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What is a Medicine Foundation Course?

May 2021
Dhillon Hirani
Queen Mary UoL - 4th Year Medical Student

What is a Medicine Foundation Course?

The term 'foundation course' in general is a course undertaken by students to prepare them for a competitive university degree. This is similar to what we mean when we talk about medicine foundation courses. However, in medicine, the ‘foundation course’ and the medical degree are effectively merged into one to create a medicine-with-foundation-year degree. The foundation year is added to the start of the degree, to support and prepare students for medical education. This means the overall course is a minimum of 6 years long (or 7 with intercalation), and by the end, you will become a doctor.

Please note that this is separate from the 'Standalone Foundation Courses' which some universities offer. These are a 1-3 year foundation course that provides students with a strong scientific and medical background so that they can go on and apply for medical school afterward. The course does not guarantee a place at medical school, but can sometimes guarantee an interview for medical school. Therefore, at the end of a Standalone Foundation Course, you will not be a doctor. You will simply be in a better position to apply for medical school.

Can I do a foundation year for medicine?

You may be able to apply for a medicine with a foundation year if you meet the eligibility criteria. These courses are often targeted at students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who may struggle more with the application process and entry requirements for the traditional medical degree. Alternatively, they may have performed well but chose not to take two science A levels, therefore putting them at a disadvantage. These courses are often part of widening participation schemes to make it easier for disadvantaged students to get a place at medical school. They usually have very specific entry requirements (see below!) so make sure you do your research and visit each medical school website before you apply.

What is Medicine with a Gateway Year?

Medicine with a gateway year is simply another term for Medicine with a foundation year. In these courses, the foundation year occurs at the beginning of the course, following which students automatically progress onto the medical school’s standard medicine programme. The foundation year allows students to build knowledge of their clinical sciences to a level where they are on an equal footing with the first-year medical students when they join. Some universities offer foundation years that give you an extra qualification that you will graduate with along with the medical degree (a bit like intercalation – see blog here).

Which Universities offer Medicine with a Foundation Year?

Below is a list of universities that offer medicine with a foundation year, with their individual A-level requirements. For students not undertaking A-levels, please click the link to find out about respective academic requirements. All the courses are at least 6 years long (excluding potential intercalation).

University of Bristol

Required grades: BBC

Eligibility criteria: applicants from specific schools and/or students who have spent 3 months or more in care

Cardiff University

Required grades: AAA (no science needed)

Eligibility criteria: no particular requirements

Edge Hill University

Required grades: BBB

Eligibility criteria: several criteria (see below)

University of Leicester

Required grades: BBB

Eligibility criteria: several criteria (see below) 

King's College London

Required grades: ABB

Eligibility criteria: Attended non-selective state school since 11

University of Manchester

Required grades: AAA (no science needed)

Eligibility criteria: no specific requirements

Norwich Medical School / University of East Anglia

Required grades: BBC / ABC

Eligibility criteria: several criteria (see below)

University of Nottingham

Required grades: BBC

Eligibility criteria: several criteria (see below)

University of Plymouth

Required grades: BBB

Eligibility criteria: several criteria (see below)

University of Southampton

Required grades: BBB

Eligibility criteria: several criteria (see below)

What are the Criteria to get into a Medicine Foundation Course?

Each university has a different criteria for their Medicine with a Foundation Year course. The specific requirements for each university can be found on their websites (linked above).

Many universities demand 'several criteria' to be met. The is from a list which commonly includes:

Remember: you need to meet just a few of these criteria in order to apply.

How do I Apply for a Medicine Foundation Course?

The application process for a foundation course is exactly the same as any other medical course and is made via UCAS. Applicants are still expected to have sat the UCAT and have an interview before receiving an offer. Unless specified, standard medicine a-level rules apply which state that generally two grades need to be in science subjects. Please note that you cannot apply for both a foundation course and standard medicine course at the same university in the same academic year.

Should I do a Foundation Course for Medicine?

As mentioned earlier, these courses are particularly aimed at students who find it difficult to meet the academic criteria for a standard medicine course at a university due to adversity. If you are considering this course, it is imperative that you do a bit of research (via links above) to check that you are eligible for the medical school you want to apply to. If you meet the criteria for the foundation course and are worried about the high requirements of a traditional medical course, then this is a great option for you to study medicine and graduate as a doctor in exchange for an extra year of university.

However, remember that if you are from a widening participation background and find the requirements of the standard medical course slightly out of reach, some medical schools offer contextual offers for the standard course which are lower than their usual requirements. It’s worth having a look at which medical schools offer these, what the grades are and importantly, if you are eligible for them by doing a bit of research via their respective course websites. Once you aware of all the options available, you can then hopefully make an informed decision of which you can apply for.

For information on contextual offers check out our article 'Which Medical Schools Have Contextual Offers?'.

Author: Dhillon Hirani

Editor: Latifa Haque

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