Following on from an earlier post about studying ‘Medicine with a Foundation Year’, this post focuses on studying medicine in another country; specifically a country within the European Union. Having to sit entrance exams before being allowed to practice medicine in the UK is a big fear among aspiring medical students who want to study abroad. This is a common misconception among lots of students who want to pursue medicine but hesitate to apply in the UK due to low grades.
I am going to focus on Bulgaria in this post because that seems to be the most popular choice among aspiring medical students. Below, I have talked about some of the most common universities that young people from the UK choose to go to. Click here for more details from the General Medical Council on other countries you can consider applying to regarding registration with a license to practice.
All of the courses lasts 6 years and by the end of it you are awarded a MD (Doctor of medicine) whereas in the UK you are awarded a MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery). They are both essentially the same except that an MD is normally awarded following additional training in research. Most of the universities below provide the opportunity to study abroad with the Erasmus programme in other European countries but not including the UK.
Once you get your degree, you will need to provide a diploma of higher education for the degree of educational qualification of “Master in Medicine” and the professional qualification of “Master physician” from the university that you studied in. The courses provided by the following universities are GMC accredited and a Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test is not required prior to practising in the UK.
Sofia Medical University: Student loans are not accepted at Sofia Medical University; you can finance your studies by finding a part-time job. The university should help you with finding a job. Scholarships are available – high grades, extracurricular activities, volunteering etc… are taken into consideration when examining applications for scholarships
Medical University of Varna: an entrance exam consisting of Biology and Chemistry must be taken which costs €200. If you fail the exam/get a low pass, you have the opportunity to resit the exam at the next available date. Learning Bulgarian is compulsory in the first three years of the course after which you start your clinical years. In the last semester, students gather practical knowledge in a hospital close to the university. Scholarships are offered for students and applications for student loans are also allowed (these must be submitted to a bank rather than the university itself)
Plovdiv Medical University: an admission test in English, Biology and Chemistry must be sat and this can be done in London. In order to fund your studies, you can apply for the Special Achievements Scholarships programme and you are also allowed to apply for a student loan.
Pleven Medical University: the academic year starts in February so you have a bit more time to sort out your application. Tuition fees are lower than the others at €7000. An admission test in Biology and Chemistry was introduced in 2017. Scholarships are available and you are allowed to apply for a student loan.
At most universities, it is required that you should get >62% which translates to Cs in Biology and Chemistry. However due to more people being aware of this pathway into medicine, the entry requirements may have gone up! It is worth emailing the universities directly to find out more details regarding this.
For more information regarding studying medicine in Bulgaria, click here for more details.
After talking to some students who are currently studying medicine in Bulgaria, I have outlined below some of the pros and cons of choosing this pathway.
- Cheaper tuition fees (€8000 unless otherwise specified above)
- Cheaper cost of living and accommodation
- Low entry requirements
- The excitement of living completely independently in a different country
- You will be studying an extremely demanding course in a different country and away from your family/friends
- Feeling homesick and isolated
- Due to Brexit, things are likely to change in the education system in the next few years.
- Consultations would be difficult as you don’t speak the native language and there are more chances of miscommunication in your placements between yourself and the patients.
- Juggling medicine with learning a language can be difficult
When I was applying to medical school, I briefly looked at opportunities to study in Bulgaria but I did not think it would work for me personally. A key part of medical education involves developing within the health system you will be working in and learning its ethos which are not yet present in those who have trained outside the UK. As someone who understands the privilege of being under the best healthcare system in the world, I wanted to study medicine developing my knowledge of the NHS. So if you are considering medicine abroad, I suggest you research your socks off! Think about all the things you would be giving up to go abroad to study and balance that with what you believe would make you a great doctor.