UCL Medical School


Planning your Elective

The aim of the clinical elective placement is to deepen knowledge of subjects relevant to the MB BS curriculum, that are of particular interest to a student, in different clinical and cultural environments. 

Placements must be under the general supervision of a qualified clinician and students must be able to take a history and perform a physical examination, participate in the clinical team meetings and patients’ case discussions/conferences and have opportunities to observe specialist procedures over a minimum 6 week period. Satisfactory completion of the elective, and submission of all related sign-offs, is a requirement for the award of the MB BS degrees.

The objectives of the elective placement are: 

  • to develop organisational skills, and as an independent learner formulate a well thought out self-directed period of study.
  • to witness the conduct of medical practice, and enhance professional skills, preferably in an environment not already encountered during previous MB BS studies.
  • to increase clinical experience in an area of particular interest to the student.
  • to broaden cultural experience in the UK or further afield

The specific programme of study and clinical experience to be obtained are developed by each student in discussion with their host institution.  The placement counts towards  MB BS clinical requirements and so must principally be patient-facing and hands on, although some observational and non-clinical elements may be included where they are clearly linked with your clinical placement plans. We strongly encourage you to consider your elective for the experience it will give you as a clinician rather than as an exercise in building your CV.

It gives students the opportunity to witness the conduct of medical practice in different environments and enables students to see a wide variety of clinical conditions in variable surroundings]. Electives are taken in 2 blocks after Finals following an allocation process in the first term of Year 5.

The elective approval process is designed to ensure that students fulfil the Medical School’s regulatory requirements for the elective period and that they take appropriate health and safety measures for their chosen destination.  

Students must complete the approval process by the stated deadlines to enable Medical School sign off by the Electives Lead.  Concerns over Professional Behaviour(s) forms are issued for failure to comply. Satisfactory completion of an approved elective and the submission of all related coursework and sign-off is a requirement for the award of the MBBS degrees.  Students should be aware that approval may be withdrawn in instances where the FCO issues a travel advisory against non-essential travel, in which case alternative arrangements will need to be put in place.

  • Step 1: Student Statement of Compliance with MBBS Elective Requirements via Moodle questionnaire – October/November of Year 5
  • Step 2: Student Submission of Elective Proposal - via Moodle questionnaire – By April of Year 5
  • Step 3: Medical School Approval of Destination – required documents submitted via Moodle – By the deadlines stated for each elective block given below
  • Step 4: Medical School Sign-Off – via Moodle questionnaire and risk assessment – By the deadlines stated for each elective block given below

Elective Approval Requirements

The requirements for elective approval depend on the country and institution in which you are organising your elective.   Destinations which have been approved by the Medical School are divided into 2 groups depending on the level of clinical risk.  

  • Group A Low Clinical Risk
  • Group B Medium/High Clinical Risk

Please refer to the country list and the flowchart.  If your destination does not appear in this list please email full details of the placement including a link to the institution’s website to medsch.elective-approval@ucl.ac.uk for review by the Electives Lead, Dr Declan Chard:

Elective Funding and Bursaries

Information about internal and external bursaries are accessed through the MBBS Year 6 Course Information Moodle site under the Elective Approval Tab.

MBBS Regulatory Requirements:

Elective Planning, Preparation and Staying Safe:


Conditions for the award of the MBBS degrees

The GMC licenses UCL’s MBBS degrees as a primary medical qualification for the purposes of provisional registration on the basis of regulations which state that the programme contains ‘not less than 104 weeks in clinical placements’ with an elective for which ‘arrangements must be approved by the Divisional Tutor or nominee’.

This guidance is to help to enable you to fulfil the requirements for the Final Exam Board to be able to confirm the award of your degrees in June following submission of evidence of satisfactory completion of an approved elective and your post-finals SSC by the stated deadlines.



Configuration and content of electives

Your 8 week elective must be completed within your timetabled elective dates and include at minimum an approved 6 week clinical placement followed by completion and submission of elective coursework and an elective report form signed by your educational supervisor.

The elective is intended to be a meaningful and in-depth experience clinical placement in a single healthcare environment or community healthcare or social care setting which enables students to be actively involved in patient care and complies with one of the following configurations: 

  • Single centre clinical placement:

    • 6 consecutive weeks at a single host institution and associated hospitals in compliance with the requirements for Group A or Group B destinations, 
  • Two centre clinical placements - this applies only to Group A destinations where the first choice of institution only offers 4 week placements. These destinations are indicated in the list of Elective Destinations - Group A – low clinical risk. Additional weeks of placement time are required to ensure in-depth experience after allowing for inductions and settling-in time.

    • 4 + 4 or 4 + 3 weeks at different institutions in the same country (ie same healthcare environment)
    • 4 weeks overseas + 2 weeks in the UK (ie where the NHS is familiar)



Definition of a clinical placement

Your elective must fulfil the definition of a clinical placement to satisfy the regulatory requirement for 104 weeks in clinical placements. Observerships, non-clinical placements and research electives do not fulfil this requirement.

The Medical School’s baseline definition of a clinical placement is that “Under the general supervision of a qualified clinician, students are able to take a history and perform a physical examination, participate in the clinical team meetings and patients’ case discussions/conferences, and have the opportunity to observe specialist procedures”. Where this is unclear from the information you submit, you will need to provide written confirmation from your host institution that the placement fulfils this definition. 

Observerships, non-clinical specialities such as Forensic Medicine, Public Health, Radiology and Histopathology and research electives do not fulfil this definition. However, in instances where an individual student has very specific reasons for wishing to include some non-clinical experience in their elective which fits in with well-established career intentions, or where a student has identified a research placement that will provide an exceptional and unique experience and fits in with well-established career intentions as demonstrated during their previous MBBS studies, the student must make an appointment to discuss their plans with the Electives Lead to ascertain whether the School can justify making an exception.

For an exception to be granted, the student must have an excellent academic and clinical record throughout the course; must have completed all preceding clinical placements at institutions which are quality assured by UCLMS (so excluding SSCs abroad); must have undertaken clinical SSCs (so excluding PALS); and the elective must include at minimum 4 weeks which fulfil the definition of a clinical placement and comply with one of the following configurations:

  • 4 week Clinical Placement + 4 week Observership/non-clinical placement
  • 4 week Clinical Placement + 4 weeks’ research



Language requirement

If you are planning to arrange your elective in a country where the main language of medical communication is not English, you will need to investigate with your elective supervisor the level of language needed for you to be able to participate fully in a clinical placement.

For your elective to be approved, you will need to declare that both you and your host supervisor are satisfied that your language skills are sufficient. 



Travelling time

To fulfil the regulatory requirement for 104 weeks in clinical placements, you must complete your preceding and following placements in full and may not request exceptional leave for travel to or from your elective destination.

You must ensure that the timing of your outward flight does not affect full completion of your 4 week Preparation for Practice SSC, regardless of the timing of sign-off, and that the timing of your return flight enables you to take up your next placement on the scheduled Monday morning.

Students who are travelling to long-haul destinations should bear in mind that they will need to allow sufficient time, after a Friday night departure, for completion of the journey and recovery from jet lag before taking up their placement.

To ensure completion of a full 6 weeks’ placement, students may defer the start and finish of their elective providing a full 6 weeks are completed and signed off by their educational supervisor within the 8 week timetabled block.



Completion of course requirements for MBBS degrees to be awarded

You will need to provide evidence of satisfactory completion of your approved elective, as set out in your declaration for final approval, by the deadlines given by the Year 6 Team in order for the Final Exam Board to be able to confirm your degree award:

  1. submission of elective clinical attachment report form, graded and signed by your elective supervisor
  2. submission of required coursework, currently the post elective report 



Finals results and Elective Block 1 departures

Compulsory appointments for students who fail finals will be arranged within 2 days of the Final Examination Board.

No student should plan a departure until after 5pm on Friday, 23rd March 2018 as all students who fail finals at the March sitting are required to attend a compulsory student support appointment.

Any student who fails to attend will be issued a Concerns over Professional Behaviour(s) form (CoPB) which will be reported to the Final Examination Board in June. Students with 2 or more CoPBs will be in Group 2 for discussion at the Board.



Failure to comply with the Elective requirements or approval process

For the MBBS degrees to be confirmed, students must fulfil the elective requirements as set out and as declared in their application for final elective approval.

Any student who is found to have failed to comply with the elective requirements or approval process or to have made false declarations about their elective will be issued a report of Concern over Professional Behaviour(s) (CoPB) which will be reported to the Final Examination Board in June, and may be investigated under the Medical School’s Fitness to Practise procedures.



If you fail Finals in March and will be resitting in June

Programme of study for candidates who fail finals in March and are resitting in June

Students who fail Finals in March will be advised to shorten their elective placement and to follow an adjusted post-finals programme of study comprising a 4 week elective, a 4 week Prep for Practice SSC, and a 4 week Preparation for Examinations placement designed by MBBS academic leads and hosted at an associated Trust. 

Details and arrangements will be provided by the Year 6 team, but you should let the elective approval team know of any changes to the dates or location of your election. 



Elective Planning, Preparation and Staying Safe:



Planning your elective

Early planning is key to a successful elective: to maximise chances of securing places at popular destinations; to allow for delays in communications with remote destinations in developing countries; and to allow time to gather the supporting documentation requested by host institutions.

The Medical School discourages students from using commercial companies who arrange electives on behalf of healthcare students.  In any event, any elective arranged through a commercial company must fulfil all the Medical School’s academic and health and safety requirements.

Sources of Information

Useful websites:



DBS requirements

DBS checks required by host institutions

UCL Medical School does not hold copies of your original DBS (previously CRB) clearance certificates checked when you joined Medical School. If you do not have a copy of your certificate we can supply you with a letter certifying clearance on admission. This can be obtained by emailing medsch.elective-approval@ucl.ac.uk stating your full name, student number and year of entry.

A small number of elective destinations will require you to have a new DBS check completed usually within 12 / 24 months of your placement dates. Please check with your destination whether this is necessary BEFORE requesting a new check.   You can then arrange to have the check completed by contacting Chloe Marshall c.marshall@ucl.ac.uk

You can check the DBS website which lists the documents required for the check. In addition to the ID you should also have your NI number and note of the addresses you have been at for the last 5 year (only proof of current address is needed) but the DBS require a 5 year address history.



Travel Health and Occupational Health requirements

Your personal travel health requirements will depend on your country of destination and you must ensure that you are fully immunised via your GP, a travel clinic or UCL OH Service.  You will be responsible for all costs charged by providers

Helpful websites include:

Your elective occupational health requirements are stipulated i) by Medical School requirements for your chosen destination and ii) by your host institution.  For example, as part of the Medical School approval process, you may be required or recommended to take a starter pack of PEP.  As part of the host institution application process, you may be required to provide an OH record signed off by an UCL OH practitioner.  UCL OH provides both these services.  You may approach other providers for PEP, but please be aware that neither UCL OH nor the Medical School hold information about other providers or their prices.   

Website: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/occ_health/
Contact details: uclstudentoh@ucl.ac.uk

Appointments and charges:

  • You will be responsible for all costs charged by UCL OH.
  • For PEP, OH guidelines require a 1 hour appointment with a full travel risk assessment, explanation of PEP and what do to in the event of exposure.  PEP is prescribed and offered at a non-profit price which is lower than other providers. 


  • A cancellation fee is incurred for failure to attend an appointment unless notice is given on a working day at minimum 24 hours’ before the scheduled appointment time.
  • Failure to pay charges issued by UCL OH within the timeframe given by them will result in a referral to the Medical School and the issue of a Concern over Professional Behaviour form



Documents routinely required by host institutions

Documents which are routinely requested and which you should gather as early as possible include:

  • Verification of student status/letter of good standing/letter of recommendation including confirmation that the elective is a compulsory component of the course plus any specific information required by individual students for individual institutions 
  • Academic reference (provided by Student Support Tutors)

These can be obtained by: 

  • Emailing medsch.elective-approval@ucl.ac.uk Please specify the details required by the host institution. Allow at least 2 weeks for this request to be processed Letters are made available for collection from the Student Support Office unless stated otherwise.
  • Application or other forms from host institutions requiring signatures
  • Academic Transcripts
  • USLME letters of exemption of Step 1 Exams for North American institutions
  • Letters to support visa applications confirming Medical School approval for elective



    Deadlines for Elective Approval

    Approval deadlines for Electives in 2018

    Step 1: Student Statement of Compliance with MBBS Elective Requirements via Moodle questionnaire – 17/12/17. (Completed for Current Yr 6)

    Step 2: Student Submission of Elective Proposal - via Moodle questionnaire – 10/04/18 2017 (Completed for Current Yr 6)

    Step 3: Medical School Approval of Destination – required documents to be submitted via Moodle for current Yr 6

    • Elective Block 1    01/11/17
    • Elective Block 2    15/11/17

    Step 4: Medical School Sign-Off – via Moodle questionnaire and risk assessment for current Yr 6.

    • Elective Block 1    17/12/17
    • Elective Block 2    21/01/18



    Risk Assessment / Health and Safety

    All students are required to complete a risk assessment

    Ensuring that you are fully immunised either via your GP, travel clinic or UCL Occupational Health Service.

    Students are required to comply with the control measures which include:



    Emergencies and Incidents

    UCL Public liability insurance:

    • UCL’s insurance provides public liability cover for fully registered medical students during supervised clinical electives which have been approved by the Medical School, within and outside the UK
    • Zurich Municipal

    Host institution insurance - Clinical Negligence

    • Host institution clinical negligence insurance provides cover, at many elective destinations, for clinicians who act as supervisors for visiting elective students, but this is not always the case and students should check with their individual host institution and take out personal clinical/medical malpractice insurance where supervision of elective students is not covered by the institution

    Personal insurance - Professional indemnity insurance/Medical malpractice/Medical negligence:

    • is strongly recommended for all students for all destinations outside the UK
    • is available free of charge for student members through the MDU and the MPS, but through policies which are essentially advisory and which rely on electives being properly supervised and so are of use only to students whose elective supervisor is covered by the institution’s clinical negligence insurance
    • is a requirement where the host institution’s clinical negligence insurance does not extend to visiting elective supervision or is stated as a condition of the elective, in which case students need to purchase personal medical negligence insurance appropriate for their chosen destination.  Students visiting the US should take advice from their host institution.  Students visiting countries other than the UK or US may find suitable cover via the International Helpers Trust

    Access to the Online Enrolment Form is via the following login:  

    • Click on the "Participate" button
    • Click on the “Enroll” button
    • Username: medmissions Password:  mpl and click "Next". 

    Personal insurance - Travel and health insurance

    • is required for all destinations outside the UK
    • is provided through UCL’s own insurers and paid for by UCL
    • does not require an application as the information needed is taken from the elective approval form and submitted to UCL by the Medical School
    • requires a risk assessment form (in Moodle) to be completed by all students going abroad
    • covers UCL business only (i.e. your time on an elective placement) with holiday travel included only an incidental basis and only in the same country as your clinical placement. (You will need to buy your own, separate personal travel insurance to cover other holiday travel.)  
    • includes cover for some dangerous activities (winter sports and scuba diving to 30 metres) but not extreme sports
    • includes a 24 hour helpline which is your first point of contact in the event of a medical emergency

    Please check UCL Study Abroad Insurance for full details. 

    You will be issued a policy document containing information about your insurance cover and how to access help in case of an emergency which you should take with you when you travel.


    Students must not sign any statements or waivers by which UCL may become liable for damage to property, personal injury or death caused during a placement. Similarly, the Medical School cannot sign any statements or waivers as UCL insurance operates only to the 'extent' that UCL are legally liable and not 'every' potential claim will be covered by the policy wording.

    If an institution asks for a waiver form to be signed, the Medical School’s advice is that you  contact the elective coordinator at your proposed host institution to explain this and ask if there are other ways in which UCL students can demonstrate that they fulfil the insurance requirements.  Please explain that you will have in place the insurances below for which you will be able to present confirmation and copies of policies if needed:   

    • UCL public liability insurance which includes cover for approved elective periods outside the UK
    • UCL personal travel and health insurance
    • Professional Indemnity Insurance/Medical Malpractice Insurance (from whichever provider you choose)

    Emergencies and Incidents

    For emergencies and incidents of any kind, your first point of contact is UCL’s travel insurance provider on their 24 hour emergency hotline +44 (0) 1273 400850 as set out on your travel insurance certificate.  The insurance company is best placed to give advice on actions needed locally to manage incidents, as well as to give advice about potential insurance claims.  Please also let the Medical School know by emailing medsch.student-support@ucl.ac.uk including the words “Elective Emergency” in the subject line and copying the email to medsch.elective-approval@ucl.ac.uk.

    Emergency telephone contact with the Medical School may be made during working hours on +44 (0) 207 679 0859 and out-of-hours via UCL Security on +44 (0) 20 7679 2108. 

    Full advice from UCL about actions to take in the event of an emergency or incident whilst studying abroad are set out at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/studyabroad/preparation/planning-departure/insurance.

    For non-emergency concerns or general advice about your placement, please contact the Medical School by emailing medsch.elective-approval@ucl.ac.uk.

    Occasionally students find it difficult to adjust to medical practice in different environments and conditions or face traumatic clinical experiences during their elective.  In such instances, students are encouraged to contact the Medical School’s Electives Lead, Dr Declan Chard in confidence for support and advice.  Please email d.chard@ucl.ac.uk in the first instance and please book an appointment on your return via medsch.elective-approval@ucl.ac.uk if you think it would be helpful to discuss any such incidents in person.  



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