What is an Intercalated Degree?

Over the next year I’m meant to be talking a bunch about my Intercalated degree, so perhaps it’d be a good idea to describe what exactly an intercalated degree is, as information on the uni website’s on them are minute. They usually just say “And you also have the option to do an intercalated degree.” and that’s it on the matter.

An intercalted degree can be a bit confusing to an outsider, as it can be called a lot of different names. The most common names that I’ve come across are BSc (Bachelor of Science) and BMSc (Bachelor of Medical Science) which come from the name of the degree you get at the end of it. The one’s at dundee are BMSc’s. Is there a difference between these two? Not really. The extra letter adds nothing. What does matter, at the end of the day, is what you do the intercalated degree in.

So, this begs for the question: What can you do an intercalated degree in? Well, the answer is essentially, almost anything. Most universities offer a wide range of subjects which you can do an intercalated degree in. At the UoD (uni of dundee), at the moment, you can do:

Forensic Medicine
Sports Biomedicine
Assisted Reproduction
Medical Education
International Health
etc. etc.

The list goes on. Most people tend to choose which subject they do based on their personal interests and career aspirations. Most budding surgeons pick anatomy, for example.

So, the next question on most people’s lips is ‘Why is an intercalated degree 1 year rather than 3-4 years for a normal degree?’. This question confused me for a while, as, during my application process I only really looked at the Medicine section of university prospectuses (prospecti?!). However, if I had looked at other degrees, I probably would have noticed that most courses start off very broad. For example, if you did forensic anthropology, you might have to do a unit on botany etc in first year, as part of the generic biology syllabus. So, as it turns out, they don’t actually start to learn about the degree they picked until their final years. So, when a medical student intercalates, they squeeze in with the students from their chosen degree while they’re doing their final year and (if they pass), get a degree at the end of it. Does that make sense?

Of course, some courses are completely made up for the purpose of intercalating, i.e. its just medical students that do it, not any other students at uni, for example, Genetics at Dundee is like this.

What do you need to do to get into an intercalated degree? At Dundee, there are relatively few hurdles to jump in order to be accepted compared to other universities. For most, you needed to pass your 3rd year exams at 1st attempt to be accepted. Some of the more competitive courses required you to attend an interview as well, but that was the minority of courses. At other uni’s however, you sometimes need to have a certain grade/score average to be eligible to apply.

When do you do an intercalated degree? Most universities do it between 2nd and 3rd year or between 3rd and 4th year. At Dundee, it’s between 3rd and 4th year but you can also do it between 4th and 5th year too if you want, although I don’t know many people who have done this.

Where can you do an intercalated degree? Most people tend to stay in the same city, whether it’s because you already have social networks set up, lack of advertising that you can actually go elsewhere or something else, I don’t know. However, it is possible that you can go almost anywhere to intercalate. Somebody from our year went to edinburgh to study geriatrics and palliative care, another went to Loughborough to do something about psychiatry and history, I think. So, the world is your oyster. Although, I think, in general, you need a reason to go to another university to study, for example, if your university doesn’t do the degree you’d like to do based on your career aspirations.

What does an intercalated degree consist of? It’s hard to say because each one is different, but I’ll do my best to generalise. Most involve essay-type exams much like English papers at school where you open a book, there’s a list of Essay questions, you pick a couple and get writing about them. These “Final Exams” make up about 50% of the grade you get for your degree. A further 25% comes from essays you write through the year at home in your own time (one per module). The final 25% comes from your dissertation/project which you do throughout the year. A dissertation is basically a literature review about a particular topic where you summarise all the latest research. Projects are more hands on and involve some lab work and work on some of the latest research in a particular field – you then write up your findings (good or bad) at the end of it all and submit it. Lab work is good for people considering a career in academics (i.e. research) in later life, as experience is everything in those kind of things.

What project should I do? If you’re applying to medicine, and you’re thinking about this, you’re WAY ahead of yourselves! However, I’m just putting this on here for completeness. It’s possible to propose a subject to do your project on if you’re keen, however, each year the Deanery emails to it’s researchers asking if they have any project suitable for final year students to assist with. Any responses get sent in a list and the students pick their favourites and get assigned to one. Doing these projects is a great chance to get lab experience and also get your name on a publication. That means points on the CV, and points mean prizes!

I guess another thing I should put here is the difference between an intercalated degree and elective. I guess this can be confusing for potential students as well. An intercalated degree is as above, however, an elective is when you get the opportunity to practice medicine anywhere in the world (a place of your choosing) for 6 weeks of summer. It’s a mandatory part of most university courses. Given that your holidays are about 8 weeks long between 4th and 5th year, most people use their last 2 weeks of summer to travel around and holiday in the place they did their elective – a “When in Rome” situation if I ever saw one. You can do an elective in any speciality you like too. Just find somebody willing to take you on, and you’re sorted.

Anything needing clarification? Did I explain why you can do a degree in 1 year as opposed to 3 alright?


2 Responses to What is an Intercalated Degree?

  1. A says:

    Hey, I’m only just applying to medicine in October, so am probably premature in asking but – out of curiousity – my understanding is us Scottish students only get 5 years funding. Does this mean if you do an Intercalated Degree you have to pay for a year or have I been told rubbish?

    Thanks, A

    • Hey – very late reply here.

      Scottish students actually only get 4 years funding by SAAS. After that, the NHS pays your fees for 5th year.

      So, if you do a BMSc, SAAS pays for your first three years of medicine and your BMSc. Then, for fourth and fifth year medicine, the NHS picks up your fees.

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