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Access Into Medical School: Guide - Your community for widening participation in medicine: UCAT training, BMAT training, mock interviews and mentorship.
For many who hope to go to medical school, the first question that comes to mind is “Can I afford it?”. A very important question, the answer to which depends on the circumstances of each person who asks. We may not be able to give perfect answers for everyone’s situation, but we can certainly show the broad strokes and give you the best chance to fight off any financial barriers to medicine. So without further ado, what is the cost of medical school?
Before we start, let’s go over some key concepts:
Maintenance costs are the price of living while at medical school. That’s everything you have to pay for that isn’t the tuition fees. We’re assuming here that you’ll be living independently. If you plan on living at home with parents/carers/guardians then maintenance costs may be lower than what we quote here (though you’ll probably be entitled to less maintenance loan).
Save the Students have a great resource that goes through their survey of students living expenses. Spoiler! It’s around £800 per month all-inclusive. However, there is a lot of variation between different universities and individuals. We won’t go through everything they cover here, but here are a few key outliners:
Rent is by far the biggest out-of-pocket expense for undergrad students, but its price varies a lot between cities. A report by Unipol and the NUS in 2018 found the average student paid £6,366 annually on rent. In London, average weekly rent costs from private providers were £87 per week over the national average (almost 60% higher!). While London students are also entitled to more student loan, it nonetheless highlights the importance of shopping around different university locations and seeing what the rent prices are like around there.
NOTE: housing advertised as “student accommodation” often gives out rent contracts for around 40-46 weeks rather than year-round. This can lower annual costs but does also mean you have to go home for a few weeks a year. Utilities and bills can often also be included in rent agreements for students, but you should always check.
Another necessary expense; the average cost of groceries for students is around £100 per month. You might think this is an easy area to skimp on to save some cash, but here’s another suggestion; the average student pays £33 per month on takeaway. That’s roughly one maccies a week. If you can cut down on the kebabs, you can save plenty!
Whichever university you go to, you need to think about transport. Medical students often feel the need to drive, especially if they need to get to placements that are a fair way out from campus. Certainly, driving can save time and effort but is also likely to be an additional expense, especially for newly licensed undergraduates. Obviously, there’s the price of the car,but let’s assume you’ve been given Dad’s old banger as a birthday present. The average annual cost for insurance for a 20-year-old is around £800! That’s not including fuel and other expenses.
To offset costs, medical schools sometimes offer travel bursaries, but these rarely cover the full amount for drivers. Depending on how well-connected your medical school is, public transport may be a cheaper option. Some universities/hospital trusts offer carpool schemes (or you can just work it out among your mates!)
Tuition fees are the price of attending university. You will find that tuition fees are the largest single cost of medical school, and can by extension you can feel like the biggest headache. The situation is different depending on the type of student who applies, so look for your relevant category below.
For our purposes, we’ll cover the rules for English universities, as 25 out of the 33 UK medical schools are based in England. However, if you’re a Welsh, Northern Irish, or Scottish student looking to study in your home country, you may want to look here.
UK medicine undergraduates won’t pay straight away for tuition fees, which will cost £9250 per year (or less if you’re from Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales and are going to university in your home country). Instead, you can apply to the Student Loan Company (SLC) to receive a tuition loan to fund your medical degree for up to 4 years. You’ll pay this back once you start earning an income over £20k per year (which is as soon as you start as a junior doctor). Still, This is capped at 9% of whatever you make over the £20k threshold. That’ll be taken before you even see your paycheck, hence why some people think of it as a ‘graduate tax’.
In your final year/last two years of a 6-year course of medical school, the NHS actually pays for your tuition fee so no repayment is needed. However, there are implications for your maintenance loan, which we’ll talk about In our future article on funding yourself in medical school.
If you already have a degree and want to apply to medicine, the funding is a little trickier. There are two types of funding pathways; one is for people who applied to normal 5-year undergraduate medicine courses. Another option is the 4-year accelerated courses for postgraduates from biomedical backgrounds.
In the first year, you’ll have to pay a minimum of £3465 of tuition fees out of your own pocket. This is the only cash you will have to pay from your own pocket for tuition fees. A Student Finance England loan will cover the rest of the fee (£5785).
In the following years, the funding for the degree will come from NHS Student Bursaries, instead of SFE. The first £3715 of tuition fees are paid as a grant. To cover the rest of the money, you can apply for a tuition fee loan.
When applying to undergraduate medicine courses as a postgraduate, you’ll pay the full £9250 in tuition fees for 4 years. However, you will still be eligible for the SFE maintenance loan. the NHS bursary will cover your 5th-year fees, but you will get a reduced maintenance amount in the form of a grant.
The cost of medical school in the UK for international students is high and can be a barrier for many. As there is no fee subsidisation from the government, universities can charge international students significantly higher rates for medicine courses. The price varies between medical schools but as of 2021 fees across most medical schools vary between £30-45,000 per year. International students are also not eligible for SFE loans. Some countries like the USA or Australia offer loans to citizens who study abroad, so check your options at home. There may be scholarships or bursaries available at individual medical schools, but these can be competitive and may not cover the full loan amount.