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Intercalating as an International Medical Student

This blog post was originally published on the website for the Association of International Medics UK (AIM UK). Hope you enjoy!


Firstly, What Does It Mean to Intercalate?

In UK medical schools, intercalating means that you are taking time out of your medical degree to complete a qualification in a different subject. This can be a Bachelor's or Master's degree, and for me it is a PhD. PhDs are less common and there are fewer programmes available.


Intercalating is typically a year-long experience unless you’re doing a PhD which will be a minimum of 3 years. If you’re doing a Bachelor’s, you do the final year of a 3-year programme. In a 5-year medical degree, you can intercalate either after 2nd, 3rd, or 4th year depending on any previous degrees you might have. Most people intercalate after 3rd year e.g. me because doing it after 4th year means you return to medical school for final year which is very intense, whereas doing it after 2nd year impacts student finance payments for UK Home students.


The options you have for intercalated degrees are vast. Example subjects include Medical Sciences, Oncology, Surgical Design, Music, Management, and Medical Education. If your institution does not provide a course in the subject of your interest, you can also apply to intercalate at a different institution. This website (intercalate.co.uk) is a good start for anyone looking to research their options for intercalated degrees!


Note! Before deciding whether you want to intercalate, it is really important to consider why you want to intercalate. There are some very real financial implications to intercalating, even if you’re on a course that already includes an integrated degree. You will be paying international tuition fees for a longer time and your visa will cost more. If you are doing it just to gain points for future specialty applications, you might end up doing all the work without getting the points because the details on what counts towards these applications can change every application cycle.


My Experience

Taking myself as an example, my medical degree does not include an integrated degree. I decided to intercalate after 3rd year because I felt I would have a better knowledge base than my 2nd-year self and more time to adapt to being in Medicine again after intercalating.


I applied for both a PhD and Master’s. Each application required a CV and personal statement. I also had to interview for both programmes.


My PhD is fully funded so my tuition fees are covered but this will not be the case for most intercalators, whether they are international or not. I also had to apply to extend my visa and for that, there is an application fee along with the Immigration Health Surcharge to pay.


My Advice for Anyone Looking to Intercalate

Take your time to explore your options, and be realistic about what that will require of you whether this is for the application, your finances or your future career path. If you decide to intercalate, I hope you get on the programme of your choice and have a great time!


If you would like to hear more about intercalated PhDs, I will be writing more about that in the future. I can also be found on Twitter @jeanlingt and on LinkedIn!


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