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Studying medicine abroad has been a popular choice for Irish students for some time, and the majority study within Europe. Some go abroad to avoid the competitive entry in Ireland, some to access an institution of particularly good reputation, and others simply to move further away from home and claim their independence.

One key thing to remember is that most medical professions are regulated, which means that you have to have your qualification recognised by an Irish authority before you can practice in Ireland. Graduates from European Universities are generally recognised by regulatory bodies in Ireland but make sure to explore this in detail. See [Link to ‘Important considerations’] for more details.

Where do people go to study medicine abroad?

Note: In the US, you can only study Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary or Law at postgraduate level.

Many Irish students study medicine in Central and Eastern Europe, including Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria. Fees in these countries are generally higher than in Western Europe and are usually between €8000 and €12000 a year.

Most of the medicine, dentistry and veterinary science programmes in Central and Eastern Europe operate on the same basis, with entrance examinations based on competency in biology and chemistry. These are usually held in Ireland, in April (or for late applicants, in July or August). Students should check with the relevant university, or their Irish representative. Where there is an earlier exam, it is recommended to attend the first sitting.

Medical programmes in Western Europe seem to increase in popularity with Irish students. For example, there are currently well over 100 Irish students studying on the Physiotherapy programmes in the Netherlands. And, there are now eleven public universities in Italy offering degrees in medicine through English that are open to all EU students. Italian universities use the International Medical Admissions Test (IMAT), a 100-minute, subject-specific admissions test for applicants to medicine and surgery courses. The test is through English and consists of verbal reasoning and science subjects. Medical School fees in Italy are rather low compared to other Western European countries and are linked to family income. The average Irish student pay approx. €1500 per year.

As most courses in medicine and healthcare require a practical period, you need to know what the requirements are for the courses you consider. For example, Irish students on Italian medical programmes usually take their intern year back in Ireland, whereas most (but not all) central and eastern European graduates, complete their intern year as part of their studies.

If you are thinking about studying Medicine in the UK, note that the deadline to apply is October 15, through UCAS (see Study in the UK).

There are a number of entrance exams for entry to medicine in the UK, including UKCAT and HPAT UK (similar to the HPAT in Ireland). UKCAT is the preferred test for large number of colleges including Queen's University, Belfast (QUB). UKCAT registration opens in the first week of May closes sometime in October each year. The test is held at locations all over Ireland and students need to register for UKCAT at www.ukcat.ac.uk. Applicants are advised to register early and nominate their preferred centre, as some locations fill-up faster than others. It is useful to get some practice for the test before sitting the assessment and sample papers are available on the UKCAT website.

The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is a subject-specific admissions test for applicants to medicine, veterinary medicine and similar courses at universities. The BMAT is a 2-hour, pen-and-paper test divided into three sections. It does not require a lot of extra study as it is a test of skills and knowledge that learners are expected to have already.

Some of the UK Colleges which require students to sit BMAT are University of Cambridge, University of Oxford and the Royal Veterinary College. There are also colleges in the Netherlands, Spain, Russia, Romania, Poland, Croatia and Hungary, as well as a large number of universities in Asia, which accept the BMAT. Full details are available on the BMAT website.

Nursing

There are now an increasing number of nursing programmes through English in the EU, particularly in Italy and Finland. However, some programmes, although through English, have specific language requirements as students need to be able to interact with patients in the local language.

In Ireland, many students who want to do Nursing have long opted to go to the UK. However, since the 2015 decision by the UK government to end NHS funding for nursing and paramedical degrees (which previously covered the tuition fees) the number of Irish students studying nursing degrees in the UK have decreased somewhat. However, due to English being the official language and nursing having strong practical elements, UK will probably remain popular amongst Irish students.

Individual college websites where nursing training is offered provide comprehensive information for both students and parents. The following UK universities’ Nursing Faculties websites will give you information about course details, entry requirements and open day information etc.:

For more information about studying nursing in the UK, Study in the UK provides free independent advice and support to international students.

Student recruitment companies

There are numerous private companies which focus on recruiting international medical students to specific universities in different parts of the world. Be aware that these companies are student recruiters which generally operate on commission and are thereby not impartial or independent. In other words, you still need to research your options. In contrast, EUNICAS is an Irish based independent application support service for students in Ireland interested in studying in Europe.

University rankings by subject for Medicine (QS ranking, 2019):

  1. Harvard University, US
  2. University of Oxford, UK
  3. University of Cambridge, UK
  4. Stanford University, US
  5. John Hopkins University, US
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