Edinburgh Medical School

What you will study

The Medicine (MBChB) degree simply explained.

The Medicine (MBChB) degree programme is designed to prepare you for the contemporary challenges of medical practice.

Our graduates are caring, competent and confident - and able to function at the highest level in academic, hospital or community settings.  You will leave Edinburgh Medical School prepared for complex and uncertain situations, equipped for ongoing personal development, and trained for high professional achievement and leadership.


The curriculum

Video: MBChB Open Day 22: the curriculum
Professor David Kluth, Dean of Undergraduate Medicine, outlines the MBChB curriculum.

Professor David Kluth, Dean of Undergraduate Medicine, outlines the MBChB curriculum.


Years 1 and 2 - early years

In your first two years, you will study the biomedical and clinical sciences such as anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, pathology and micro-biology.

You will learn practical clinical skills such as resuscitation and interviewing patients, developing your clinical reasoning and decision-making skills. These skills will be advanced through workshops, community projects, GP-based teaching and student-selected components or projects on a range of topics from the clinical to the non-medical.

The course also explores social and ethical aspects of medicine, covering topics such as how patients  experience illness,  health inequalities and public health -  covering many of the key ethical dilemmas doctors face in medicine. 

The curriculum for Years 1 and 2 was updated in 2020, bringing in new material to reflect changes in knowledge and understanding in medicine and sociology.


Year 3  - honours year

In Year 3, you’ll take on a whole new challenge, beginning an academic year of full-time, research-based study, leading to a Bachelor of Medical Sciences Honours degree.

This means, upon graduation, you will receive both a MBChB and your research-based BMedSci (Hons) degree.

Also known as an “intercalated” degree, there are 25 different programmes on offer, including biochemistry, neuroscience, pharmacology, psychology, sports science medicine, zoology and many more. 

List of BMedSci programmes

In addition to the above, for those students who are particularly interested in pursuing an academic career, with research as a significant part of their undergraduate training, there is an opportunity for a small number of talented students to undertake an intercalated PhD for those interested in early training in research as well as clinical medicine. 

The programme is joint between Edinburgh and Glasgow.  More information on this is provided below.

PhD opportunities for MBChB students


Years 4, 5 and 6 - clinical years

In Year 4, you will study all aspects of clinical medicine and healthcare, building up your general medical knowledge and experience. You will also develop your practical experience through placements in hospitals and general practices across south and central Scotland. 

In Year 5, you will explore a number of speciality areas, including specialty areas, including obstetrics and gynaecology, child life and health, and psychiatry.   As well as further clinical placements, you will complete an individual research project in partnership with a clinical tutor. 

In your final year, you will apply your learning from previous years, with an emphasis on developing practical skills and knowledge of general and acute medicine,  emergency medicine, surgery, anaesthetics and intensive care. You will have the opportunity to assist a junior doctor and, under supervision, undertake some of the duties of a Foundation Year 1 doctor.


Elective - study abroad

After your final exams, there is also a six week ‘elective’ period, where you will have the opportunity to study outside the UK. Students are normally attached to a hospital.  

Popular destinations are Africa (Ghana, Ethiopia, South Africa), Australia, the Caribbean, India, Samoa, the United States and occasionally South America.


Undergraduate degree finder: the programme in more detail


Modules and themes

The MBChB programme is composed of core and option courses and is built around 12 major outcome themes:


Biomedical sciences Psychological aspects of medicine Social sciences and public health
Evidence-based medicine and research The consultation Presentation, diagnosis and management
Clinical communication Emergency care, clinical and resuscitation skills Clinical pharmacology and therapeutics
Medical informatics Legal and professional responsibilities Personal professional development

By the end of your degree, you will be competent in a number of roles: as a scholar and scientist, as a practitioner, and as a medical professional. 


Related links

Degree finder - the MBChB programme in more detail

Intercalated honours programme for external applicants

Learning and Teaching strategy (PDF)

BMedSci in a nutshell - videos about the Year 3 intercalated degree programme