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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

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.

Your anatomy study will explore the human body and its relevance to clinical practice. This will include a combination of cadaveric dissection, prosection, living anatomy, ultrasound sessions, and virtual and augmented reality. 

The academic year

The academic year is between 32 and 34 weeks, and is organised into three terms. 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 learning from a family with a new baby (Year 1) and with a patient with dementia or a chronic health condition (Years 2 and 3). 

You will also spend time with a person living with dementia and their carer in our award-winning Time for Dementia programme. Find out more about the programme here >

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 around 40 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

In Year 3, you will consolidate your increasing clinical experience with an understanding of the underlying clinical, social science and public health issues through weekly teaching sessions in the Scientific Basis of Medicine module. This module also consolidates and expands your research skills in preparation for your Individual Research Project in Year 4.

You will learn about cutting-edge developments in areas such as genetics, immunology, infectious diseases and therapeutics and gain further experience in safe prescribing of drugs, an essential skill for your medical career. You will also continue the Time for Dementia programme and attend regular meetings with your tutor, which will support your personal and professional development via your e-portfolio.

Where will I study?

From Year 3, you will be based in hospitals across Sussex and Surrey. Much of the teaching takes place in Brighton at the Royal Sussex County Hospital and the Audrey Emerton Building (AEB), which 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. Most placements outside Brighton of four weeks or more are residential, to allow you to be fully immersed in the partner hospital team.

smiling male in scrubs


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
  • Infectious Diseases, Microbiology and Sexual Health
  • Rheumatology and Dermatology
  • Oncology, Haematology and Palliative Care
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • 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.

“Now have a better understanding of autism as I had no experience before. Feel more comfortable talking to autistic patients.”

Find out more about Time for Autism >

Where will I study?

Students are likely to spend most of this year in Brighton but with periods of between one to five weeks at our partner hospitals across West and East Sussex.

Year 5

The academic year

You will start the year by undertaking a 15-week placement at one of our regional centres in West Sussex, East Sussex or Redhill. During this time you will rotate around a range of disciplines.

Your learning will be based on close involvement with routine clinical cases, acting as a member of the clinical team in medicine, emergency medicine, elderly medicine, surgery and psychiatry.

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.

Preparation for foundation programme

After finals you will join a clinical team at one of our partner hospitals, working closely with junior doctors to complete the preparation for foundation programme module (Foundation 0). This eight-week placement is designed to prepareyou for the role of foundation doctor.


Towards the end of Year 5, you will undertake an elective period to gain clinical or non-clinical experience in another environment in the UK or abroad. 

Where will I study?

You will undertake clinical attachments at locations across East and West Sussex.

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 (HEE SE) jointly oversee the Academic Training Programme. The programme is aimed at doctors who are considering an academic career in medicine.



Personal and professional development

Personal and professional development is learnt throughout the five year course. The GMC expects graduates to be able to reflect on and develop all aspects of their practice, and consider how their professional and personal lives intersect and influence each other. With this in mind, each student is assigned a Clinical Personal Tutor who they meet with once per term to get support with the challenges of the course and the practice of medicine. 

Taught sessions allow students to explore health inequalities, professionalism, ethics, law, dealing with error, team work, cultural humility, leadership, and quality and safety in the clinical environment. 


GMC registration

Postgraduate foundation training and beyond

At the end of the undergraduate programme, subject to satisfying fitness to practise requirements, you’ll receive your degree, which the GMC will approve as a primary medical qualification (PMQ).

Read more about provisional registration on the GMC website >


Medical Licensing Assessment

The General Medical Council (GMC) is introducing a Medical Licensing Assessment (MLA) from 2024. This will comprise an Applied Knowledge Test (AKT) and an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), which fulfils the GMC’s requirement for a Clinical and Professional Skills Assessment (CPSA) 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 >