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Should you intercalate?

Posted on 8th November 2017 by

Learning Resources
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An intercalated degree is an opportunity to learn more about a particular topic, to develop transferable skills and/or participate in a more in-depth research project than previously available as part of a medical degree. The number of students that choose to intercalate varies from university to university, however, with the increase in academic focus of most training programmes, more and more variety of intercalations are becoming available.

How it works

Most UK universities will offer the opportunity to do an intercalated degree towards the end of your medical degree. This is usually after the 3rd or 4th year, but there are exceptions. Some places, such as Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh, include an intercalated year into their standard medical programmes, making them a 6-year degree. An intercalation typically lasts one year.

What’s on offer?

In the UK, it is possible to intercalate in a BSc, MSc, MRes or MPhil programme. Other degrees are available; however these are the most common.

First, it is important to decide whether or not you would like to intercalate. This is an important decision and requires careful thought. Next, consider whether you would like to intercalate at your own university or whether you would like to go elsewhere. Things to think about include exploring different areas of the UK, varying opportunities in the different specialities and the selection of types of degrees on offer. It’s useful to explore university websites and contact programme co-ordinators early to find as much information out about how the course is assessed and what projects are available. Depending on the course, it may be possible to contact potential supervisors ahead of time, to express your interest and plan some research in advance – all of which can maximise the likelihood of success during the intercalation year.

You can search a wide variety of available intercalated degrees through the following link >> http://intercalate.hyms.ac.uk/


  • Gain an additional degree for only one year of study
  • Gain new transferable skills
  • Show commitment to a speciality you are interested in pursuing
  • Opportunity to gain presentations and publications
  • Opportunity to network with new people
  • Opportunity to live and explore a new area of the UK
  • Additional points for Foundation Programme applications


  • Additional costs (living expenses, tuition fees etc)
  • Additional time, meaning you finish later and may not graduate with all your peers
  • Potential to lose a lot of medical information that is crucial for finals as well as your job!

Other key points

It is true that an intercalated degree can give you more points towards your Foundation Programme application. Nevertheless, intercalating for this sole reason is not advised. The points that can be attained for the Foundation Programme application for additional degrees can be found below:

Table 1. Additional qualification points table for the Foundation Programme. Adapted from the UKFPO Handbook 2018.

Although an intercalation year can induce additional debts, the NHS will cover the cost of tuition fees for the 5th/6th year of medical school study. Moreover, the NHS provides a £1000 non-means tested grant, with further means-tested funds available. Scholarships and funding from research bodies can also support an intercalation year, however, these require application systems themselves. (this information was based on the application year 2017 and it may change in the future).

Contacting people who have intercalated in the past is useful to help you decide and get further advice, especially if you can find people who are intercalating at the university/degree you wish to pursue.


To clarify, an intercalated degree is an excellent opportunity to develop skills and can be beneficial to future career applications. However, the decision as to whether this is right for you should be a personal choice.

It is recommended that students should research the prospect of an intercalation and the opportunities available, whether they would be able to handle an additional year of study, and whether this will benefit their future intended career path.


Saul Crandon

Saul is an Internal Medicine Trainee at NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde. He also holds Honorary Clinical Lecturer status at the University of Glasgow as part of his role within the Glasgow Academic Training Environment (GATE). He has previously worked as a doctor in both the UK and Australia. He graduated from the University of Liverpool in 2018 after being awarded an intercalated Masters of Research degree (Distinction) from the University of Leeds in 2017. Saul is currently serving his fourth year on the committee for the Cochrane UK & Ireland Trainees Advisory Group. Before joining CUKI-TAG, he was a Students4BestEvidence Pioneer, producing a catalogue of articles and tutorials on research methodology. He has a strong interest in the education and promotion of evidence-based medicine. View more posts from Saul

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