What you can expect from us

We place great emphasis on teaching psychiatry to medical students at the University of Cambridge, and encourage students from all backgrounds to consider a career in this discipline.

Students spend a six week attachment to psychiatry late in stage 2 of their clinical course.  This is followed by a two week GP attachment with an emphasis on psychiatry.  Students rotate in 5 groups of ~26 students across a range of specialties (including psychiatry) in stage 2, which takes place from late in the first year to the end of the second year.  Therefore we have students placed with us for 30 weeks per year, ~26 students at a time.

Students spend the bulk of their placements with an NHS clinical psychiatric service.  Students are attached to services in Cambridge, Huntingdon/Peterborough, Bury-St-Edmunds or Bedford.  Students have a range of in-patient and community experience and experience across the full range of psychiatric specialties.  Students also receive centralized lecture teaching in Cambridge for 3 ½ days per placement.  Assessment is by and end-of-placement written exam; and assessment of attendance and attainment by the clinical team they are attached to.  In addition, psychiatry is a component of the written and clinical finals at the end of the final year.

Specific enquiries about teaching psychiatry to medical students should be addressed to our Psychiatry Specialty Director, Dr Paul Wilkinson, in the first instance.



Teaching is managed via the Clinical School’s Virtual Learning Environment, named MedPortal, for medical students.  Please login to MedPortal to use this service. MedPortal contains a range of learning resources and information on the organization of the course.


Research opportunities for medical students and other interested undergraduates

The Department is keen to engage medical students and other undergraduates at the University of Cambridge who have an interest in psychiatric research. Researchers within the Department often have a number of ongoing or new projects, which may be suitable for students to work on in order to gain experience in psychiatric research. These projects are both broad (across the spectrum of psychiatric disorders) and inter-disciplinary (research themes range from neuroscience to psychology, genetics, biostatistics, epidemiology, public health and beyond). We do not assume students have any prior experience in psychiatric research, though this is always welcome, and involvement in projects can vary from a few weeks to full terms or more, depending on the specific project.

If you are interested in getting involved in psychiatric research, please visit our current list of available research projects suitable for medical students and other undergraduates.

For researchers: if you are interested in supervising medical or undergraduate students on a short research project, you can express your interest (no firm project required at this time) or post a specific project you would like to advertise, by clicking here.


Encouraging Medical Students into Psychiatry

One of the aims of our clinical psychiatry course is to encourage our students to become psychiatrists.  The most important method that we use to achieve this aim is trying to deliver an excellent course, with excellent placements.  We are continually improving our course, with the help of regular face-face feedback sessions with the students.  We have a two-monthly Undergraduate Teaching Committee Meeting where we maintain and plan developments of our clinical course.  This is open to all professionals involved in teaching Cambridge medical students, and has representation from the medical students and the trainee psychiatrists.  If you would be interested in attending and/or receiving minutes, please contact our Psychiatry Specialty Director, Dr Paul Wilkinson.


We have set up a number of initiatives to encourage medical students:


Psychiatry Career Mentor Scheme

Personal attention and interest from an enthusiastic psychiatrist is important in maintaining students’ interest in psychiatry.  All students who are interested are assigned a mentor who keeps in touch with them and meets them regularly throughout their undergraduate course, and often afterwards.  If you are interested in becoming, or being assigned, a mentor, please contact the mentor scheme organizer, Dr Mark Agius.


Integration of Psychiatry Teaching Through the Medical Course

We believe that psychiatry is essential to all of medicine, and is not something that should be practiced by psychiatrists.  Therefore it should not just be taught within a silo of a six week psychiatry placement.  Our general practice colleagues already organize a two week GP placement focused on primary care mental health.  We have recently appointed Dr David Christmas, a liaison psychiatrist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital who is half-funded to organize and deliver undergraduate teaching.  Dr Christmas is leading the development of psychiatry teaching within the final year medicine/surgery/acute care specialties.  This will better equip our graduates to recognise and manage psychiatric conditions in the patients they will be responsible for as junior doctors.


Student Psychiatry Society

We have aided the development of a thriving undergraduate psychiatry society, which organizes many interested meetings and provides peer support for our students who are interested in psychiatry.  As part of this, the department provides some funding for the society, to assist it in its work.


Student Recognition by the Royal College of Psychiatrists

The RCPsych is also keen to encourage students in psychiatry, and we make sure our students know about possible opportunities from the college, including prizes, conferences and free student associate membership.  The RCPsych has developed a new initiative of Pathfinder Fellowships, which provide mentorship, paper/online journals and financial support for research, electives and conference attendance.  Two Cambridge students were awarder Pathfinder Fellowships in the first round in 2013.  For more details on what the RCPsych can do for students, please see their website here .


Encouragement of Student Research

We encourage interested students to take part in research and audit, both in the Department of Psychiatry and in local placements, and provide supervision for this.  Students can either take a small role in a large study or do the bulk of the work for their own small study.  Many students obtain publications, international conference presentations, and prizes for this research.  Please see the details above for more information on student research.


Student Prizes

We have three prizes that can be awarded annually following appropriate competition:

Peter Brook Award for a research project or protocol

Eliot Slater Prize for Psychiatry based on submission of an essay

Glennie Prizes for Child Psychiatry

Details are available in the University of Cambridge Statutes and Ordinances; see: http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/univ/so/2012/chapter12-front.html. For more details, current students can view the relevant section of MedPortal.


Medical Grand Rounds

Psychiatry is a medical specialty, practised by real doctors, just like cardiology and neurology.  We therefore think it important that we present our cases, alongside other specialties, in the Addenbrooke’s grand rounds, which many students attend.


National Developments

All UK medical schools have similar aims to improve psychiatry teaching for our students.  Undergraduate psychiatry leads meet regularly at the RCPsych Psychiatry Undergraduate Teaching Leads forum.  This gives us a great chance to share ideas and improve what we all do.  We have agreed that there are two main aims of the psychiatry undergraduate course: to ensure that the 95% of doctors who are not psychiatrists are able to practice the basic psychiatry that they need to know competently and safely; and to encourage more UK graduates to become psychiatrists.

Recent national developments include: the publication of a national psychiatry undergraduate curriculum, with wide input from a range of stakeholders including students, clinical schools and user/carer organizations; the setting up of a secure web area where we can share our educational resources, such as lectures, podcasts and exam questions.