In this article we will take a close look at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland as a case study for those seeking to earn their Medical Degree abroad. Queen’s has certain advantages for the American student. First is the language. If the student is a unilingual English speaker, he or she will instantly feel at home. It may however be a wise idea to alter the settings on one’s computer to spell-check according to UK English as there are minor variations in spelling e.g. ‘colour’ instead of ‘color.’ Culturally too, as Belfast straddles the slight divide between Irish and British cultures, even an American student will likely quckly be comfortable with familiar television, movie and music stars. These are important considerations.
According to a study by Mercer.com promoted by Queen’s, Belfast is both the safest city in the UK as well as the one with the lowest cost of living. As well, with an average age of 27, Northern Ireland has one of the youngest populations in Europe. The student will feel safe, at ease, and can find a flat at a reasonable price if he or she wishes to live off-campus. Should the student wish to stay in residence, depending on the length of contract, payments can be made either monthly or in three installments. Depending on the actual residence, fees for a 38 week term range between £2700 and £3900, or roughly $4500 – 6500.
In 2013-2014 there are 1,450 international students drawn from 80 countries. This makes for approximately 10% of the over-all student population of 16,000 with 13,400 of those being undergraduates, 1,600 Masters and 1,000 research students. With 3,500 staff members, this creates a favourable ratio of staff to students of nearly 1:4.
Regarding standards for entry, the following are the requirements for an American student entering the undergraduate Medicine program. The student must have an American High School Diploma with a minimum GPA of 3.5 on a scale of 4.0 plus four Advanced Placement (AP) Tests with scores of 5,5 (Chemistry and Biology), 5,4. SAT subject or ACT scores may be acceptable in lieu of APs. In addition, to fulfill the subject requirements for the degree program, GCSE Mathematics and Physics (or equivalent) are required, if not offered beyond this level and a Grade B in Biology/Human Biology to at least AS (H1) level is also necessary. All applicants must also have or be undertaking a recognized English Language qualification such as IELTS. Normally an overall score of 7.5 in IELTS, with a minimum band score of 7.0 in the Speaking and Listening modules is required. Queen’s considers a TOEFL internet based score of 105 or the Cambridge English Language syllabus (UCLES) 1119 with a minimum grade of A2 as an equivalent English Language qualification.
Secondly, the applicant must write and submit a personal statement. This must include content in the following areas: Motivation, Communication, Positions of Responsibility, Leadership, Voluntary Work, Skills (e.g. First aid training) and Academic references.
It is important to note that US Federal Student Loans are not available to students enrolled in the Medicine, Nursing or Veterinarian programs. The actual tuition rate varies according to the student’s first year of entry. An American student entering in the 2012-2013 school year paid £27,860 for the clinical elements of the medical course; this rose to £28,720 for those entering in 2013-2014.