How to Choose an Irish Medical School

How to Choose an Irish Medical School

5 months ago by Chris

In Ireland there are five medical schools that you can apply to as an undergraduate student: 

  • University College Dublin (UCD)
  • Trinity College Dublin (TCD)
  • Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI)
  • University College Cork (UCC)
  • National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG)


As there are 10 spaces on your CAO application you can apply for all Irish medical schools and still have space for other courses if you do not obtain enough points for entry to medicine. Thus, you do not need to decide which medical schools to apply to, but you do need to decide how to order these courses. 

 If you get offered a place in medicine in the first course on your list, you cannot reject it and get offered a place on a course lower on your list. Therefore, your CAO rankings should be a true reflection of your preferences to attend each university. 

 It can be difficult to decide which medical schools to preference highly, as there are a lot of factors to take into account. All universities offering medicine in Ireland provide high quality education. Many students choose their medical schools based on the perceived ‘prestigiousness’ of the university or university rankings. However, these are far less important to consider. 

 This blog describes the various factors you should consider when deciding which medical school is for you, in order of importance. 


1. Prerequisite subjects

The universities offering medicine each have different prerequisite subjects. For example, UCC and TCD require Leaving Certificate Chemistry for entry. Our blog outlines the prerequisite subjects for each medical course. If you are not studying the required prerequisite subjects, you will not be eligible to apply for medicine at that particular university. Thus, considering which subjects you are studying for the Leaving Certificate is the first step in deciding which medical courses to place on your CAO application. 


2. Duration of the course

TCD and UCC offer only 5 year courses, while UCD only offers a 6 year course. NUIG and RCSI offer both 5 year and 6 year courses. The longer courses offer a year of general science (called a premed year) in advance of first year medicine. If you did not study many science subjects for the Leaving Certificate, this extra year gives you a chance to gain a basis in biology and chemistry while also having the advantage of a less intense first year of university. However, a 5 year course will allow you to graduate and start working as a doctor sooner, which has several advantages. Read more about this in our blog on whether to choose a course with a premed year:


3. Distance from home

You need to decide whether you want to live at home or if not, how far you are willing to be from home. Do you want to study within an hour of your home? Or do you prefer being many miles away? After finishing secondary school, you might feel like you want to be as far away from home as possible but sometimes studying medicine can be stressful, and all you want to do is get home for the weekend. You may want to have your family and friends nearby to support you. Alternatively, it can be nice to move away from home and explore somewhere new, especially if you do not want to accidentally bump into your parents!


4. Location and environment

The location of the university and environment can also be important: do you want to study in Dublin or a slightly smaller city such as Galway? This can be difficult to decide, so make sure you visit the city in which the university is located to get a feel for it. 


5. Type of university and size

You can look at the type of campus and size of the university to determine which course is best for you. UCD is the largest university in Ireland with approximately 20,000 undergraduate students, while RCSI is the smallest university that offers medicine with approximately 4000 undergraduate students. RCSI has lots of international students and focuses entirely on the health sciences. Some universities have a very large campus, while some have a smaller campus. Talking to current students and attending open days will give you a good idea of which university environment is best for you. 


6. Cost of living

Going to university can be expensive. University fees and rent are the biggest expenses for university students. University fees for EU students will be the same across all the universities, so the cost of living in the city can be an important factor when deciding between universities. Some students may be eligible for a SUSI grant but this depends on your household income. Therefore, you should look at the cost of living in the different cities when deciding where to apply for medicine.


7. University life

If you have a passion or interest in a particular activity (for example, sporting or music), you can do some research into your preferred universities to see if you will be able to continue your activity while in medical school. You can consider factors such as sporting facilities, clubs and societies. Remember, however, that you will only be on campus for the first couple of years, after which you will be based in hospitals.


8. Option to intercalate

During your medicine degree you have the option to intercalate. This is where you take a year out to study another degree, either a masters or bachelors. This will extend the year of your degree by one year but can be a good opportunity to gain some research experience or study another subject during your degree. If this is something you would like to pursue, investigating the options can help you choose which university is best for you. 


9. The teaching style

Finding a teaching style that works for you can help you learn more easily, work to the best of your ability and make the process of learning as enjoyable as possible. Note that the style of teaching is usually only important in the pre-clinical years (first 2-3 years), as teaching in clinical years is placement and lecture based in hospitals and clinics. In Ireland, most universities offer a combination of problem based Learning, lectures and practicals. As there are not major differences in teaching style across the universities, you should not place major emphasis on this factor when choosing your preferred medical school. However, reading the prospectus of each university will help you to determine which university offers the best teaching method for you. 


10. Teaching hospitals

Each university offering medicine is affiliated with specific hospitals where you will undertake the majority of your clinical placements. This is most relevant if you have decided that you want to study in Dublin, as the three universities offering medicine (UCD, TCD and RCSI) are each affiliated with different hospitals. You may wish to look at the hospitals that each university is partnered with when making your decision as to where you wish to study. 


11. Opinions of senior students

Many people base their decisions on where to study on opinions from students who are senior to them. While this may be helpful, it is also important to keep in mind that this is not a representative sample of students, and that what appeals to one person may not appeal to you. Choosing a university is a personal decision, and you need to do what is right for you. Therefore, while seeking the opinion of senior students is useful, you should avoid being unduly swayed by their opinions.


12.Student satisfaction ratings

Student satisfaction ratings can be a useful consideration. Do students, while they are at the university, feel supported? Does the course offer what they want in terms of their learning? Are they overall satisfied with the course? You may wish to do some research in this area when deciding on your preferred university.


13. University rankings

Universities love to promote their rankings, however, for medicine, the ranking of the university makes no difference to your prospects after university. Furthermore, rankings are based on factors which are largely irrelevant to your experience at medical school, such as research output. In addition, often the difference in score between the top and bottom ranked medical school is very small. Therefore, despite what universities may say, you should not place too much importance on this factor when deciding where to study.


To ensure you make the right decision, you should be organised. Make sure you have open days scheduled in your calendar, research the respective medical school’s website and contact the admissions officer of each medical course for more information. You could even create a pros and cons list for each university that you are considering.

It can all seem like a lot deciding which medical school to go to. But remember, wherever you go to medical school in Ireland, you will come out with a high quality medical degree and become an Irish Medical Council registered doctor. The most important thing when deciding where to study is to do what is right for you! All the best with your decision. 



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