The Top 10 Medical Schools around the world

There are a lot of incredibly good medical schools around the world, for those lucky enough to get their foot in the door

Learning to become a doctor is tough, so it helps to have access to a world class education. But how to know which university is the best? This year, the twelfth edition of QS World University Rankings by Subject has offered an independent comparative analysis of the performance of medical schools around the world – and there are some incredible places included, from Yale to Johns Hopkins.

The rankings are compiled using four indicators, weighted differently, depending on the subject. The first two are QS’ global surveys of 130,000 academics and 75,000 employers, used to assess the reputation of institutions in specific fields. The research indicators assess research impact and productivity, based on citations per paper and h-index, which measures the impact of an author or institution’s scholarly output and performance.

Leading the way in medicine
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the United States leads the way by number of world top-100 medical departments with 30. This was followed by the United Kingdom, which boasts 16. Canada and the Netherlands come joint third by this measure with a total of seven top-100 medical schools.

The best-performing country by the ratio of top-100 faculties per ranked institution is the Netherlands. In total, 182 medical faculties around the world have improved their rank this year, while 233 have remained unchanged and 216 have declined.

The world’s most improved medical school was Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam which climbs 64 positions in this year’s ranking to place joint 81st – alongside the University of Milan (down nine positions). Other big improvements in the field are recorded by the University of Ottawa (up 40), Yonsei University in South Korea and the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom (both up 26).

So here it is. The Top Ten medical schools around the world, according to QS World University Rankings by Subject.


One of the many stunning buildings at the University of Toronto

10. University of Toronto
What better place to study medicine than the institution famous for discovering insulin and stem cells? If that’s not impressive enough, the University of Toronto was also the site of the world’s first ever lung transplant.

Approximately 850 students from around the globe enrol every year in the university’s highly prestigious Doctor of Medicine programme. A network of twelve teaching hospitals host future doctors as they learn to care for patients.

Current notable faculty include Professor of Molecular Genetics John E. Dick, who first identified the cancer stem cell, and Professor of Surgery Tirone E. David, who developed valve-sparing aortic root replacement. Not a bad bunch to learn from, then. The city of Toronto isn’t too shabby, either.


Yale on an autumn afternoon

9. Yale University
The first of several Ivy League institutions on our list, Yale University has been associated with excellence since its foundation way back in the eighteenth century.

Students here are subject to an unusual system, in which they are not graded during their first two years of study, or indeed ranked among their classmates. Instead, they are expected to produce a thesis comprised of their own research.

The system is clearly working. Yale has made a lot of contributions to medicine, including the first successful use of penicillin in the United States, the first use of cancer chemotherapy, and introducing the world to foetal heart monitoring. In 1975, two physicians from Yale were the first people to identify Lyme disease. One could do a lot worse than studying here.


Imperial College London

8. Imperial College London
British medicine is regarded as among the best in the world, so it’s hardly a surprise that numerous colleges from the UK have made the list. Imperial College London is located in (yes, you’ve guessed it) London, welcoming over 2,200 undergraduate students every year, many from abroad.

There’s plenty to boast about here. Imperial College London has produced five Nobel Laureates in Physiology and Medicine during its existence, including Sir Ernst Chain, who won the honour for his work on penicillin. Downsides? A lot of students from outside the UK complain about the weather. Nowhere is perfect, I suppose.


University College London

7. University College London
The weather isn’t much better for students of our next entry, either. With that said, University College London’s medical school is certainly among the most desirable for young people who want to study in the United Kingdom. Almost 3,000 people apply every year, with only 322 places on offer.

Getting in is worth it, though – UCL boasts some of the finest facilities in the world, as well as a jaw-dropping 29 Nobel Prize recipients.

There’s a fascinating history associated with the college, too: in 1878, UCL was the first university in England to admit women students on equal terms with men. These days, almost 60 per cent of students are women. UCL is also associated with the famous Great Ormond Street Hospital.


University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

6. University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Finally, some sunshine. If students can cope with incessant good weather and a world-class education, then UCLA could be for them. (Go Bruins!)

One thing about medicine at UCLA is slightly unusual, however. Its medical college has a bit of a bizarre name. The David Geffen School of Medicine received its title in 2001, when the famous American media tycoon donated over $200 million in funds to UCLA. But hey – why not learn medicine under the patronage of the man who famously signed Nirvana? The Free Man in Paris – as Joni Mitchell put it.


Eager Park and Johns Hopkins Hospital at night, in Baltimore, MD

5. Johns Hopkins University
What can you say about Maryland’s Johns Hopkins, the first research university ever founded in the United States? It produces some of the best healthcare workers and researchers in the world.

It hosts thousands of students each year, all of whom are among the academic elite. It needs no introduction or explanation – its Johns Hopkins University.

Michael Bloomberg has donated over $3 billion to Johns Hopkins over the years. Mercifully, it has yet to be renamed in his honour.

A brief aside: students taking a break from their studies can even meander down to Johns Hopkins Archaeological Collections to meet ‘Boris’ the university’s resident mummy.


Cambridge University (King’s College Chapel)

4. Cambridge University
Another prestigious medical school, another incredibly selective admissions policy. If a student can make to the top 19.2 per cent of over 1,300 applicants each year, then it’s hard to find a better place than here to study. The University of Cambridge’s School of Medicine ‘offers students a first-class scientific approach to medicine combined with educational programmes that emphasise the development of excellence in the clinical, communication, attitudinal and practical skills required for good medical practice,’ according to its website.

A lot of notable alumni, too, if you care about that kind of thing, though too many to name here.


Stanford University campus

3. Stanford University
Surprise, surprise, another Ivy Leaguer. Stanford – known to some as ‘the farm’ because horses used to roam on the grounds – has existed since the 19th century, when a Californian senator set up in the University, hoping to promote public welfare after his child died of typhoid.

These days, Stanford hosts over 10,000 (mostly undergrad) students on its world-famous campus. Sport is big here as well, if med students can get some time away from their studies, with football, basketball, squash, and 29 other club sports available on campus. Ideal for the budding doctor/American football player.


Oxford University

2. Oxford University
Oxford has been around for quite a while. In fact, no one is quite sure when the college was even founded, though some estimates go as far back as the eleventh century. But that was a long time ago. In 2022, Oxford is involved in ground-breaking research into treatments for patients hospitalised with Covid-19, cancer, and obesity, all contributing towards its elevated position in this table. What’s more, its campus sprawls across the entire town of Oxford, dubbed ‘the dreaming city of spires’ by poet Matthew Arnold. Literally the best in the world, except for our next entry.


Aerial view of John F. Kennedy Street, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

1. Harvard University
Is it any surprise that Harvard tops the list? The university’s reputation is pristine. Its medical school boasts 16 Nobel prize winners among its alumni. The very name ‘Harvard’ elicits a level of respect – and don’t worry, people who went there will tell you, repeatedly (including our own Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly).

Established back in 1782, Harvard Medical School continues to train many of the leading healthcare workers in the world – including inventor Paul Zamecnik, pioneering brain surgeon Harvey Williams Cushing, as well as surgeon and astronaut Robert Satcher. Researchers at Harvard have contributed to some of the most heavily cited papers in the field, including the World Health Organisation classification of Central Nervous Systems tumours, and the growing prevalence of differentiated thyroid cancer.

Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, over 20,000 students attend Harvard every year. Gaining admission to the college, you may not be surprised to learn, is notoriously difficult. Med students must either be academically gifted or exorbitantly wealthy to get in. Often both.

All photos: Getty Images

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