The Ultimate Medical School Guide

Aston Medical School

BY:
Sana & Allegra
LAST EDITED:

Section A: The Aston Medical School Application Process

1. What qualities in a student does Aston Medical School (AMS) look for?

Good communication and interpersonal skills, as well as being keen to learn through discussion and being able to work with others, are the values that Aston Medical School ranks most highly. Not only is this because they believe that it is a key quality for future doctors, but also because of the nature of the course - PBL, which specifically requires these skills. Furthermore, the huge benefit of being able to work in a group is that it prepares you well for when you become a doctor and have to work as part of a multidisciplinary team in a professional setting.

2. What elements of your application does Aston value most?

As with every other medical school, there is a two-stage process to getting in - passing the interview stage and then being chosen after the interview. Whilst Aston does look at all aspects of the application in order to make a holistic judgement, the personal statement is of very high importance. This is because at Aston the main hurdle is reaching the interview stage - once you have been invited for an interview, you have a high chance of being accepted. This is reflected in the admissions data: https://www.aston.ac.uk/sites/default/files/AMS%20Admissions%20Data%202020_21.pdf. All candidates have relatively similar GCSE and A level grades, whereas the personal statement is more unique. This is also a reason why the interview is quite an important aspect of the application too.

3. How important is the UCAT score at Aston?

AMS requires you to take the UCAT. There is no specific score required to be considered as an applicant as your UCAT score will be used alongside all other aspects of the medical school application. This includes your SJT score: you will not automatically be dismissed by the university if you have scored Band 3 or 4 (which is something some universities do) however that is not to say the university completely ignores it.

The lowest UCAT interviewed in 2020 was 2060 for international students. It was 2080 for widening participation students and 2150 for non-widening participation students. This information can be found here: https://www.aston.ac.uk/sites/default/files/AMS%20Admissions%20Data%202020_21.pdf.

4. How important are the grades you ultimately achieve for Medicine at Aston?

The A level grades required for entry this year (2021/2022) are AAA. See here for more detailed information on entry requirements: https://www.aston.ac.uk/study/courses/medicine-mbchb-september-2022/september-2022 .

However, the university does have some flexibility with regard to grades. In 2018/2019, there were 14 students who were one or two grades off those offered to them and still secured a place. In 2019/2020, this number rose to 27 students and in 2020/2021 there were 40 students (likely to have been affected by the pandemic situation).

Unfortunately, Aston Medical School does not have a foundation programme (these typically have lower grade requirements). However, they do have a contextual offer scheme ('Aston Ready') and more details regarding eligibility criteria can be found here: https://www.aston.ac.uk/undergraduate/contextual-offer-aston-ready.

5. What other requirement does Aston have for Medicine?

The normal requirement is a minimum of five GCSEs/IGCSEs at grade B/ grade 6 or above, which must include English Language, Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology or Double Science (or international equivalent). For the full entry requirements for Aston Medical School, see here: https://www.aston.ac.uk/study/courses/medicine-mbchb-september-2022/september-2022 .

6. What should I put in my personal statement for Medicine at Aston?

Personal statements should be well-written and express the applicant’s reasons for applying for that course. AMS does not give too much guidance on what a personal statement should include as they are meant to be exactly that: personal. Personal statements play a huge role in the selection process at Aston, so you should make an effort to make it unique and make yourself really stand out. Apart from motivations, personal statements should honestly describe the applicant’s qualities and interests. Work experience is a good thing to include, even if not necessarily in a healthcare setting, as it demonstrates motivation, commitment and interpersonal skills.

7. What is the structure of the interview at AMS?

The interview structure at AMS is MMI, consisting of 7-10 stations, each lasting 6-8 minutes. Performance at each station is scored according to a checklist, and the number of marks available is the same at each station. For each applicant, a total score is cumulated across all stations and applicants are ranked accordingly. This means that even if you perform poorly at one station, you may still be able to achieve a high score by performing well in the others, and therefore rank highly. The rank of an applicant is one of the main factors influencing whether an offer of a place is made. More information on MMIs at AMS can be found in this Youtube video: https://youtu.be/bC3vOTZewJw .

8. What does AMS look for in the interview?

Stations usually test skills including communication, empathy and teamwork, your realisation that you have limitations and that you need to ask for help when necessary, and your understanding of medical ethics. In addition to this, they want you to demonstrate your understanding of and motivation to study and practice Medicine.

The format of each station can be variable. Some of these stations may be a one-to-one whilst some of them can have an actor who facilitates the station and an interviewer observing. The majority of stations will focus on a single question or skill, however sometimes you will be given a scenario to discuss and are expected to demonstrate multiple skills and qualities simultaneously.

9. What are my chances of getting into AMS?

AMS is a new medical school, and the number of applications is rising each year. From 403 applicants in 2018/2019 to 1293 in 2020/2021.
In 2018/2019, the percentage interviewed was 48%, in 2019/2020 this was 35% and in 2020/2021 it was 34%.

In 2018/2019, 169 students were given offers: 43 were widening participation (WP), none were non-WP and 126 were international.
In 2019/2020, 355 students were given offers: 125 were WP, 182 were non-WP and 48 were international.
In 2020/2021, 322 students were given offers: 111 were WP, 152 were non-WP and 59 were international.

Of those interviewed in 2018/2019, 87% received offers. As for 2019/2020, 85% of those interviewed were given offers. In 2020/2021, 73% of those interviewed were given offers.

This information can be found here: https://www.aston.ac.uk/sites/default/files/AMS%20Admissions%20Data%202020_21.pdf .

Section B: What is Medicine at Aston university really like?

1. What types of Medicine courses are available at AMS?

AMS only offers an undergraduate Medicine course largely due to the fact it was only established very recently (2017).

2. What is the course structure for the 5 year medicine course?

The course format at Aston University’s Medical School is integrated and patient-centred.

The course is split into two phases: pre-clinical (Year 1 and 2) and clinical (years 3, 4 and 5).

Phase 1 involves developing your clinical skills and beginning to learn how to effectively interact with patients and other healthcare professionals. You also start to develop consultation skills and diagnostic reasoning. The clinical skills education is enhanced through GP placements in Year 1 and 2. In the pre-clinical stage, you will also be expanding on your existing science education from A level and cover topics such as the fundamentals of body structure, infection, pharmacology and systems such as the respiratory system, cardiovascular system, reproductive system and musculoskeletal system.

Phase 2 is clinical and most of your learning will take place in clinical environments. Essentially, there will be no more university lectures, and instead, you’ll be told the learning outcomes and will have to have an active approach in making sure you learn all that you need to learn. This is supported by workshops and group work. There will also be teaching sessions at the hospital and you will have GP educators. The clinical stage involves being exposed to around 20 specialities.

For more information on the course structure see here: https://www.aston.ac.uk/study/courses/medicine-mbchb-september-2021 .

3. What is the teaching style?

The teaching style is largely problem-based. Lectures take place every day in Phase 1 and tutorials also take place daily. Tutorials are compulsory and take place in small groups (usually about 5 people). As for lectures, the university strongly recommends that you attend, however, lectures are also recorded for students to watch in their own time. Anatomy is taught through dissection - in first year you have two sessions of this across the whole year.

4. What does an average day as a first year medical student at Aston look like?

For first year students, there are two lectures (counts as one lecture but two parts, i.e. 1.1 and 1.2) and a tutorial each day. There is a clinical skills session each week, as well as some PPD (Personal and Professional Development) scattered across the year.

Tutorials usually happen in the morning (start at 9AM or 9:30AM) and last an hour and a half to two hours. Lectures can happen in the morning or afternoon and a day’s worth of lectures will be a maximum of two hours long. Each clinical skills session will last about an hour and a half.

During first year you will also have the opportunity to undertake a 1 week GP placement in November, and another in May.

5. Is an iBSc offered at Aston?

Yes, iBScs are offered after completing two or more years of your medical degree at AMS. Note that taking an iBSc is optional at AMS. There is also the opportunity to complete an MSc after three or more years of your medical degree. Some of the options for iBScs and MScs at Aston can be found here: https://www.aston.ac.uk/hls/intercalated-degrees.

6. What is the typical cohort size and does this change as you progress through the course?

As it is a new medical school, the cohort sizes are relatively small, compared to other medical schools. The medical school’s first ever cohort has around 60 students, the second cohort has about 120, and the third cohort has about 130. Cohort sizes stay relatively consistent as you progress through the course however on occasion some students have to retake a year perhaps due to extenuating circumstances or due to not passing one or more exams. In the latter case, you are allowed to resit an exam once and if you do not pass again, you have to retake the year. Something to note with retaking years is that at AMS, the maximum amount of time you can take to complete the degree is 7 years. Therefore, you will only be able to retake a total of two times.

7. Which hospitals are linked to Aston Medical School?

The organisations partnered with Aston Medical School include:

  • Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust - this is comprised of Sandwell General Hospital in West Bromwich, Birmingham City Hospital and Rowley Regis Hospital.
  • Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group - a group of 84 GP practices.
  • Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust
  • Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust - this is comprised of Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, Solihull Hospital and Community Services, Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield and Birmingham Chest Clinic.
  • Wye Valley NHS Trust - Hereford County Hospital.

Placement allocation is at random. Most hospitals and practices are within a commutable distance from Aston University (10 minutes to 1 hour), so accommodation is not provided. However, accommodation is provided when you are placed at Hereford for the ‘Senses’ cycle - this is free.

Section C: University & Medical School Life at Aston

1. Where is Aston University located?

Aston University’s campus is located in the city centre of Birmingham, which means that it is only about a 5-10 minute walk to Bullring and also the famous Birmingham Library (and Nandos!!). Moreover, it is just a 10 minute walk from the train and coach station, which is great for commuting. There is also a wide range of food places within walking distance to the university. Aston University is also just a 10 minute drive away from Heartlands Hospital.

2. Are students encouraged to take part in societies?

There is a wide range of societies available: academic and non-academic! As well as the medical specialty societies such as Paedsoc, Surgsoc etc, there are many more non-academic ones, such as Aston Arts Society, Chocolate Society, Drama Society, Doctor Who Society, Humanitarian Relief Society and many more. For a full list of societies see here: https://www.astonsu.com/activities/clubsandsocieties/.

There aren’t any societies exclusively for medical students as the medical school is quite small. Whilst this may mean you are less likely to socialise with your medical school colleagues outside of the more academic societies, the benefit of this is that you get to meet people from other courses.

It is also worth noting that the Student Union (SU) building at Aston won an award by ‘Buildings that inspire’. Here you can find a shop, cafe, social study spaces, support facilities, meeting and activity rooms as well as prayer rooms. Its multi-functionality makes it a great communal space!

3. What is the student satisfaction score for Aston University?

The university is Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) Gold. Student satisfaction was 84% in 2019. This information can be found here: https://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/universities/aston-university-birmingham.

Student testimonials:

‘I think medical schools are renowned to be competitive and mostly daunting but at Aston teaching as well as the atmosphere is very interpersonal, supportive and encouraging. We are involved and heard individually and that’s what sets Aston Medical School apart.’ - Lareyb Noor, third year medical student.

‘As a second-year student at AMS, I have mainly experienced life in medical school via the online platform. Aside from the challenges of being confined to online learning, my experiences have been largely positive. I think that the quality of teaching is good; I learned so much in this last year alone, and I can't wait to learn about more bodily systems before we go hands-on into the clinical years in year 3 and onwards. I had GP placements in year 1, as well, despite COVID. The medical school is new, so we appreciate that it is learning and growing quite fast.‘ - Anonymous, second year medical student.

4. How diverse is Aston and in particular the medical school?

Aston Medical School is an extremely diverse medical school, just like the city it is based in - Birmingham. The school reserves 20 places for international students and 100 places for home students. Moreover, postgraduates are also offered places at the medical school. Aston also reserves 40 of its places for students that come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In addition to this, for local students, Aston provides a Pathway to Healthcare Programme, which, upon completion will make the student eligible for a contextual offer if they apply to Aston University on the undergraduate Medicine and Life and Health Sciences degrees.

5. What bursaries are available at Aston university for Medicine students?

There are numerous scholarships available for students at Aston University. Some of these require applications whilst others don't therefore be sure to check this (https://www.aston.ac.uk/undergraduate/your-application/funding) to avoid missing out. The scholarships available 2021/2022 include:

  1. Aston Achievement/ Vice Chancellor’s Achievement Scholarship: Award of £500 available to UK students who achieve BBB or above in A-levels.
  2. Aston Alumni Undergraduate Scholarships: Award of £1500 in the first, second and third year of their degree, with an additional £500 in the first year to go towards initial university costs, totalling £5000. Available to UK students with a household income of less than £25000. Not only awarded on a financial basis - the student must have ‘amazing ambitions’.
  3. Aston Support Scholarship: Award of £1250 every year of degree, totalling £5000. Available to UK students classed as care leavers, children from a military family or refugees.
  4. Aston Mature Adult Learners Scholarship: Award of £500 every year of the degree (excluding placement year), totalling £1500. Available to UK students aged twenty-one or over.
  5. Aston Aspiration Scholarship: Award of £500 in year two of study. Available to UK students with a household income of up to and including £42,875.
  6. Aston Extra Scholarship: Award of £50 in each year of study (excusing placement year) totalling £150. Available to UK students who have completed formal enrolment and all associated checks.
  7. Aston Placement Scholarship: Award of £1250 to support living expenses during their placement year. Available to UK students with a household income of £42875 or below, those taking an unpaid placement year, or those undertaking a placement abroad.

Aston also offers financial hardship support through several funds, trusts and bursaries. For more information regarding these see here: https://www2.aston.ac.uk/current-students/hub/student-advice/fau.

6. Are student support services readily available and easy to access?

There are multiple means of accessing student support, including extremely supportive tutors. You have access to your tutors 24/7 by email and can see them in person or via Microsoft Teams if you need a chat. Every student is also part of a medical academic family which includes all the tutees of a tutor from each year group - a tutor has up to four tutees in each year group, so the academic families are quite small and homely. You will always feel heard. Moreover, medical school student support can be accessed via email or phone.

Aside from the medical school, the university itself has the Counselling and Mental Wellbeing Service. See here for more information: https://www2.aston.ac.uk/current-students/health-wellbeing/counselling-and-mental-wellbeing-service.

The university is very accommodating when it comes to taking time off for health and personal reasons. From what I understand, the process of deferring is very easy. Similarly, if you need to mitigate exams, this is possible and the process is straightforward (it just requires a form to be filled in).

7. What are the best food spots around Aston University?

Birmingham is known for having the most delicious food places! You’re bound to find something you like! These are some food places that are at walking distance to the university:

  • Peri Peri
  • Nandos
  • Brgri
  • Wok&Go
  • Celebz
  • Las Iguanas
  • Damascena
  • Sushi Passion
  • China Town restaurants/cafes
  • Food court at Bullring City Centre

There are also some good dessert places, including:

  • Dolce Desserts
  • Sundaes Gelato Birmingham
  • Pirlo’s Dessert Lounge

Moreover, the Aston Meal Plan allows students living on campus to eat at Cafe Libro, Eros Cafe, and Tierra Food Court including Costa Coffee, without the need for cash. You can find more information here: https://www.aston.ac.uk/current-students/nourish.

Also, check out this link for more information on eating out and grocery shopping nearby and on campus: https://www2.aston.ac.uk/birmingham/city-living/eating-out .

8. Is student accommodation available for Aston University?

There are six main student accommodations for Aston University which are James Watt, William Murdoch, Mary Sturge, Harriet Martineu, Lakeside and Jennens Court. As Aston is a campus-based university, all of these accommodations are within a 1-4 minute walking distance from the medical school.

James Watt and William Murdoch are reserved for first year students only, so it is a great way for first years to get to know each other. There is the option for girls only and boys only accommodation.

It is extremely easy to find en-suite accommodation in these places, which means that you will have your own room and bathroom and a kitchen shared between 4-10 flatmates (which will have varying prices depending on the number of flatmates).

The average cost for an ensuite accommodation on-campus is £6-7K per annum. It is usually around £141-149 per week for ensuite on campus and cheaper than this for non-ensuite.

Apart from on campus, there are many other accommodations such as iQ Students Penworks House, Staniforth House, The Heights and Onyx.

If you are looking for a studio there are many available on-campus studios and also nearby.

For more information on Aston University accommodation see here: https://www.aston.ac.uk/undergraduate/your-application/accommodation.

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