Welcome to the 1st week of the Virtual Medicine Open Day: giving you an insight into each of the UK medical schools and the opportunity to ask current medical students about the realities of studying there!
This post is written by ‘diaryofamedic’, a 3rd year medical student at the University of Manchester.
Manchester was my top choice of medical school, and I definitely don’t regret my decision to study here. The city itself is great, and the medical school is one of the biggest in the UK, so it’s a really student-friendly atmosphere, and there’s so much to do and explore. In this post you’ll find out a bit more about the course structure, general uni life at Manchester and some application tips…
- An Overview of Teaching Methods
- Typical Timetable of a 1st year Medical Student at Manchester
- The Non-Medical Stuff
- 3 Top Tips For Applying to Manchester
- Medicine @ Manchester Q&A
An Overview of How We Are Taught
Manchester runs on a PBL (problem-based learning) system, but it is actually more integrated than I thought it would be prior to starting.
Each week during pre-clinical medicine, we have 2 PBL sessions in groups of 10-12, supervised by a member of academic staff. These sessions are really interactive and we are all encouraged to actively participate in the discussion. The first session of the week is the “opening session” where we go through a clinical case, picking out the bits we’d like to learn more about and then formulating a “learning agenda” of questions that each member of the group would then go away and research during the week. The second session at the end of the week is the “closing session” where we all feedback on what we learnt throughout the week.
Although Manchester does run on a PBL system, we do also have quite a few supplementary lectures each week – on average we had a about 6 lectures a week that are relevant to week’s case – for example, if there’s a case on COPD, we might have lectures on the pathophysiology of COPD or a more psychology related lecture on health behaviours etc.
Anatomy at Manchester is taught via full body dissection and also pro-sections. We are put into small groups and assigned to an anatomy demonstrator – we switch groups and demonstrators half way through the year. The anatomy sessions in the dissection room (DR) are once a week and they are a really good opportunity to actually see what you have been studying from books and the online anatomy workbook that the medical school provides before attending the session. This is one thing I don’t really think I knew before coming to medical school – the anatomy sessions aren’t really for learning the content, they’re more for consolidating your understanding and asking the demonstrator questions if you have any – most of the learning should be done in your own time, outside of the DR.
At Manchester we have a centre within the medical school building specifically for us to practice our communication/clinical skills called the CSLC (communication skills learning centre). In the first 2 years, we have sessions in the CSLC almost every week where we would have the opportunity to practise taking histories from simulated patients, as well as practise performing basic clinical examinations such as cardiovascular or abdominal examinations on simulated patients or on each other. The communication skills teaching at manchester is fantastic, and the SPs provide excellent feedback – it really is a safe space to practise, without feeling stupid – at first it’s a bit nerve wracking, but you soon get used to the SPs and your peers watching you! The CSLC sessions are greatly missed once you start clinical years, as unfortunately, we no longer have them once we move to our base hospitals.
Larger group sessions
In addition to these core sessions, we also have larger group (class sized) sessions on histology and evidence based medicine once every few weeks, and from semester 2 of first year we also have physiology and pharmacology practical sessions.
In terms of clinical placements, we have 3 per semester in 1st year – in semester 1 we had 2 GP placements and 1 hospital placement, and in semester 2 it was the other way round, so we had 2 hospital placements and 1 GP placement.
A Typical Week of a 1st Year Medic
This is probably one of my busier weeks of 1st year as I had a clinical placement this week, which takes up an entire half-day. I also went to the medical careers fair this week where there were stands from many different specialties – we had the opportunity to ask questions, and get some freebies of course!
The Non-Medical Stuff
As you can imagine, Manchester is a big, busting and multicultural city. I come from a small town myself so it was a change at first, but I really did enjoy the city life. I personally found the area around campus pretty safe and I wouldn’t feel scared to walk back to my flat from uni when it was dark as there’d always be other people around.
On Oxford Road (which is where the most of the main campus buildings are situated, including the medical school building), there is an array of every shop you’d ever need as a student – Morrison’s (which became a favourite of mine and my friends, especially their meal deals!), Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Lidl, Costa, Tim Hortons, Poundland and even Superdrug! You’ve got literally all you’d ever need on one stretch and it’s so convenient that it’s so close to uni. If we’d ever run out of milk or any other necessity at our flat, one of me or my flatmates could easily pop into a shop on the way back from uni to get some.
Just a little further on from Oxford Road is the famous Rusholme or “curry mile” filled with loads of amazing food places – dine-in restaurants as well as fast-food takeaways. For anyone who is Muslim, most of these food places are also halal too, which is great!
In terms of sports and society opportunities, they are endless! The MedSoc is, if I’m not mistaken, one of the largest societies on campus, and it has lots of other medical themed societies under it for loads of different specialties who often put on really good lecture series. If you’re interested in a particular specialty and there isn’t already a society dedicated to it, you could set one up yourself! If you’re into your sports, there’s also the opportunity to play at university level, and Wednesday afternoons are free for pre-clinical students (ie. with no scheduled teaching sessions) specifically for sports and society events.
Pros of Studying at Manchester
• The city itself – as mentioned above, Manchester is such a diverse city and although I moved from a small town, I felt at home there and it’ll always have a special place in my heart. There’s so much to do and you won’t ever get bored – restaurants, spas, shopping centres, afternoon tea, museums, you name it…you’ll find it in Manchester!
• The style of teaching/learning – I really like the PBL/integrated approach used in Manchester. I personally would not have been able to focus if I was in a fully traditional programme, with lectures 9-5, but also I would have found it difficult if we were expected to learn fully independently, without any supplementary lectures, so I think Manchester have got the right mix when it comes to teaching style.
• The CSLC – if I had to name one of the best parts of studying at Manchester medical school, it would have to be the communication skills teaching. I think working with simulated patients and being observed by peers is a really good way to learn. Although a bit daunting at first, you can definitely see and feel your skills developing over the 2 years you’re based at the university and the CSLC staff are so friendly and supportive.
• Lecture podcasts – I’m not sure if this is true for all medical schools or indeed all courses at Manchester, however for Medicine, our lectures are podcasted which is really convenient. I used to personally attend most of the lectures, but if I needed to go over something that I didn’t quite understand, I always had the opportunity to re-watch the lecture recording in my own time.
Cons of Studying at Manchester
• The amount of independent learning – for me, this isn’t too much of a con, but depending on how you like to learn it might be. Because it’s a PBL course at Manchester, you are expected to do a vast amount of independent learning and research. In order to answer the questions on your learning agenda, you’ll most likely have to refer to other sources and not everything you need to know will be in the lectures.
• Anatomy self-learning – we never really had many anatomy lectures or classes where we’d be taught the anatomy content, rather we were expected to go away and learn this ourselves from textbooks etc. We’d then be quizzed on this during our DR sessions. Although the anatomy demonstrators were quite happy to go over a topic we didn’t quite understand, the purpose of the DR sessions was mainly to consolidate our learning as opposed to being taught. One thing I probably would have preferred is to have some form of formal anatomy teaching before the sessions we’d have in the DR.
• The number of clinical placements – I was debating whether to put this as a con as I’m not too sure if it is a con or isn’t, I think it depends again on what you personally prefer. I think my main reason for putting this in the ‘cons’ list is because before starting medical school, I had the impression that we’d have way more clinical placements at Manchester than we actually did in reality. But thinking about it now as a clinical year student, I think I’m actually glad we didn’t have more – during the clinical placements in year 1 and to an extent year 2, we were mainly just “chatting” to patients, without any sort of history taking framework in mind, which I personally didn’t find too beneficial. I think the number of clinical placements was definitely compensated for by the frequent sessions we’d have in the CSLC with simulated patients though.
3 Top Tips For Applying to Manchester
1. Have specific examples on your Non Academic Information Form (NAI) – as part of the admissions process, Manchester don’t look at your UCAS personal statement, but rather ask you to fill out a form with 4 different subheadings (read more about it here). The key to this is that they want specifics – in a UCAS statement, it’s easy to add unnecessary words and details to make it sound the part, when in reality it’s not telling the admissions team much about you or your experiences/skills. For the NAI, try to have specific examples from your work experience/volunteering in mind that will showcase the skills that they are after.
2. Have a read about medical ethics – As stated on the Manchester website, one of the areas you could be interviewed about is ethics. It would be good to try and gain a basic understanding on the 4 principles of medical ethics which you can then refer to if questioned about ethics at interview. I would recommend reading the book: A short introduction into medical ethics, if you haven’t read it already! I also have some blog posts on ethical topics over on my blog, and lifeofamedic also has some great ones on hers, which you can also check out, but I think your best place to start would be the book I mentioned – it’s only short and very easily readable/understandable.
3. Having a strong UCAT score – although the selection process has changed a little since I applied to Manchester, the majority of invitations to interview will be sent to those who have achieved a UCAT score in the top 3 deciles nationally. Manchester do now also have a ‘holistic approach’ whereby they will consider the rest of a student’s application to come to a decision about inviting to interview (e.g GCSEs, other achievements), but the number invited to interview through this pathway is about ½ that of the traditional UCAT “cut-off threshold” pathway. So I would still recommend really focussing on getting as high of a UCAT score as you possibly can by preparing well beforehand (see my blog post on my tips for preparing for the UCAT). But at the same time, remember that if you don’t get a high UCAT score, it’s not the end of the world, you still have a chance due to this new holistic approach!
A huge thank you to diaryofamedic for such a detailed insight. You can follow her on Instagram and check the content on her own blog here:
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