Frequently Asked Questions
What's this website all about?
The aim of this site is to help medical, dental and vet students to find out what intercalated courses are available in the UK. We list the intercalated courses offered by institutions across Britain, in a format that makes it easy for you to compare them.
Who runs this site?
intercalate.co.uk is the brainchild of a bunch of students and staff at the Hull York Medical School. Having struggled to get all the course information they needed about the intercalated courses offered by various UK institutions, they realised that future students would benefit from having all this information in one place. Sarah Shore, a HYMS student who intercalated in 2007-2008, was instrumental in setting up the site, and Tom Solan did a lot of work on it in 2010.
The site is free to use because it's funded by the Hull York Medical School. We're happy to support the site because:
- We think intercalating is a great thing and we want to put our money where our mouth is;
- We think students need this kind of site and nobody else is providing it;
- We want to raise awareness of the range of intercalated programmes HYMS itself offers.
Although we support the site, we've been careful not to give our own courses preferential treatment. You'll find our courses in the database along with those of all our competitors.
Are all medical, dental and vet schools listed?
Very nearly -- only a very small number have declined to appear. The site also includes a few institutions which aren't medical, dental or vet schools, but which are happy to accept applications from medical, dental and vet students elsewhere for their intercalated degrees.
But not all of them have actual courses listed - this is because some don't allow external students to intercalate. For instance, Nottingham's intercalated year is integrated into its main course, so you couldn't arrive at Nottingham from another institution and join their intercalated year. If you use this site to search for courses at these institutions, you'll find a note explaining why there aren't any.
Are there any Master's courses listed?
Yes! As of summer 2010, we've added a large number of Master's-level courses (like MSc and MRes) to the database. All the courses we've added have been approved by the institutions for intercalating medical, dental and vet students.
Master's courses: handle with care!
Contrary to popular belief, Master’s programmes are not intercalated degree programmes in the same way that Bachelor’s degrees are. Master’s programmes tend to be pre-existing courses for which you must apply for an academic leave of absence. The applications procedure is usually an external process between the interested student and the department offering the Master’s course. Also, Master’s programme term dates are often incompatible with the medical programme term dates and this is something that you must check thoroughly before making an application.
Note also that you may not necessarily need a Bachelor’s already in order to study for a Master’s qualification, but you will generally need to have completed four years of your main medical, dental or vet qualification.
Why don't you add such-and-such a feature?
This site is pretty new, so it's also pretty simple. We wanted to get a solid, useable and useful site up and running before we thought about bells and whistles.
If there's a particular feature that you'd like to see, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll consider your idea. But for now, don't hold your breath.
What is this intercalating thing anyway?
'Intercalating' means taking a year out of your normal medical, dental or vet studies to study for an extra degree. This lengthens your course by a year, but means you end up with two degrees: your normal MB BS (or whatever) plus a BSc, BMedSci or something similar.
Most medical, dental and vet schools allow their students to spend their intercalated year at a different institution. That's why this site exists: so you can see what courses are offered by those institutions.
Why should I intercalate?
There are lots of good reasons to consider intercalating.
Medical, dental and vet courses are tough and focused. This is a good thing in many ways, and it's also unavoidable. But it probably also means that you get limited opportunity to focus on particular topics that interest you, or to find out about current thinking in cutting-edge areas of research.
The GMC's document 'Tomorrow’s Doctors' states that "factual information must be kept to the essential minimum that students need at this stage of medical education…learning opportunities must help students explore knowledge, and evaluate and integrate (bring together) evidence critically. The curriculum must motivate students and help them develop the skills for self-directed learning". In other words, your depth of knowledge as a medical student is less of a focus in your degree than your breadth of knowledge. But you must also be able to study autonomously and have the skills to critically appraise a wealth of evidence from a variety of sources.
Taking an intercalated degree can open up a whole new world of interest. You can choose to look at topics that are of interest in far greater depth than your regular curriculum would allow. Your research project will provide you with rigorous training in research methods, not to mention the chance to work with international field experts at leading research institutions. You may get the chance to publish your findings, and to attend scientific meetings and conferences.
Intercalated degree programmes also enhance transferable skills associated with researching literature, critical scientific thinking and evaluating evidence. These skills will give you an edge in the later years of your course and throughout your career, and if you want to do further research as a postgraduate they will be absolutely invaluable.
Then there's the career aspect. More people are studying for medical, dental and vet degrees. The market as a postgraduate is getting more and more competitive. So it's crucial that you make the most of opportunities as an undergraduate to enhance your CV - especially if you're considering a career in a competitive area such as surgery, academic medicine or research.
You should also bear in mind that intercalated degrees are compulsory for medics at some institutions, including Oxford, Cambridge and Nottingham. If you don't take an intercalated programme yourself, you are in essence less-well qualified than these graduates, and this might be a disadvantage.
So should everyone intercalate?
Probably not. Of course we hope you'll consider it seriously. But you shouldn't do an intercalated degree if you're not genuinely interested in spending a year researching or studying in your chosen field. A poor overall result may actually be detrimental to your career.
What should I consider when looking for a course?
Lots of things. As a starter, find out:
- where you will be studying;
- How the course will be assessed;
- Whether there are any prerequisites;
- What qualification you'll end up with.
Some of this information is on intercalate.co.uk. Some is on the institution websites, linked from this site. But some you will have to find out for yourself!
Your intercalated programme will be significantly different from your academic studies so far - more intellectually challenging, probably more work-intensive. after all, you're doing a whole Bachelor's degree in a year! You'll be studying in depth and autonomously, analysing research literature, scientific methods, techniques and current thinking in your selected area of study. So for crying out loud, choose something that interests you!
Consider your research interests and your supervisor. You'll be working in-depth on this topic for many months and working closely with your supervisor, so a good working relationship will be crucial. Consider if you wish to undertake a laboratory-based project or a literature-based project, and investigate what will be expected of you for both types of study. It is ultimately your supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that ethical approval has been sought if necessary but you may wish to clarify if this is in place.
Having said that, if you're interested in further research after graduation, your chosen intercalated course doesn't necessarily have to be in the same field. The transferable skills you learn will be helpful no matter what you end up doing.
Depending on your personal circumstances, the location of institution offering the degree programme may be important - use this site to search by location or region as well as by course.
When assessing the course workload, remember that 1 credit approximately equates to 10 hours worth of work. Thus a 10 credit module roughly entails 100 hours’ work, and a 40 credit research project therefore comprises around 400 hours’ work.
Follow the correct procedures when you apply to intercalate, both in line with your home institution and the institution in which you hope to study. Make a note of all deadlines and stick to them. Find out when the interview dates are, and be available.
It's also worth checking if you are able to withdraw your application once you've been offered a place. Some institutions consider this to be binding and can be quite awkward if you change your mind.
It may be worth asking a suitable member of staff for a supportive reference, but you are advised to ask their permission and give adequate time for this to be produced. It may be useful to supply your referee with accurate information such as your personal circumstances, your financial situation and your academic and personal record as well as information on your proposed intercalated programme to enhance your application.
Find out about the welfare network that you will have access to while you're intercalating. Inevitably some students will experience unforeseen difficulties whilst they undertake their intercalated year, and this can be made worse by the need to move house or city, change your style of study or live away from home.
OK, I've found a course that interests me. Now what?
If you want to intercalate, the onus is on you to sort it. We've provided web links to the institutions offering the courses, as well as contact details for the most relevant member of staff for that course. Use these details to follow up the courses that interest you. And don't forget to talk to your tutors at your home institution to see what arrangements you need to make.
Also, JuniorDr.com has an interesting feature: a discussion board on intercalated degrees which features reviews from students that have already taken intercalated courses. But you should remember that these are subjective reviews, so they will tend to be skewed towards extreme viewpoints, both good and bad. As always, the people who are most likely to write reviews like these are those who came away from the courses either excited or disappointed. Read them by all means, but it's up to you to decide how much of a pinch of salt they deserve.
What about funding?
The funding situation is quite complicated, but an excellent summary is available at http://www.money4medstudents.org/finding-money.