Frequently Asked Questions

From Anyone

  • What is the MBBS 2012 project?

    2012 sees the newly reconfigured UCL Medical School launch a new and exciting new MBBS programme for all students. This is a significant undertaking with revisions to all aspects of the programme in all years and with existing students transferring over to MBBS 2012 regardless of the current year of study in the existing programme.

  • Why do we need to change?

    We need to remain contemporary, using up to date educational theory and practice. We also need to modify to become fully compliant with UCL regulations and the GMC. This revised programme incorporates many of the changes we need to make in order to remain the best medical school in London to remain contemporary in our approach, to work with the changing health provider landscape in London, to dovetail with Academic Health Sciences Centre priorities and to meet the GMC requirements outlined in Tomorrow’s Doctors 2009.

  • Who is leading the project?

    The MBBS 2012 project has been a collaborative and ‘bottom up’ endeavour since it began in 2007 with a major review of the existing MBBS programme. Over 400 academics, NHS teachers, administrative staff, students and patients have participated in shaping the development by their involvement in the working groups. The leadership team has included Sir John Tooke, Prof Jane Dacre, the Deans of the four SLMS faculties, the SLMS Finance Director, the Faculty tutors, the UCL Dean of Students, representation from the Patients Association and an external advisor from Cambridge Medical School. The overall lead for implementation is Dr Deborah Gill, the MBBS programme lead. Dr Hilary Spencer is the MBBS 2012 project manager.


From teachers

  • Is the objective to reduce staff face-to-face teaching and thereby save money?
    Not at all. The objective is to modernise the curriculum and the way it is delivered, nothing more (or less). Many of the changes may be more or equally costly in terms of money and staff time.
  • Will fewer staff be required to teach the new curriculum ?

    Certainly not. What may become possible, however, is for some teaching to be done more efficiently (for example, by better use of technology), freeing up some staff time for more small-group teaching, which both students and staff have told us they would welcome.

  • I’m not keen on using all these educational tools in my teaching? Will I have to use them?

    The Virtual Learning Environment is here to stay in all contemporary teaching settings. It is there to support teaching and learning. We have deliberately used a simple interface to encourage all staff and students to use the VLE as a key part of teaching. The other major changes in the use of technology will be Lecturecast (which is fully automatic) and the use of the NHS e-portfolio in years 4-6, which is pretty much identical to the e-portfolio clinicians are already using for Foundation Trainees. As we introduce other tools, they will be carefully chosen for their ability to enhance teaching and learning – therefore, we will expect them to be used by teachers and students as necessary. We will of course offer extensive support and training where required.

  • How do teachers get a say in what happens?

    Teachers have had a significant role in MBBS 2012, from conception to implementation. Over 350 teachers and teaching administrators, both faculty members and NHS staff, are involved in new curriculum working groups and committees and they provide advice and feedback to us all the time on issues concerning teachers, the curriculum, local delivery and resource implications. The way to have a say is to tell us, preferable through your site sub dean or module management group or directly (for example, by e-mailing the Implementation Lead on if necessary. We want you to help us shape the course you are happy and able to deliver.


From students

  • What will the impact of switching over to the new curriculum be for me?

    This depends on how far through the old curriculum you are! It will range from ‘no real change’ to a totally new curriculum. It may involve new assessments, new modules or some new learning approaches. We will do our utmost to give you as much warning and information about changes and to make this transition as smooth as possible. All changes are student centred and based on the initial recommendations from the extensive MBBS review of 2007-9 which involved almost 200 students. Students are members of every working group and decision making committee. It is not in our interests for you not to enjoy and thrive on this course.

  • If there’s more use of technology, will we all have to buy expensive i-phones and things?

    Although we will be using more ‘technology’ in delivering the new curriculum, it will often be just more innovative ways of utilizing the potential of existing technology such as Moodle, Lecturecast and electronic voting handsets. Cost will be an important element we will take into account when evaluating potential tools and technologies for use within the new curriculum. We are unlikely to adopt any tools which will involve students or the university in significant extra expenditure, unless the benefits to either can be clearly seen to outweigh the costs. We will be ‘paperlight’ rather than paperless, reducing the amount of bulky printed documents but ensuring students have the printed materials they really require.

  • Will current students have to switch to the new curriculum part way through their course?

    The curriculum develops and changes all the time. That is what curricula do, in response to changes in knowledge and changes to practice. Some new curriculum elements have already been introduced, such as the new final year introduced in 2010. Other elements have been introduced in a transition period in 2011/12, before full implementation of the new curriculum in all years in 2012/13.

  • Why are some modules changing years? And what will happen if I am in a year when a ‘swap’ happens?

    The changes will make the curriculum more coherent, more student centred and more integrated. The biggest changes are happening in old year 3 and old year 4. The first of these (New Curriculum Year 4) will involve longer, more generic attachments and be focused around integrated clinical care and learning clinical method rather than being so specialty-specific. The second (New Curriculum Year 5) will be based around the lifecycle and learning about very specialist practice. It is logical that neurology should move back to be learnt as part of integrated clinical care and that care of the older person should move into the lifecycle year. We are very mindful that the introduction of the new curriculum will affect some students more than others and so we will be taking measures to ensure every student receives appropriate teaching and learning opportunities, whether or not they are affected by these swaps. These will involve some double running of modules in 2012/13.

  • How is the integrated BSc different from the current intercalated BSc?

    The integrated BSc is seen as a year where students undertake the study in depth of the scientific basis of medicine. It is an integral part of the MBBS course and first and foremost, you are still a medical student during this year: it is not a year ‘out’. The BSc has been fixed at year 3 as this is felt to be the most appropriate year for this in-depth study to take place. You will find there are more links and preparation for the BSc year in years 1 and 2 and more building on the skills you learn in the BSc year in the latter years. The providers of BScs that have traditionally been in the later years are all happy to move their programmes to year 3 without any anticipated loss of benefits for students. All BSc providers will be expected to orientate their BSc towards what is important for you as doctors in training and to provide you with opportunities, both within and outside the BSc programme, to continue your ongoing development as doctors. As all students undertaking the integrated BSc will be internal students, the process of choosing your BSc will be more of a matching process than a selective one: as a result, we expect that even more students will get their first choice of BSc.

  • Will students still be able to do BScs at other institutions?

    No. UCL offers the widest range of BScs nationally and the BSc year provided at UCL has important features and learning, relevant the UCL MBBS programme, which are not always available in other universities’ programmes. We hope you will feel the range of BScs on offer will be sufficient.

  • How are year four exams going to change?

    The new curriculum has a consistent and overarching assessment approach, with in-course assessment, managed via a portfolio throughout the year and a summative assessment package at the end of the year, acting as a progression test into the next year of study. From 2012-13, therefore, the exam in old year 4 (New Curriculum year 5) will be a single exam at the end of the year.

  • I want to be a surgeon: why is the Medical School removing the surgery block?

    Surgery is not going to disappear: many of our students aspire to be surgeons and we certainly wish to encourage this. However, almost all of our graduates will become surgical FYs and also, surgery as a discipline has changed dramatically in the years since our current ‘surgical attachment’ was designed. Working closely with the surgeons, we have devised a new and more integrated way to address surgery which we are confident will equip all students with the core skills in the care of surgical patients and will allow exposure to surgery, interventions and surgeons in a way more aligned to how surgery is now delivered in NHS practice. There will be a 4 week surgical care block in year 4, some surgical skills will be taught within the ‘clinical skills’ vertical module, ‘surgery’ will also be taught within many other modules in year 4, 5 and 6 and, for the budding surgeon, there will be many more surgery SSC opportunities.

  • What is happening to psychiatry: I hear it is disappearing from year 4?

    Psychiatry is not disappearing either. Mental health is a key challenge for healthcare providers of the future: indeed it is a UCLP Academic Health Sciences Centre priority. Mental health is much broader than ‘psychiatry’ or the treatment of those with severe and enduring mental illness: it is an important aspect of many illness presentations and indeed of well being. We want our students to feel equipped from the start to work with patients and health care professionals in the field of mental health. Therefore, mental health has become an overarching theme of the curriculum and will be addressed as a vertical module rather than in one short block. It will be addressed in all years and in most modules, including a mental health extended patient contact (rather like the current cancer patient journey), supplemented by a larger number of small attachments and learning opportunities spread across the course and examined in the portfolio in all years, in the end of year 5 exams and in finals. This is a novel approach but we expect UCL graduates to be thereby oriented to a better understanding of mental health as a whole and more able to help those with mental health needs, regardless of which specialty they ultimately pursue.

  • How are finals going to change?

    Finals are being moved to earlier in the year. This is part of a national change in MBBS programmes, linked both to changes in the Foundation programme and to GMC proposals to introduce provisional registration in the final year of the programmes nationally. Some schools have moved their exams to the end of the penultimate year and others to around Christmas/New Year of the final year. After extensive consultation, including strong student representation, UCL has decided to take a more conservative approach initially and move finals forward by just a few weeks. This will still allow us to get our pass list to the Foundation programme in good time but it will also allow failing students a second chance to pass and progress to Foundation training with their peers, rather than take a whole year out (and lose their FY post) before resitting.

  • Is it true that we will get less revision time before finals?

    Yes, by moving finals earlier, even with some juggling around of the attachments in the final year, there will be a reduction from three weeks to two weeks of personal revision time before the first sitting of finals. However, since academic year 2010/11, the whole of the final year has been reconfigured to ensure it is a consolidation and practise year and finals have evolved to be much more oriented to practice (both the written and the practical assessments). As a result, hitting the books for a few solid weeks before finals (which was never a great idea) is becoming even less relevant. There is also a taught revision and planning for year 6 week being reintroduced at the beginning of the final year.

  • Will it be harder to pass the new MBBS exams?

    Some of the assessments may be different – for example, increased use of ‘single best answers’ and some more contemporary elements of OSCEs. There will also be more in-course assessment, using instruments such as workplace-based assessments (now known as Supervised Learning Events) and a portfolio. These methods have been adopted because they have good evidence to support their use as the most reliable and valid means of assessment. We also believe they are more authentic for ensuring our graduates are well prepared for practice. All changes to assessments will be advertised widely and in good time in line with UCL regulations and support to students will be offered with new assessment formats. The assessments won’t be harder, just more tailored to becoming a UCL Doctor practicing in 2012 and beyond.

  • How will the new curriculum help protect us from unemployment after 6 years hard work & massive debt?

    These changes will further enhance the standards of the education and training for doctors from UCL. Each of our graduates will become a UCL Doctor, who has undertaken a rigorous and contemporary course, including a year of in-depth scientific study. We are confident that this new programme will represent a value-for-money investment for you, and will make UCL graduates even more sought after than ever.

  • How will you make sure the teachers change the way they teach and what they teach to fit in with the new curriculum?

    There is a significant faculty development programme underway across the university and the central trusts, DGHs and community settings, alongside the implementation of the new curriculum, to ensure that teachers fully understand and buy into the new curriculum and the goals upon which it is founded. We are all in this together!

  • How do students get a say in what happens?

    Students have had a huge say, all the way along, from conception to implementation and evaluation. A large number of students’ reps are fully involved in all new curriculum discussions and decisions and they provide advice and feedback to us all the time on student issues. The way to have a say is to tell us, preferable through your student reps but directly (for example, by e-mailing the Implementation Lead on, if necessary. We want you to help us shape the course you want and need.


From NHS Trusts and HoDs

  • Some documents refer to “a review of potential providers of workplace-based learning” and say “NHS staff partners will have students attached to the Trust for longer periods of time where the timetable is more flexible”. How does this apply to DGHs? Will some sites be sent fewer students, or no students at all?

    We aim to make the delivery flexible and future proof so that any NHS Trust could deliver any aspect of the workplace based learning elements. In the first iteration we will use the local Trusts for New Curriculum Year 4 and the DGHs and local Trusts for years 5&6. We would like there to be some blurring of these boundaries eventually but we need to be mindful of student experience as well as Trust capacity. We want student allocation to be more closely related to quality, with teaching moving from Trusts only if service delivery in that Trust changes dramatically or the student experience is persistently poor. It is likely that teaching at DGHs (given its excellent quality and the likelihood of DGHs to hold onto the full range of services for longer than the central Trusts) will increase slightly and gradually.

  • Your documentation has said “We will use extensive staff and student communication and targeted staff development and training”. Does this apply to DGH staff too?

    Yes, we do need to ensure we have excellent channels of communication to all teachers via the UG leads. It is likely that staff development will be delivered locally, including at the DGHs. Much of the staff development resources will be delivered via the Medical School website (

  • You have said “We need to know what the influencers/stakeholders are saying – but this should happen naturally via meetings and the Site Visits”. What are the plans for gathering feedback from stakeholders? You only do a maximum of one site visit per year to each Trust so this would not be effective in the long term.

    The annual visits will be a major place for information exchange but in the initial years, we expect staff development and training opportunities provided both by the medical school and the UG leads in the DGHs and the presence of DGH representatives on implementation working groups to be additional vehicles for communication.

  • What will be the impact on HEFCEt allocations to Divisions of implementing the new curriculum?

    The reconfiguring of the Medical School as a cohesive division in the Faculty of Medical Sciences has allowed us to create a more transparent and fair distribution of HEFCEt income to Divisions, to better link income to teaching and support of learning activities. This has been put in place before the introduction of the new curriculum and historical inaccuracies have been corrected. Where activity increases (or decreases) in the new curriculum, income will increase (or decrease) proportionately: ensuring teaching is delivered by those teachers most suitable for the domain and most enthusiastic about delivery. For some divisions, HEFCEt income will reduce slightly, for some it will increase slightly but for the vast majority, it will remain pretty much the same. However, with all these new and exciting developments, there is the potential to increase HEFCEt income by offering high quality, student centred additional teaching and support of learning.


Page last modified on 16 oct 12 14:20