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Brighton & Sussex Medical School

Course structure

BSMS > Undergraduate > Our course > Course structure

Course structure

How is the course organised?

Years 1 – 2

Your academic and clinical studies will primarily be based at the Universities of Brighton and Sussex Falmer campuses, using purpose-built teaching facilities including a modern anatomy laboratory, small and large group teaching spaces and clinical science laboratories.

You will study the normal and abnormal functioning of the human body using a system-based approach, with integrated modules covering the core biomedical and psychosocial sciences. Student-Selected Components (SSCs) allow you to undertake individual studies and explore selected topics in depth, informed by the latest research.

Weekly clinical symposia, focusing on specific medical problems or diseases, emphasise the importance of problem solving and the integration of clinical and scientific information from different disciplines. There is an emphasis throughout on small group teaching, in addition to core lectures and symposia, with most year 1 and 2 classes in small groups.

The academic year

The academic year is organised into three terms of approximately 10 weeks each. About 20% of your learning at this stage will be clinically based and will include gaining experience in hospitals and primary and community care.

Developing clinical skills from day one

You will start to develop clinical skills in history taking, physical examination, diagnosis and effective communication with patients in a classroom setting and by gaining experience in primary, secondary and community care placements. For example, you may spend time with a family with a new baby (Year 1) and with a patient with dementia or a chronic health condition (Years 2 and 3). 

A female student examines another's eye, using a torch, while the teacher looks on

Years 3 – 4 

The academic year

The teaching year is extended to about 45 weeks, with short breaks at Christmas and Easter and a longer break in the summer.

Year 3

Year 3 starts with a two-week course introducing you to clinical medicine as it is practised in secondary care. 

At the heart of Year 3 are ward-based attachments including:

  • General Medicine, Acute Medicine and Cardiology
  • Elderly Medicine and Psychiatry
  • Surgery, including Perioperative Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Orthopaedics and Urology

Weekly teaching sessions on the scientific basis of medicine throughout Year 3 provide an opportunity for you to build on the core knowledge gained in Years 1 and 2. You will learn about cutting-edge developments in areas such as genetics, immunology, infectious diseases and therapeutics. 

You will gain further experience in safe prescribing of drugs, an essential skill for your medical career.  

Where will I study?

From Year 3, you will be based in Brighton at the Royal Sussex County Hospital and the Audrey Emerton Building (AEB). The AEB provides comprehensive learning facilities, including a fully stocked medical library, computer suites, a clinical skills training area, teaching rooms for large and small group study and a top floor restaurant with panoramic sea views.

You will have ward-based placements at the Royal Sussex County Hospital and across other sites in East and West Sussex.


Male student with microscope in lab

You will maintain an individual e-portfolio that is similar to the one you will use as a junior doctor , which help you reflect on how your personal strengths are developing along with your clinical skills and experience.


The intercalated degree is an optional addition to a medical degree. Subject to performance, you may have the opportunity to undertake an intercalated BSc or Masters degree, between Years 3 and 4.

Please note, intercalation numbers are capped at 40% of the total cohort, with priority given to those without a prior degree.

Read More about intercalation >

Year 4

During this year you will also undertake a rotation of clinical placements in the specialist subjects of

  • General Practice
  • ENT, Ophthalmology and Neurology
  • Microbiology and Sexual Health
  • Rheumatology and Dermatology
  • Oncology, Haematology and Palliative Care
  • Paediatrics

The clinical focus in Year 4 is on understanding patients' integrated care and how primary, community and secondary care structures work together for the patient. You will also participate in Time for Autism and complete a year-long Individual Research Project, supervised by a university or hospital team.

Where will I study?

You will be based at the AEB at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, and will have clinical placements across East and West Sussex. 

Year 5

The academic year

Year 5 provides intense clinical and professional preparation for your foundation years. Throughout the year, you will develop your clinical skills through direct patient contact on clinical placements, and by using clinical skills laboratories and simulators.

Your learning will be based on a close involvement with routine clinical cases, acting as a member of the clinical team in medicine, emergency medicine, elderly medicine, surgery, general practice and psychiatry. Central to your study will be the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of patients in these different areas of practice.

At the start of Year 5 you will also apply for your Foundation Year training posts, and later in the year take the national Situational Judgement Test and Prescribing Safety Assessment.


You will spend the rest of the year undertaking an ‘apprenticeship’. This will involve being part of clinical teams at a range of regional locations, working closely with junior doctors and undergoing a Preparation for Practice module.


Towards the end of Year 5, depending on Covid restrictions, you may undertake an elective period to gain clinical experience in another environment in the UK or abroad. Previous placement locations have included St Lucia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Nepal, the US and Malawi.


Read more about academic training >

Where will I study?

Year 5 provides intense clinical and professional preparation for your first year in practice after qualification, and you will undertake clinical attachments locations across East and West Sussex, including: 

Preparing for Foundation Year training

A series of presentations will be given in Years 4 and 5 to help you prepare for the application process and your Foundation training.

Although the first year of registration can be taken anywhere in the country, many BSMS graduates choose to stay in the Brighton or Sussex area where they can take advantage of the postgraduate training and support offered by the medical school.

BSMS and Health Education England South East (HEESE) jointly oversee the Academic Training Programme. The programme is aimed at doctors who are considering an academic career in medicine.


GMC registration

Postgraduate foundation training and beyond

At the end of the undergraduate programme you’ll receive your degree. The GMC approves your university’s degree as a Primary Medical Qualification (PMQ). This is important because, provided there are no concerns about your fitness to practise, a PMQ entitles you to provisional registration with the GMC for a licence to practise medicine in the UK.

Provisional registration is time limited to a maximum of three years and 30 days (1,125 days in total). Provisionally registered doctors can only practise in approved Foundation Year One posts: the law does not allow provisionally registered doctors to undertake any other type of work.

To obtain a Foundation Year One post you will need to apply during the final year of your undergraduate programme though the UK Foundation Programme Office selection scheme, which allocates these posts to graduates on a competitive basis. All suitably qualified UK graduates have found a place on the Foundation Year One programme, but this cannot be guaranteed, for instance if there were to be an increased number of competitive applications from non-UK graduates.

You can find out more about applying for Foundation posts at: Successful completion of the Foundation Year One programme is normally achieved within 12 months and is marked by the award of a Certificate of Experience. You will then be eligible to apply for full registration with the GMC. You need full registration with a licence to practise for unsupervised medical practice in the NHS or private practice in the UK.

There is some discussion about whether to remove provisional registration for newly qualified doctors. If this happens then UK graduates will receive full registration as soon as they have successfully completed a medical degree. It should be noted that it is very likely that UK graduates will still need to apply for a training programme similar to the current Foundation Programme and that places on this programme may not be guaranteed for every UK graduate. Although this information is currently correct, students need to be aware that regulations in this area may change from time to time.

Read more about provisional and full registration on the GMC website >


Medical Licensing Assessment

The GMC is introducing a Medical Licensing Assessment (MLA). The MLA demonstrates that anyone obtaining registration with a licence to practise medicine in the UK has met a common threshold for safe practice. To obtain a Primary Medical Qualification (PMQ), graduates from 2024 onwards will need to have a degree that includes a pass in both parts of the MLA. One part will be an Applied Knowledge Test (AKT), set by the Medical Schools Council in collaboration with UK medical schools and held using an MSC delivery platform at the medical school. The other will be an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), which fulfils the GMC’s requirement for a Clinical and Professional Skills Assessment (CPSA). This assessment must meet GMC set quality assurance requirements. The MLA will test what doctors are likely to encounter in early practice and what’s essential for safe practice. The MLA is not intended to cover the whole of a medical school curriculum, so you will also need to meet your university’s degree requirements.

Read more about the MLA here >