clinical research, and so students will learn from groups at the forefront of current thinking using cutting edge techniques.
Principles of Clinical Anatomy
This course at the end of the third year, is designed to teach you about the clinically important aspects of anatomy that will be of immediate use to you in your clinical training.
The course is arranged over three weeks in three manageable blocks that will be independently assessed. The clinical emphasis of the course is obvious from the curriculum: normally, the first lecture of the morning will be given by staff from the pre-clinical department, and both other lectures will be given by staff from clinical departments. Computer Aided Learning (CAL) sessions will include clinical cases as scenarios to introduce the related anatomy.
All the teaching will take place in the Medical Sciences Teaching Centre which will be given over entirely to the course for the three-week period.
The three-week Principles of Clinical Anatomy Course is examined by weekly pass/fail on-line assessments (these assessments do not contribute to the degree classification awarded for the BA in Medical Sciences).