Spain has a lot to offer aspiring medical or dental students. Entry requirements tend to be slightly lower than they are in the UK, and it usually costs less to live there. Yet that doesn’t mean you’ll receive a poorer education. Spain offers advanced teaching facilities in modern universities, courses taught in English, and the chance to experience Spanish culture first-hand.
The latter is possibly one of the principal draws for students who choose to study in Spain. Throw in around 1,000 hours more sunshine on average each year than London manages, and it’s easy to understand the appeal of a European education.
Students can apply to study at a Spanish university at the same time as preparing their UK applications; many (but by no means all) choose a European institution as a back-up option should they miss out on their grades at home. It’s always helpful to attend an open day if possible before applying, says Samir Majithia, who will be taking a place at Cardenal Herrera in September. “Having met with current students at the university, some from the UK, I was convinced they were happy with the course and lifestyle in Valencia.”
Applications can be made directly to the universities in question: for dentistry at Cardenal Herrera, for example, students fill in an application form and attend an interview; medical students must also sit an entrance exam. Entry grades are currently set at three Bs at A-level for both courses; two of those must be in science subjects.
Although these grades are lower than straight A grades which most universities in the UK ask for, competition for places is high and preference is given at the university for graduates of the M&D Pre-Med offered by Medipathways. This one-year course in the UK gives students a degree-level foundation in medical science, allowing them to enter the second year of courses at accredited universities.
“It’s beneficial as it gives you a good grounding and helps to make the jump from A-levels to university level more progressive,” says Majithia, a Pre-Med graduate.
Dentists study for five years and doctors for six. Although the courses are taught in English, from the third-year onwards students will be engaged in clinical practice, interacting with real patients – so a fluent grasp of Spanish becomes essential. Some universities offer Spanish courses and it’s wise to start getting a feel for the language before you arrive if possible; it’s also much easier to enjoy Spanish culture and nightlife with a little local lingo to call upon.
Students should also be prepared for the cost of courses, which is significantly higher than it is in the UK – almost double in some cases. However, rising fees in England will close the gap a little, and some students believe the extra cost is offset by the benefits of studying in Spain. If nothing else, the success rate of students is encouraging: only 4 per cent fail to complete the dentistry course at Cardenal Herrera.
Once students leave university, their qualifications are generally recognised both by the General Medical Council (GMC) and by the General Dental Council (GDC). Candidates may have to pass a review to begin practising here; more information is available from the councils’ websites.
Whether they follow the path of dentistry or medicine, students are certain to find more than food and fiestas in Spain. The combination of high-tech institutions and high-level tuition, proficiency in the world’s second favourite language and rich cultural experiences could make them fully rounded professionals with career prospects as bright as the Spanish sunshine.