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The Black Lens: Oxford University Medical School

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

I still find it hard to believe that I managed to get a place to study Medicine at the University of Oxford – with it being the number one university in the world for that subject!

Oxford is a beautiful city and there is always something to do. I don’t think I could ever get bored of this place.

I’ve definitely been pushed academically (more so than I could have imagined) but I guess that’s what is needed to make a good doctor. It’s been weird spending what should have been my second year mostly online, but I guess some aspects of remote learning have been fun (i.e. not needing to wake up for 9AM lectures!).

Course structure

The Medicine course at Oxford follows a very traditional pathway. The degree is six years long, with the first three years being pre-clinical and the last three years being clinical. This means that the first half of the degree is spent going over the science behind the degree, and gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation for the body, before being taught and practising clinical skills. This structure is great for those who don’t necessarily want to get straight into the action, and would rather take the time to understand the theory first. I just find it helps translate better, in terms of knowing how to get to a potential diagnosis if you understand how and why things may have gone wrong.

Your first two years are spent with your whole year doing the same lectures and practical work. This is quite nice as you get to meet with people from other colleges. Third year is focused on research projects. You get some choice on how you want to spend that year by choosing specific topics which you would like to learn in more detail. The clinical years are spent doing, I guess, clinical stuff (I’m only in my second year so my guess is as good as yours).

During pre-clinical years, you don’t get as much patient contact compared to other universities. However, at Oxford, there is an opportunity to be overseen by a GP tutor who can introduce you to patients, with whom you can have conversations with about their medical condition and their lives. I think it’s a good start to getting patient contact without being intimidated from the get-go.

Things to do

There are societies for almost anything you can think of – both at college and university level. This means that there is a vast number of events and committees to be a part of, if you’re looking for some fun and some responsibility!

As a fresher, I tried to be really involved with The Medical Society (MedSoc). This is because they helped to integrate the medics of our year so that we could get to know people from different colleges, a lot better than just sitting next to them in a lecture.

Other societies also help to introduce you to people from other colleges - through sports, music, drama etc. Got a love for rowing? There are rowing clubs you can be a part of. Do you really love cheese and wine? Well, there’s a society for that too. There’s just so much choice when it comes to things to do, so definitely keep an open mind! The African and Caribbean Society (ACS) is my home away from home. The people are amazing and do a great job of helping you settle into university, find support networks and just generally have a good time! Definitely check them out because they are very supportive from start to finish.


  • Your degree is temporary, memories are forever. By this I mean, still focus on your academics and work where necessary, but don’t miss out on opportunities with your friends. There is time to catch up on things during the term or even during the vacation. So, I would say find a way to manage your workload and schedule, so that you aren’t always saying ‘no’ to events with friends.

  • If you want to keep eating food from home (i.e. seasoned food), be prepared to walk or cycle far. You’re not going to get your plantain or Maggi seasoning from Tesco’s and the nearest place you can get those items is a good thirty/forty minute walk from the city centre. The same goes for any hair products. So, I would recommend finding a decent online retailer or just bulk-buying before you leave home.

  • Remember, your tutors are there to support you so don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Studying at Oxford will definitely allow you to make many fond memories. Enjoy it, and find that balance between working hard and playing hard to get the most out of it!

Tolu Duckworth


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