Skip to main content

Dim ond yng Nghaerdydd

To BSc or Not to BSc

31 Rhagfyr 2014

Hello everyone! I can’t quite believe that I am sat here writing and its New Year’s Eve! This year has gone so incredibly fast… and I think that’s a sign of 2014 being such a good year! With 2015 being just 9 hours away, I’ve got to thinking…what’s going to be happening next year? I’ll be finishing up my second year, I’ll turn 20 (twenteen of course), and by Christmas I’ll be half way through my medical degree (eek!). Or at least I might be! By next Christmas I would have spent 2 and a half years at Cardiff University doing medicine. And by next Christmas I also would have made a very important decision. Whether or not I decide to cling on to student life for one extra year and intercalate (making my degree 6 years long ahh!).

Now when I was in sixth form and even in my first year of university, I really took it for granted that people knew what ‘intercalating’ was. I’ve found that lots of people throw the term around, when lots of prospective students and current students (especially in the younger years) don’t quite know what it is. So…what is intercalation?

So intercalating and doing an ‘intercalated degree’ is when you take one year out of your medical degree in order to do another degree in a year, earning you a BSc. It is an optional year, and not everyone doing medicine at Cardiff will do one- unlike some universities where intercalation is compulsory for their students. So at Cardiff each year around 80 medical students will take part in this extra intercalating year between either their 3rd and 4th year, or between their 4th and 5th year. Intercalating is certainly not for everyone, and you shouldn’t feel pressured into doing one if the idea of it is not for you. But at Cardiff there is a wide range of degree programmes which are offered so there is bound to be one that interests you. The existing degree programmes offered at Cardiff include:

  • Biochemistry
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience
  • Medical Education
  • Pharmacology
  • Medical Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Pathology
  • Clinical Epidemiology
  • Psychology and Medicine

However you may be feeling particularly adventurous for your intercalating year, and chose to actually leave Cardiff University to complete a degree elsewhere. For some students you may decide to do what is known as external intercalation- meaning you can apply to other universities to do a degree which may not be offered at Cardiff. Or you might decide to take advantage of the fact that Cardiff has joined up with Bangor university (which is in North Wales), to allow students to complete the following degrees up there…

  • Neuropsychology
  • Medical Education
  • Exercise, Behaviour Change and Disease Prevention
  • Exercise Physiology
  • Sport Science

Now for some people, they just know that they want to intercalate… It is a little bit like those people who just know they want to be surgeons right from the first day they set foot in medical school. But for others they might not have even known this option existed until just a couple of months ago and are left toying with the idea of whether or not they should take the plunge and apply for the extra year. So seeing as I’m only in second year and haven’t intercalated… I had a chat with a few people who have been there and done that whole ‘intercalation thing’ to find out what are the advantages and disadvantages of embarking on the iBSc.


Being a student for another year

Now some people may look at this and see this as a huge disadvantage. Lots of people think that spending five years as a student in medical school is more than enough. They are ready to say goodbye to the student life and start being a doctor already. However others may see this as their golden ticket to enduring fresher’s week for one more year, clinging on to going out to live lounge in the middle of the week, and not having to say goodbye to their student discounts. Intercalating allows you to delay saying goodbye to your university years because we all know they go far too quickly!


Knowledge, Knowledge, Knowledge

Doing an intercalated degree also means that you are going to greatly improve your medical knowledge. The extra year of studying a subject that interests you in detail is bound to help you in the rest of your medical career. It also will allow you to learn things that you wouldn’t necessarily come across in the normal medical degree programme. Some of the intercalated degrees which are offered involve a research project element meaning you might spend some time in the lab. Which could mean that maybe after a whole year, you might finally know how to use those pipettes down in bioscience without having to decode the user guide!


FPAS Points

Although this should not be your motivating factor for doing an intercalated degree, it is something to think about and is an advantage. Doing an intercalated degree will give you FPAS points (which are used when allocating jobs after you graduate). Depending on whether you get a first, 2:1, or a 2:2 in your intercalated degree, you could score up to 5 extra points in the FPAS system… what’s not to love?



Being left behind

If you decide to intercalate that means it’s going to take you 6 years to finally graduate from medical school as opposed to the usual 5. Meaning that when you finally make it to your fifth year, all your friends would have graduated and will now be F1s. Although this might not bother you at all, some people find it hard to move down a year in the medical school and no longer be with all their friends. Especially if after they graduate they chose not to remain in Cardiff for their foundation years.


Forgetting what you’ve learnt

If you speak to most medical students no matter at what stage they are in their course. They will tell you how after each long summer they feel as though they have forgotten everything they learnt for their exams just 3 months ago. Now imagine how hard it is trying to remember everything after 3 months of kicking back in the sunshine, let alone after a year of studying something which is not medicine. Students can sometimes find it hard to get back into the swing of being back on the ward every day, and also can struggle trying to refresh their memory with everything they learnt the year before- which let’s face it, probably got pushed out of their brain whilst studying for their BSc exams.

So maybe that’s helped you decide whether or not an intercalated degree is for you. You can get lots more information from the Cardiff University School of Medicine website, and if you are a current Cardiff University medical student, there is an annual intercalation talk which gives more information about intercalating. I hope you all have a happy new year! I’ll be spending mine in true student style in the union at flux…I’m certainly not ready to stop being a student!

See you in 2015!