Welcome to the 12th 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 Laura, a 4th year medical student at Edinburgh Medical School.

Edinburgh medical school is steeped in history and tradition. Our alumni include Charles Darwin, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and, most notably, the Edinburgh Seven – the first women to study medicine. The impressive history of both the school and the city makes studying at Edinburgh a fascinating experience. Aside from this, there are also lots of modern benefits to studying in Edinburgh that I will discuss in this post that marry history and prestige with cutting edge modern medicine.


  1. An Overview of Teaching Methods
  2. Typical Timetable of a 1st year Medical Student at Edinburgh
  3. The Non-Medical Stuff
  4. Pros
  5. Cons
  6. 3 Top Tips For Applying to Edinburgh
  7. Q&A

An Overview of How We Are Taught

Pre-clincal years 1 & 2 integrate PBL, traditional lectures and tutorials to form a traditional curriculum with little clinical experience. First semester of 1st year our lectures and classes are based on core biomedical sciences, such as immunology and embryology, but after this we move onto system-based learning which continues into 2nd year.

Edinburgh University prides itself on producing world class academic work so many aspects of our curriculum are geared towards students getting a taste of research and academia. Over the two years we complete three student projects, one of which is a literature review, that allows students the chance to produce publishable research under close supervision of an experienced mentor. This also prepares students for 3rd year as intercalation in an area of biomedical science is compulsory at Edinburgh Medical School unless you already have an undergraduate degree. 

However, Edinburgh is not all academia and books. Throughout 2nd year you attend a GP surgery once a week to learn basic clinical skills such as history taking, Venepuncture and physical examination. This is a great opportunity to speak to and learn from patients and was my personal highlight of pre-clinical education.

A Typical Timetable of a 1st Year Medic

I cannot access my original 1st year timetable so here is a mock-up of what I can remember the days were like. Most mornings you have lectures until lunch then will have tutorials or PBL in the afternoon. The tutorials and PBL will relate to content in that week’s lectures.

The Non-Medical Stuff

Edinburgh is a fantastic city to be a student in. There is always exciting events and exhibitions happening all year round as well as enough local history to quell even the most enthusiastic history buff. In summer we host the famous Edinburgh Fringe. This provides thousands of job opportunities for students as well as lots of things to see and do. Come winter-time, we have bustling Christmas markets and a world class Hogmanay celebration to ring in the new year.

Student life is equally as exciting. The student union host events all year round and we have hundreds of both medical and non-medical societies. We are a very inclusive community of medical students with student societies for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic medical students (insta @bame_medics_edinburgh) and for LGBT+ medical students (insta: edinburghlgbtmedics).

Pros of Studying at Edinburgh

• Edinburgh has many research facilities producing world class research and publications: If you are interested in the academic side of medicine and wish to incorporate research into your future medical career Edinburgh can provide you with the chance to work with some of the country’s top research groups.

• There is a fantastic support network: The medical teaching office (MTO) have a fantastic group of staff to support students their time at university. You can approach them at any time with any problem and they will help.

There is always something to do in Edinburgh: As the capital city it does not matter whether you like independent cafes and art galleries, big club nights or exclusive speakeasys there is always something for you to do.

Cons of Studying at Edinburgh

• Intercalation is compulsory: While many people love the opportunity to expand their knowledge within a biomedical science, completing an honors degree in a subject you have not studied before is challenging and does not suit everyone. If you are driven more by the people side of medicine rather than the scientific side I would not recommend studying at a university where intercalation is compulsory or the thing most people do even when not compulsory.

City center prices: Like London, Edinburgh is an expensive city to live in but unlike London you do not get extra money in your student loan to put towards living expenses. The medical school does provide you with money to help with transport costs but cannot provide you with living support. Just to demonstrate how expensive Edinburgh is, the average price for a pint of beer is £4.19 whereas in Glasgow it is £3.79. This may seem small but when looking at rent prices a similar disparity can be seen.

• Little patient interaction: Until Y4 you get very little interaction with patients and little clinical practice. Although in Y2 you get two hours per week in a GP center learning basic clinical skills this is then followed by a year in intercalation where you receive absolutely no patient contact.

3 Top Tips For Applying to Edinburgh

1. Ensure you talk about your extracurricular activities in your personal statement. In particular, times where you have adopted a leadership role and what you learnt.

2. Do well in the situational judgement section of the UCAT. A band 1 or band 2 is preferable however the criteria for this in admissions may have changed as they have now introduced interviews.

3. Show respect for ALL healthcare and allied healthcare professionals in both your interview and personal statement. Everyone working in a hospital plays a vital role in helping treat people. Your work is not more important than theirs.

Thank you Laura for providing such a detailed and interesting insight into Edinburgh.

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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Posted by:Life of a Medic

One thought on “What’s it Really Like To Study Medicine at Edinburgh Medical School?

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