Welcome to the 6th 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 Jodie Stewart, a 3rd year medical student at Glasgow.
Glasgow was my first choice medical school and I am so thankful I got the opportunity to study here! It’s fair to say these three years of medical school have been a rollercoaster but I wouldn’t change it at all. I am going to go into a lot of depth about medicine at Glasgow to ensure you get a clearer understanding of what it is like studying here!
- An Overview of Teaching Methods
- Typical Timetable of a 1st year Medical Student at Glasgow
- The Non-Medical Stuff
- 3 Top Tips For Applying to Glasgow
- Your turn to ask questions!
An Overview of How We Are Taught
There is a LOT of information to learn in medical school so lectures are still the main teaching method used within the degree. In phase 1 most lectures are delivered by university staff however, in the rest of the phases, lectures are typically delivered by NHS staff and so incorporate a clinical aspect. Phase 1-3 are pretty lecture heavy, so students get a foundation of knowledge before ‘clinical’ years. At Glasgow lectures are made available beforehand and remain on our online platform for the rest of university. The majority of lectures are also recorded so they can be re-watched if you got a bit lost!
Problem-based learning (PBL) is used in phase 1 and 2 and is composed of 2 one hour sessions a week. In the first session early in the week, the group is presented with a scenario and an hour is spent brainstorming knowledge the group already has and setting questions to research. Over the next few days, the student researches the questions and composes answers to feedback to the group later in the week. This is meant to be a way to learn from each other and share helpful resources. PBL groups are usually around 8-11 students and are changed three times a year.
In phase 3 PBL is replaced with case-based learning (CBL) and this is usually 2 90 minute sessions per week. In each session, there are 2 cases based on the weeks topic and these are worked through in the session. There is no work to be done outside of the sessions.
The ‘practical’ stuff
Vocational studies are where we learn ethics, communication skills, examinations and practical procedures in phase 1 and 2. VS groups are usually around 9 students and these remain the same for the whole of 1st year and then a new group is allocated in 2nd year. Each year VS is led by a doctor who acts as the tutor and any GP visits are to the tutors’ practice. This is usually around 4 visits per year.
To complement learning in pre-clinical years there are also labs which can take a variety of different routes. The main one to mention is anatomy labs which are composed of dissection on donated cadavers, and pro-section where students analyse samples that have already been dissected and set in a mould. Some labs can also be physiology based or set around improving laboratory skills (similar to high school science).
So, bear with me in this section, the Glasgow curriculum can be a bit complicated to explain and I want to do my best to lay it out! Also, if you do consider applying to Glasgow and do interview it is quite important to understand the curriculum. I think the first thing to say is that Glasgow is a ‘spiral curriculum’ so themes are revisited with increasing complexity each year.
The degree structure can be broken down into 4 sections. Phase 1 runs from September to December of 1st year. Here basic biomedical sciences are introduced (anatomy, physiology, pathology) to prepare you for the rest of medical school. Along with lectures, there are 2 hours of PBL a week; 1 session (3 hours) of vocational studies per week and 2 clinical visits (A&E ward and GP visit).
Phase 2 runs from January of 1st year to May of 2nd year. It is system-based learning covering anatomy and physiology with some teaching on diseases. On top of the knowledge gained from phase one, biochemistry and pharmacology are introduced. Again, there are 2 hours of PBL a week, 1 session (3 hours) of vocational studies per week, visits to your VS tutors’ practice and a 5 week SSC.
Phase 3 runs from September to February of 3rd year. Here there is again a system-based approach where pathology is added on to information taught in the first two years of university. There is 3 hours of case-based learning (CBL) per week, 3 days at either QEUH or GRI and every fortnight you have a visit to your GP tutor’s practice.
Phase 4 runs February of 3rd year until final exams in 5th year and these are the ‘clinical’ years. There are another 2 SSCs in this block.
A Typical Timetable of a 1st Year Medic
At Glasgow 1st year is really varied! As mentioned above in the first term you work through phase 1, I have attached a timetable from a week in phase 1 below.
After phase one is complete, you move into the systems-based phase 2. In first year, the systems covered are limbs and back, cardiology and respiratory and keeping people healthy. I have attached timetables from each block, so you can see the difference in timetabled hours and teaching methods!
Limbs and back
Cardiology and respiratory
Keeping people healthy
The Non-Medical Stuff
There is SO much more to Glasgow medical school than just the ‘medical stuff’. There are hundreds of societies at Glasgow uni and basically anything you can think of there is a society for it! This includes societies for music, sport, politics, volunteering, charity work and generally anything. What I really love is there are tonnes of societies just for medical students, ones for each speciality, widening education and again volunteering but in a more direct manner. There are also medic sports teams too so if you can’t commit to the hours needed by university wide sports teams then this is another option. Another thing I couldn’t forget is MedChir, this is the medics society that runs a wide, wide variety of events throughout the year. This includes educational events, social events and scrubby (what’s scrubby you ask? A pub crawl where everyone wears scrubs and travels around Glasgow’s famous circular subway…).
You have probably picked up by now that I absolutely love the city of Glasgow. It is an amazing mix of busy with pubs, restaurants and a well-known nightlife. But, travel 30 minutes west and you will reach Loch Lomond, or get a ferry and travel to the Isle of Aarran!
Glasgow is a ‘campus university’ however this campus is huge! What I absolutely love is that the medical school is on campus and not miles away at a the main hospital. This is personally something that was important to me as it means you can integrate with other students. There are plenty of accommodation options for 1st year, both en-suite/shared bathroom, self-catered/catered so there is something for everyone. The furthest accommodation from campus is only a 30 minute walk so you are still well connected.
Glasgow university has a huge library that is accessible to all students and has a good range of solo study spaces and group study spaces, along with chatty floors and silent floors. Each department also has its own smaller library for their students. The medical school has a three floor library for medical student use only and this is open 24 hours 365 days a year. With all these libraries it is easy to find a place that you find the most productive! There are also public libraries in Glasgow that are lovely to use if you don’t want distracted by uni students (the Mitchell library is gorgeous!).
The university gym is on campus and I have to say its one of the best university gyms I have seen! If you are in halls of residence in first year then membership is free and after that its around £150 for an academic year and I would say it is more than worth it! There are two floors (cardio and weights) along with studios (judo, yoga, kettlebells) and a spin studio.
Something I thought I would mention as it is usually covered at the open day is the fact that Glasgow has four student unions! These are the student representative council (SRC), Glasgow university union (GUU), Queen Margaret union (QMU) and the Glasgow university sports association union (GUSA). The SRC are in charge of the societies, student welfare and student satisfaction while GUU and QMU are the more ‘social’ unions and they both put on a variety of events. QMU is known for its music events and GUU has a highly respected debates society if that is something you are interested in! all sport societies are affiliated with GUSA and they are also run the campus gym.
Pros of Studying at Glasgow
• I absolutely LOVE Glasgow as a city! For me it has a perfect mix of restaurants, pubs and outside spaces/tourist hotspots giving it an amazing personality (people make Glasgow!)
• One of my favourite things about Glasgow as a university is the social aspect! There are hundreds of societies you can join, and if you can’t find the one you’re after you can make one! Every sport has a team, and there are even specific medic sport teams to accommodate for the work load and placement
• Option of an intercalated (BSc) degree: at Glasgow this is something you can apply for if you are interested! Also, if you are interested they have a good number of places so those who are eligible are likely to be accepted.
• Something that makes Glasgow very unique is the fact that it was TWO electives! One is completed at the end of third year and the other at the end of fourth. This allows us to have two chances to organise experience in a subject we are passionate about! Since the elective has no assessment it is truly the only chance in medical school to do something just because you enjoy it!
• At Glasgow there are 3 student selected components (SSCs) where you can pick from a wide variety of options based on your own interests in medicine. This gives an opportunity to study something you are interested in more in depth and to get some unique experiences in clinical settings.
• All lecture slides go online beforehand and 99% are recorded so you can watch them back
• Glasgow does care about feedback and there have been a lot of cases where feedback about a specific teaching method/lecture/lab/tutor has been poor and the medical school does make changes
Cons of Studying at Glasgow
• A lot of self-directed learning – although there are plenty lectures, in phase 1 and 2 especially, there is a lot of self-directed learning which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea
• Anatomy teaching – I’m putting this in my con list but for others this would be a big pro! For me I don’t really like the way anatomy is taught and personally I don’t feel dissection added much to my learning but this is a very individual point
• Large year group – This is something I don’t mind, but the year group at Glasgow is around 300 students, increasing to 360 in third year when students from Malaysia and St Andrews join the year.
• Distance for clinical placements – In clinical years placements can be anywhere in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS board, for those that don’t know how big the board is, that’s Dumfries to Ayr, to east Kilbride to some of the villages north of the centre.
3 Top Tips For Applying to Glasgow
1. Have a good understanding of the Glasgow curriculum: this is something the university like to see you have researched and that you have chosen the university because you like the way they teach!
2. Be yourself! I know it sounds so generic and cliché, but Glasgow really do care about the personality of those they accept into the medical school and they don’t expect you to be the perfect doctor already (that’s what medical school is for!)
3. Don’t make your personal statement a list of work experience or achievements. It is much better to only have a couple days of work experience but expand on them and what you learnt from it than it is to have a list of 20 things you have done with no reflection! Consider what skills you want doctors/medical students to have and consider in what ways you have developed these.
A huge thank you to Jodie for an amazing and comprehensive insight into Glasgow! Find out more about her on Instagram. She’s also happy to be contacted via email for any further advice.
Your Turn To Ask Any Questions!
Thank you for submitting your questions, they’ve now been answered by a current student – click below to read the answers!
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