7th January 2021
Though the festive period temporarily took away the undertones of the “waiting game” for potential Medical Students in the United Kingdom, these students are acutely aware that at any time, their mobile phones might ping confirming delivery of “that email”— a Medical School’s decision email that may determine their future career and life paths.

This waiting game is made all the more nerve-wracking by the limited number of spaces available in the United Kingdom to Medical School students.

Written by Dee Narga, Associate Director of Admissions at AUA


There have been some encouraging announcements made by the government, such as temporarily lifting the cap on the number of Medical School places in England after A-level students who were unable to sit exams due to COVID-19 were awarded grades based on teachers’ predictions.

Still, though, Medical Students in the United Kingdom are vying for limited seats, and UK Medical Schools routinely make more offers than they have places. The ever-changing COVID guidance to academic institutions offers additional challenges.

The Medical School Council (MSC) has estimated that because students have been awarded their predicted grades this year (2020), around 1,600 to 2,000 extra places will be needed. This means Medical Schools are expected to take on more students this academic year, award deferred places for next year or both.

The impact of these deferments will be felt down the line, whilst some may opt to travel. With the recent changes to the Erasmus Program – travel further afield now becomes more realistic.

Though some students may have approached their UCAS applications in a tactical manner, ensuring that balance of probability allows at least one offer from their chosen school, other potential UK Medical Students, in their enthusiasm, may not have done so, and find themselves without any offers.

Research has shown that actual grades are a stronger indicator of the performance of students at Medical School rather than predicted grades. This means that either way, there is likely to be some displacement, with some students dropping out or being otherwise unable to secure a place in a Medical School. However, options remain open for those unable to attain a place due to the cap rather than their grades. These students may want to consider private international Medical Schools.

The growing emergence of private Medical Schools both in the UK and worldwide is gaining much prominence. Eight countries contain 40% of Medical Schools; however, several locations are rising faster than the rest. Some regions are stable, but sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, South Asia and South America have increased the most in percentage recently, but not uniformly. Globally, India by far has the greatest number of Medical Schools: around 542 in 2020. However, some of the fastest-growing regions are in the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa.

Driven by many factors, including a worldwide shortage and a demand for “global” exposure, this has also meant the rise in overseas electives is attractive to those who are unsure of endpoints.

In a recent study by Hayashi et al in 2020, it was concluded that international electives for Medical Students could promote and encourage pursuing specialisation and academic or non-academic work abroad. International electives for Medical Students could contribute to medical professional identity formation on the basis of cross-cultural understanding. This was definitely seen as a distinct positive from a career perspective.

International Medical Schools not only offer a quicker offer decision—normally between 5 and 10 days—but also richer global exposure and experience. In some cases, these schools also have joint partnerships with UK host universities, allowing opportunities for students to transition back into the UK after the initial preclinical years.

One such international Medical School is American University of Antigua College of Medicine (AUA), which admits international students via a holistic approach and based on their BSc/A Level/equivalent results, rather than posing an additional challenge of entrance exams and lengthy decision periods. AUA also has a partnership with the acclaimed Warwick Medical School (WMS) in the UK for students wishing to explore the opportunity of transfer after 2.5 years.

Reputation, accreditations, and recognition should be key to any decision-making when considering an international or Caribbean Medical School. For example, the UK’s General Medical Council (GMC) only recognises the curricula of select international Medical Schools, so be sure to do your research and ask appropriate questions about where you will be eligible to practise after earning your MD. Websites like The Medic Portal can offer guidance on a number of these issues, including the emergence of new Medical Schools.

Some UK students who took the overseas route of earning their MD are now in training and residency programmes in the US, India and Canada. Others may opt to return to the UK and join NHS training programmes while richer in their worldly experiences.

AUA offers direct entry options from A Level’s/IB through to BSc and, in many cases, generous contributory scholarships of up to $65,000. For more information, visit AUA’s website or email Dee Narga, AUA’s UK Admissions Director, at [email protected].


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