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The University of Southampton
Medical Education

BM5 Programme


The five-year Bachelor of Medicine (BM5) programme has formed the core of undergraduate medical teaching at Southampton since the medical school was founded in 1971. Notable features of the programme were early patient contact from Year 1 with significant time spent in the community with General Practitioners, and a substantial research project. Both these features remain in the current programme which routinely attracts around 4,000 applicants for approximately 200 places.

Medicine operates a system of continuous improvement, although the complexity of the different programmes that it now offers and the interplay between them makes this increasingly challenging. A comprehensive redevelopment of the entire Bachelor of Medicine (BM) curriculum, and the BM5 in particular, was undertaken in 2012 and we are currently evaluating these changes as we look forward to the next periodic review.

A100 BMBS Medicine and BMedSc (BM5) (5 years)

Key facts

Integrated, systems-based method of teaching

Clinical work from the first few weeks

Healthcare support worker placement in Year 2

Research module with integrated BMedSc degree

Optional Intercalated Masters degree

Clinical apprenticeship in final year

Key drivers

The changing face of Higher Education over recent years coupled with changes in the NHS and to the requirements of the General Medical Council has fundamentally altered the landscape of undergraduate medical education. Amongst the key drivers that the Faculty considered when reviewing the BM curriculum were the following:

  1. The GMC requirement that all undergraduate medical programmes are delivered according to its Outcomes for Graduates in Tomorrow's Doctors 2009
  2. The increasing requirement for the development of Medical Professionalism in Medical Education literature
  3. Students entering BM5 Year 3 finding it difficult to cope with the change from a mainly classroom to a clinical environment
  4. The position of the Research Project in Year 4 and the consequent clinical ‘de-skilling' that made the transition into Final Year difficult
  5. The change in hospital structures and work patterns and the demise of the traditional "firm"
  6. The somewhat disjointed nature of Years 4 and 5 caused by previous curricular changes introduced to address some of these issues
  7. The differing experiences of BM4 and BM5 students due to the alignment between the two programmes drifting as other changes were introduced along the way
  8. The need to conform more closely to University standard structures including the ‘modularisation' of all BM programmes
  9. National concerns about the preparedness of graduates for work both in terms of confidence and competence
  10. The lack of a resit opportunity for Finals exams now that students pay £9,000 a year fees

With the level of change only likely to increase in the coming years it is vital that future graduates are ‘transformative learners', capable of analysing and synthesising information for decision making; have core competencies for effective teamwork; and are able to adapt global resources for local priorities. It is also hoped that this new programme structure will make it easier for us to respond to future changes and requirements

Main features

Perhaps the biggest single change was to move the Research Project from Year 4 to the beginning of Year 3. This means that students spend the bulk of the subsequent two years in clinical areas, allowing Finals to be brought forward to January/February and a resit opportunity before the start of the Foundation Programme.

Other key features of the new BM5 programme are:

There are a number of completely new elements including:

The Elective, Assistantship and final Student Selected Unit now all come after Finals to help students prepare better for the workplace and choose career pathways. 

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