Access to Medical Studies

Information for prospective students


 <nhs_symbol_rod_of_asclepius_star_of_life.png> The Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAPWest) is a consortium of Colleges and Higher Education Institutions in the West of Scotland. The partnership develops access programmes for adults returning to education. The partnership targets adults who reside in the most disadvantaged areas of the West of Scotland and particularly those who have no, few or out of date qualifications. SWAPWest access programmes have been running since 1987. Over 35,000 adults have enrolled on SWAPWest programmes.  

Background to the Access to Medical Studies programme

Twenty years ago the Consortium was approached by Stow College and the University of Glasgow to consider developing a programme with progression routes to medicine. During the developmental process it was agreed that, in order to provide as many opportunities for students as possible, medically related degrees including pharmacy, bio medicine and medical physics would be added.

The programme is now delivered at Glasgow Kelvin College and Glasgow Clyde College due to the science specialists at the Colleges and the range of experience in delivering SWAPWest access programmes.

In 2003 the first access to medical studies programme was run as part of a 3 year pilot. Due to the initial successes the medical studies programme has continued in a similar format. The degree in dentistry at University of Glasgow was added from 2008. Veterinary medicine was added in 2010. Since then oral health has also been added and vet nursing.

The SWAP programme

The SWAP programme contains three elements:

1.    Academic content.
The content of the programme is a combination of SQA units (SCQF level 6) which is equivalent to highers and in the case of chemistry and biology (SCQF level 7 & 8) which is equivalent to HNC/D. The programme is delivered by the College but is agreed on an annual basis by all of the University partners providing progression routes. The programme contains a combination of academic units that provides students with the core skills required for University study. For entry to University of Glasgow, students require a Minimum of 80% in their assessed units, studied throughout the year.

2.    Preparation for Higher Education.
All SWAP students are required to participate in and complete Preparation for Higher education. As well as the interactive modules, Prep for HE covers researching and visiting Universities. Students are expected to work together and on their own to complete Prep for HE. The materials and resources will also be useful for their first year at University and should be kept by students.

Student profile.
Is a reference from the College to the University on the ability of a student to communicate effectively and their potential as an undergraduate student. All SWAPWest progressions to degrees are subject to completion of all the units and a satisfactory student profile. Student’s profiles are passed by SWAPWest to the relevant Universities. Progression routes for SWAP programmes SWAPWest programmes are designed to provide entrance qualifications for adults for degree courses. Each year Universities up date their progression courses. The following are available for access to medical studies:  

University of Glasgow
Veterinary Medicine

Any of Glasgow University's life science (e.g. biology- or chemistry-based) undergraduate degrees  

University of Strathclyde
Pharmacy Biomedical science  

Glasgow Caledonian University
Oral Health
l & Biomedical Sciences

In addition, a wide variety of science progression routes are available from all of the above partner organisations, as well to Stirling University and the Scottish Rural University College. These include forensic science and bioscience degrees amongst many others. Details of these additional progression routes will be made available to enrolled students in October.

Other Universities

SWAPWest works as a partnership organisation with:

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU)
University of Glasgow
University of Stirling
University of Strathclyde
University of the West of Scotland (UWS)
Scotland's Rural College (SRUC)

Other universities outwith the partnership may recognise the SWAP programme as an entrance qualification. As they are not subject to the partnership agreement, entrance recognition for the programme is a matter for these universities. You should check with the universities if the access programme is recognised and what conditions apply.

Entry to the Medical Studies Programme

Due to the highly competitive nature of the progression routes, SWAPWest has decided to limit the numbers allowed on the SWAPWest programme. Entry to the programme is subject to interview and in some cases external reference. A range of criteria is used to decide on those who join the programme. The interview will provide an opportunity for the potential student to discuss the programme with a representative of the College and SWAPWest. The interview will explore the other opportunities that are available to students and guidance will be given on these opportunities. Due to the high level of chemistry, maths and biology on the SWAP access programme students will be expected to have some qualifications in these subjects. Students should be aware of the experience required for the progression routes and they will be expected to be able to articulate the relevance of their experience. Details of the expected experience required are specified on the university web-sites.

As an adult returning to education there is an expectation that you will be able to draw on both vocational and life experience.
 Students who are not successful in securing a place will be advised of alternative options and can re-apply.

Applications to University

All applications to University degrees are processed through UCAS. For those seeking to apply to medicine, vet med or dentistry you require to apply by the 15th October. As the Access to medical studies programme does not start until the beginning of September there is considerable amount of work required by students in order to apply to UCAS. The personal statement is a very important part of the application process. Assistance is given in writing a personal statement in the Preparation for Higher Education, Students are strongly advised to carry out the exercises and seek assistance in writing their personal statements. All other degrees have the normal UCAS deadline.  

Please note that you apply to the University through the SWAPWest UCAS school site.


All applications to the University of Glasgow, medicine and dentistry progression routes require to undertake a UCAT aptitude test. As the aptitude test takes place prior to the medical studies programme commencing it is the responsibility of the student to complete the UCAT application.  

Details can be found at

While the UCAT test is an aptitude test students are strongly advised to practice the test prior to sitting the test. The University of Glasgow advise you to practice at least three times. Practicing ensures that you are aware of the timing required and the type of question that you will be expected to respond to. There is a charge for the UCAT test, check website for details. Applicants in receipt of income support can apply for a bursary but you must apply for a bursary voucher to UCAT prior to paying for the test.

Contact details  

Kenny Anderson
0141 564 7206   

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