A (very) common question asked on TSR is "Which medical school is the best?" or "Which medical school is the most prestigious?" and this article will try and go someway into answering those questions and dispelling some common myths. The short answer is that there is no best medical school. Medicine is different to the vast majority of other university courses in that there is no 'best' or 'highest ranked' institution to study at. There are multiple reasons for this, which will be discussed further in the article, but they can be summed up with: it doesn't matter where you graduate as it makes no difference to your competence or your job prospects.
The self-perptuating notion that some medical schools are 'more respected' than others has it's origins in the fact that other university courses work like this. For example, studying a science subject at a 'prestigious' institution will make it easier to find a job as the degree you earn is more respected. This same logic doesn't work for medicine as unlike other subjects, a medical degree is highly respected no matter where it was awarded from.
When choosing medical schools to apply to, it is strongly advised to research the courses intensively to ensure that they'd suit your style of learning. There are a lot of factors you should bear in mind when picking a medical school, some of which are listed on the Where should I apply? page on this wiki. Do not apply to medical schools which you think are "the best" or "more prestigious". Or if you do, don't be surprised when you become disillusioned with a course and university which may not suit you.
Why is there no best medical school?
GMC Quality Assurance Process
Unlike other degrees where students receive 'honors' (a form of grade) based on their performance throughout the degree, medical degrees are simply pass/fail. This is because doctors require a minimum level of competence in all subjects in order to be considered safe to practice. Ultimately students are either considered good enough to be doctors or not. The result of this system is an extremely high minimal standard across each medical school in the UK. Any school that did not meet this strict standard could theoretically have its license to award medical degrees suspended or even withdrawn.
When applying for foundation jobs after medical school junior doctors are essentially mathematically allocated to jobs based on a combination of factors including their academic position within their year at medical school and their response to a series of non-academic situational judgement tests. The institution from which they graduated is not factored into this process and is not known by their potential employers at any point during the application. This is partly because there is no surplus supply or market of doctors and so almost every doctor must be allocated to a job in order to have sufficient nationwide coverage. The effect of medical school choice on career stages after foundation jobs, where alma mater is not blinded, is not known but assumed to be minimal as much more significant factors come into play. For example: extra qualifications, interest in the specialty, research experience and publications, postgraduate qualifications, etc. Medical schools have been found in numerous studies to differ in their pass rates for postgraduate exams (http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/6/5). Also, it could be argued that getting research and publication opportunities as a medical student varies between schools.
It may be worth noting that employment prospects abroad may be influenced by the medical school from which you graduate.
What Makes a Good Doctor?
Pinning down which qualities make the 'ideal' doctor (if indeed such a thing exists) is extremely difficult. Medicine contains both academic and vocational components and it is important to remember that in order to be an effective doctor students must be good at both. Traditionally some universities are seen as more academic than others and this is sometimes misinterpreted by applicants as 'prestige'. However being more academic does not necessarily mean being a better doctor, and indeed much evidence (including Tomorrows Doctors) supports the view that students require both a good academic grounding and a strong set of communication and practical skills. It helps if doctors are not only knowledgeable but also empathic and have a kind/welcoming nature. This doesn't mean being a saint but it does mean being patient , as it were, and having a caring nature. Some people believe that the quality of the academic and vocational teaching components will tend to balance each other out, with schools thought to be very academic lagging behind in vocational experience and vice versa, meaning that the overall quality of the doctor produced will be roughly the same at all schools. Ultimately the intrinsic challenge of not knowing what makes the ideal doctor makes it impossible to suggest which is the best medical school.
How you learn?
Each and every medical course is different, with varied teaching methods. How you learn and whether the teaching of the course suits the way you learn is far more important.