Choosing an Integrated Course Medical School: Applicant’s Guide

Which Medical Schools use an integrated course? Described as the ‘recommended approach to medicine’ by the UK’s General Medical Council, an integrated course Medical School differs from other courses.

Author: Chloe Hewitt

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When applying to Medical School, understanding the different teaching methods is essential in being able to decide the right course for you.

One of the methods used is integrated teaching, and it acts as a good middle ground between the methods.

What actually is a integrated course though, and which UK Medical Schools use it as a teaching method?

What Is an integrated medicine course?

Unlike traditional courses, which have three years of pre-clinical study mainly taught through lectures, in an integrated course Medical School the line between theory and practice of Medicine is blurred.

Your course supervisors will consider it important for you not only to understand the mechanisms underpinning the functioning of the human body but to see how this understanding applies to clinical practice. This is via placements in healthcare environments and contact with medical professionals. 

Medical theory is often taught to you via ‘systems’ in integrated courses, where you focus on the physiology, anatomy, pathology etc. of different human bodily systems (like the digestive, respiratory and cardiovascular systems).

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What Medical Schools Use Integrated Teaching?

Most Medical Schools teach integrated Medicine Courses. 

The main difference between each of them is whether they use problem-based learning, case-based learning, or enquiry based learning to deliver the teaching. 

But what Medical Schools offer this teaching method?

University of Aberdeen

With an integrated, systems-based course structure, students learn anatomy at a state of the art facility with 3D learning and prosecuted cadaveric specimens. Aberdeen Medical students experience early patient contact with clinical attachments in the first year of the course. 

Clinical attachments become more frequent in the last three years at Aberdeen with each rotation lasting between six and nine weeks. Themes include diagnostics, end of life care, health data science, and safe clinical practice. 

Anglia Ruskin University

Anglia Ruskin’s five-year Medical programme is integrated and systems-based. There is early clinical contact, with days of GP placement each year from year one to three.  

The Medical School takes pride in its innovative, community based, and student-centred curriculum. With a mixture of rural and urban clinical attachments, Anglia Ruskin offers students a wide range of Medical attachments.

University of Birmingham

Birmingham offers a five-year integrated programme, taught through lectures, seminars, tutorials and PBL. WIth a population of five million patients, and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham offers a diverse environment for students to learn Medicine, with exposure to a variety of ethnic backgrounds, genders, sexualities, and socio-economic statuses. 

Students are taught by clinicians, researchers, and academics throughout the course, though the majority of learning occurs in clinical attachment from year three onwards. Patient contact is a major source of learning, beginning in the second week of the course. 

Brighton and Sussex

The five-year programme at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), delivers an integrated curriculum that BSMS prides itself on. Students provide continuous feedback to course leaders showing the Medical School’s commitment to student satisfaction. 

Lectures are systems-based, covering normal and abnormal structure and function. Clinical attachments are introduced in the third year, and students return for weekly teaching sessions, covering public health, social science and clinical Medicine. 

University of Bristol

The University of Medical School offers a five-year integrated Medical curriculum, aiming to equip graduates for the changing landscape of Medicine in the 21st century.

Teaching is delivered through lectures, seminars, independent study, and clinical placements – with the proportions changing over the five years. 

Years one and two deliver most teaching through lectures, seminars and case-based scenarios, with over 50% of learning through independent study.

The majority of teaching in year three is delivered through clinical placements. Srudents will observe elective and emergency patient care. 

The final two years at Bristol focus on lifelong patient care, from birth to the end of life. Emphasis is placed on preparation for FY1.

University of Buckingham

The University of Buckingham offers a unique approach to Medical education with their 4.5 year degree.

Phase one has a focus on pre-clinical Medicine, including topics such as the basic sciences, disease processes, infection, imaging, pharmacology, and public health. Students can choose two components in phase one, allowing early specialisation in areas of interest. 

A systems-based approach is used, meaning that students study each body system separately.

In phase two, students undertake their junior and senior rotations. Students will have the opportunity to rotate through specialities such as mental health care, gastrointestinal care, cancer care and reproductive health. 

After the senior rotation, students undertake an assistantship to hone skills. 

Cardiff University

Cardiff University’s Medical course is highly patient-oriented, with clinical placements from the first year onwards. As the course progresses, emphasis on clinical skills increases, giving students clinical responsibility in primary and secondary care. 

A key element of teaching at Cardiff is its non-modular spiral curriculum, in which students revisit core themes in more detail each year. 

Phase one takes place in the first two years of the course, featuring core science and an introduction to clinical practice. Phase two occurs in years three and four, introducing an increasing amount of time spent learning on clinical placements. Emphasis is placed on diagnostic methods and the management and treatment of common diseases. 

Phase three takes place in the fifth year, consolidating learning in preparation for FY1. 

University of Dundee

Dundee’s five-year Medical programme has an impressive reputation. Dundee teaches its students with a spiral curriculum, in which key concepts are revisited in greater detail each year. 

Dundee’s Medical degree begins with an eight-week teaching block, covering the science that underpins it all. Normal and abnormal functions are taught in a system-based fashion, with PBL used to integrate theory with real clinical presentations. 

The final two years involve a transition into hospital-based learning. 

Clinical placements aim to give students a well-rounded experience, preparing graduates for the realities of life during FY1. 

Edge Hill

Edge Hill University is one of the newest Medical Schools in the UK. The course is still in the process of becoming GMC approved, whilst this process is being carried out the University of Liverpool is acting as its contingency school and is supporting the process. 

Offering a five-year integrated course Edge Hill sets itself apart with extensive early clinical attachments. 

Year one focuses on the scientific basis of Medicine, covering normal structure and function through systems-based teaching, Students learn about each of the seven major body systems, building an understanding of health and normal variation between patients. 

The second year of the course builds on material from year one, integrating theory and practice with further clinical attachments. Years three and four are mostly delivered through clinical placements, with a handful of teaching weeks at university. 

The final year focuses on acute medicine, and students are increasingly involved in multidisciplinary teams caring for patients supported by clinicians. 

Imperial College London

Imperial College London delivers a six-year Medical programme in partnership with NHS trusts in North and West London.

Teaching is taught via lectures, small group teaching, computer workshops, and laboratory sessions. 

Phase one, gives students early clinical experience, introducing the scientific basis of health and disease with case-based learning. Students have opportunities to improve clinical skills and undertake a research project.

Students undertake an intercalated BSc in phase two, completing taught modules and a research project in an area of interest. 

The third and final phase of the course allows students to integrate prior to learning in a clinical environment, in community and hospital placements. 

Kent and Medway Medical School

The integrated five-year course at Kent Medway Medical School is jointly run by the University of Kent and Canterbury Christchurch University. 

Teaching is delivered through lectures, tutorials, and seminars, using technology to enhance learning. 

The first year of the course includes modules such as: ‘Foundations of Health and Disease,’ ‘Heart, Lungs and Blood,’ and ‘Nutrition, Metabolism and Excretion.’ Topics such as primary care, professional development and clinical skills are a focus of teaching in year one. 

Year two introduces students to further systems such as: ‘Neuroscience and Behaviour,’ ‘Reproduction and Endocrinology,’ and ‘Musculoskeletal and Immune Systems.’

Clinical rotations take place in years three and four, featuring general practice, surgery, medicine of the elderly and psychiatry. The final year consists of further clinical attachments, culminating with an elective module in ‘Preparation for Clinical Practice.’

King's College London

King’s College London offers an integrated five-year Medical degree, in partnership with famous institutions such as Guy’s, St Thomas’, and King’s College Hospitals. 

The course boasts a wide breadth, teaching students in non-core subjects such as humanities and social sciences. 

Phase one introduces students to Biomedical and population sciences through modules such as ‘Physiology and Anatomy of Systems,’ and ‘Genes, Behaviour, and Environment.’ Students also receive teaching in clinical skills in preparation for phase two. 

Phase two brings together science and clinical practice, teaching students about the human life cycle and common disease processes. Students attend clinical placements to gain an appreciation of holistic patient care. 

Phase three takes place in years four and five, preparing students for clinical practice through simulated teaching and inter-professional training. 

University of Leeds

Leeds’ five-year integrated curriculum is known for its emphasis on clinical and communication skills. The Medical School is. leader in patient and carer involvement, giving students an important insight into the experience of those with disabilities and those who care for them. 

Years one and two introduce students to the fundamentals of clinical practice, grounded in principles of biomedical science. Clinical skills training runs throughout years one and two, and clinical placements allow students to develop communications skills, while providing an introduction to multidisciplinary teamwork. 

Year three at Leeds sees students undertake five-week clinical placements consolidating their learning from the first two years. 

Clinical placements continue into year four at Leeds teaching students about social, genetics ad environmental determinants of disease. 

Year five aims to prepare students for clinical practice as an FY1 doctor via three eight-week placements. 

University of Leicester

Leicester’s integrated five-year Medical degree gives patients clinical experience from year one. 

Phase one at Leicester introduces students to anatomy and physiology, put into a clinical context through real patient cases. Teaching is given in early clinical apprenticeships, systems-based cellular and molecular science, and social and population science. 

Phase two gives students three twelve-week clinical placements in primary care, surgery and Medicine with a student-selected component at the end of the placement. 

Year four introduces students to additional medical specialities, including child health, mental health and cancer care. 

The fifth and final year at Leicester gives students a foundation assistantship in order to hone key skills before graduation and progression to FY1. 

University of Liverpool

Liverpool’s five-year Medical Curriculum aims to produce doctors that are prepared for 21st-century Medical practice. Content is taught through a spiral curriculum in which core themes are revisited each year in increasing clinical detail. 

The first year teaches students anatomy, physiology, pathology and microbiology with a systems-based approach. Communication skills are taught with simulated patients to prepare students for clinical placements.

Year two expands on learning in year one, with a focus on illness-related changes and pathology. Secondary care placements begin in year two, integrating students into clinical environments. 

The third and fourth years give students clinical exposure through four-week clinical blooks preceded by ‘Academic Weeks’ with lectures and pre-placement teaching.

Year five aims to prepare students for clinical practice, consolidating clinical skills and professional attributes prior to graduation. 

Newcastle University

Newcastle offers a five-year integrated programme, utilising case-led teaching to integrate course teaching with the realities of clinical practice. 

Years one and two introduce students to Medical science through disciplines such as physiology, anatomy and pharmacology. Learning is contextualised through a series of twenty-four clinical cases. 

Years three, four and five mark the transition to clinical learning, in which students undertake placements, assistantships, and clerkships in and around Newcastle. 

Emphasis is placed on the development of clinical skills, specialised knowledge, and professional behaviour prior to enrolment in the foundation pathway. 

Eight-week blocks are reserved in years three to five allowing students to pursue research in areas on research. 

University of Nottingham

Nottingham offers a five-year Medical programme with students taught by world leaders in fields such as cancer research, mental health technology, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Case-based learning in which students learn from real patient scenarios forms the backbone of teaching at Nottingham. 

Years one and two deliver content. ina systems-based manner, meaning each body system is covered in its own module. Learning is consolidated through early GP and hospital placements.

The third-year begins with a supervised research project, before the students transition to the clinical phase of the course. 

Years four and five deliver teaching through six-week placements in hospital and primary care environments. 

The University of Lincoln has embarked on a collaboration with the University of Nottingham to offer Medical education in Lincolnshire. Students can apply to study for the University of Nottingham’s Medicine degree based in Lincoln taught by academic staff from both universities. 

Applicants can apply for the course at both Nottingham and Lincoln, but will only be Interviewed once and can receive offers from both universities. 

University of Southampton

Southampton offers a five-year, integrated Medical programme, with an impressive reputation in fields such as cancer research and immunology. 

Phase one takes place across the first two years at Southampton, introducing the students to anatomy, physiology, pathology, and psychosocial sciences

Students meet patients within the first few weeks of the course, learning how to take Medical histories through clinical placements. 

Year three marks the start of phase two, marking the transition from classroom-based teaching to clinical learning via placements. Year three commences with a sixteen-week research project. Students then undertake twenty-four-week clinical placements, focusing on primary care, medicine for the elderly, and orthopaedics. 

Phase three spans year four. and the first half of year five, introducing students to specialities such as child health, acute care, and mental health. 

Phase four, entitled ‘Preparing for Independent Practice’ takes place in the second half of year five. 

Students shadow a junior doctor in a two-week assistantship in order to refine skills needed for foundation training. 

University of St Andrews

St Andrews’ six-year degree in Medicine is unique in the UK, with students studying for three years in St Andrews to earn a BSc in Medicine before progressing to a partner university for the final three years – partner institutions are Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Barts and Manchester. 

Year one at St Andrews introduces students to Medicine with a general overview of the structure and function of each body system, followed by a semester centred detailing the musculoskeletal system. Students learn clinical skills and history taking from the offset. 

The second-year covers the cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and genitourinary systems. In light of the spiral curriculum, students revisit themes from the first year of the course, such as acute care and holistic Medicine. Students also have to indicate their preference for partner institutions, with allocations based on ranking and academic performance. 

Year three begins with teaching the nervous and endocrine system before progressing to a dissertation in the second semester. Students have one-day clinical placement in a variety of hospital specialities. Dissertations can take the form of laboratory research or literature review and run in tandem with clinical skills teaching to prepare students for progression to partner universities. Provided that all modules have been passed this profession is automatic and does not require an application. 

University of Sunderland

At Sunderland most teaching is delivered through small learning groups, lecturers, and seminars. 

Phase one takes place in years one and two, covering fundamental biomedical and behavioural science. Students received very early clinical contact, supported by teaching on communication skills, clinical skills and professionalism. 

Phase two covers years three and four revisiting biomedical science from phase one in more detail. Learning is integrated through numerous clinical placements, including specialities such as psychiatry, paediatrics, and surgery. 

Student selected components are also available in phase two, allowing students to specialise in areas of particular interest. 

Phase three takes place in the fifth and final year at Sunderland. Students undertake a comprehensive assistantship in order to prepare for entry into FY1. Clinical rotations include General Practice, geriatrics and surgery. 

University of Central Lancashire

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) offers a five-year Medical course. Teaching is delivered through lectures, case-based learning workshops and seminars. 

It should be noted that UCLan only accepts applications from residents in the North West of England and international students – those applying from anywhere else in the UK are automatically rejected. 

During years one and two students engage in early clinical placements to supplement teaching in clinical skills and history taking. Emphasis is placed on the integration of scientific teaching with clinical practice, introducing students to fundamental concepts in Medicine. 

Years three and four build on teaching from the first two years of the course through a series of hospital placements. Themes of evidence based Medicine and patient-centred care are revisited through the spiral curriculum. 

The fifth and final year at UCLan begins with a six-week elective, enabling students to observe the practice of Medicine overseas. Following this students rotate through a number of clinical specialities with an apprenticeship model in order to develop competency for foundation training. Prior to graduation, a student assistantship is undertaken to ease the transition to FY1. 

Is an integrated medicine course right for me?

Integrated Medical Schools give you the chance to get some early clinical exposure, while still offering the support structure of scientific teaching delivered in the form of lectures and seminars. 

Benefits of Integrated Medicine Courses

Downsides of Integrated Medicine Courses

Concluding Thoughts

The decision as to what Medical School learning approach is best for you is a difficult decision to make. Whilst methods such as traditional place more focus on the academic side of Medicine, an integrated course allows you to see how it is applied in a clinical setting and learn through patient interactions. 

Whichever style you feel best suits you, be sure to take all the factors into consideration when deciding where to apply for. Make sure you know what has drawn you to that teaching approach as you could even be asked this in your Interview. 

Ultimately you know best how you learn. 

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