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Medicine at Oxford Watch

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    I'm a prospective medical student, and am currently strongly considering applying to Oxford to study Medicine. However, I have a few misgivings, and would like some opinions from other peoples' experiences. My main concerns are these:

    That the medical course does not include practical lessons at the beginning - is it not frustrating to not be able to experience patient contact?

    The social life on Campus (I believe this is a concern of many people, simply because of the prestigious reputation)

    The cost of living and the pressures placed on grades by being surrounded with highly academic students.
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    Hi.

    I graduated from the course two years ago.

    1) This is true and a potential source of frustration. Not so much early on when you're being hit with loads of new stimuli anyway (labs, dissection, tutorials, the whole university experience...) but later on in second and third year yes. However, I have two things for you to consider:
    a) most people who choose to go to Oxford specifically don't want early patient contact. This is because they (and I) felt that being put in front of a patient and asked to take a history when you haven't even learned any medicine yet sounded pointless and potentially just embarrassing. Most Oxford students want a more gradual transition from school - from learning science to learning medicine to practising medicine, rather than just being chucked in the deep end unprepared.
    b) The difference with other unis is often overstated. Even the ones who have 'early clinical contact' at the very top of their course description, actually mean you shadow a doctor for usually a single afternoon per week. Sometimes even once per fortnight. The rest of the week is spent doing actual learning, like other universities. I have seen such courses described as a 'gimmick' by students doing them multiple times. If you can get to some open days this would of course allow you to talk to current student about what it actually involved (of course all students are likely to be biased toward their own uni, its still a good source of 'on the ground' knowledge).
    Oxford actually does have some early patient contact - 5 afternoons spread over 2 years. Not much at all, but actually not necessarily massively different to even the 'early clinical contact' unis.

    2) It is of course very hard work. Its a step up from A-levels and especially during exam time it will be very stressful. However, the differences are commonly overstated. Students are still human. More than that: they're young people wanting to have a good time, and I found Oxford an extremely fun place to be. You work hard, then make the most of your free time. The college system, and the huge provision the college makes in terms of societies and sports teams provide you with loads of unique opportunities and let you try loads of new things. If you want to be objective about it: surveys put the routine workload at around 42 hours per week - hard but not that hard, and honestly I was way under that. Oxford medicine has had the highest student satisfaction of any med school for the last 9 years in a row. Oxford has among the very lowest drop out rates in the country. Its not a student body showing much evidence of suffering. Or at least, not more than other unis.

    3) Its an expensive place, but its also a rich university. Oxford subsidises many aspects of life. The most significant way is not having you pay for accommodation outside of term time. For undergrad this will slash prices - from around £3250 for a year. Perhaps some northern unis can compete with that, but in the South that is very cheap. The moving is annoying but you pack light and get used to it. Most college now offer at least 3 years accommodation under the same terms. Furthermore, because Oxford is so small you will not incur any transport costs (except perhaps the cost of a bike, if you want one) nor will you ever need to spend a penny on books - the libraries provide enough copies.
    Don't look at the uni's own estimate for Oxford living costs. It is aimed at rich internationals (who have to guarantee they have enough money to live in Oxford) and it is completely unrealistic.

    4) You are surrounded by many astoundingly talented students yes. You can choose to view this as 'competition' and 'pressure', or you can do as i did and admire their abilities but actually focus on what I need to do. If you are desperate to get a 1st/distinction then you will have your work cut out that is true. If you're happy with a safe pass you can have a great time among some inspiring people. The people I met at Oxford were undoubtedly the best bit about my experience there.
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    (Original post by nexttime)
    If you want to be objective about it: surveys put the routine workload at around 42 hours per week - hard but not that hard,
    i.e. quite a bit less that you will probably be doing throughout most of your working career...

    Thank you for such a positive and balanced post. Your (non-medical) sentiments echo precisely my experience of NatSci at Cambridge.
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    Thank you - that was a helpful insight.
 
 
 
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