1. Numerous medical schools

Medical education in Zambia has undergone massive transformation with several medical schools taking up the mantle once reserved for government institutions. The oldest and most recognized medical school is the University of Zambia that was established in 1965. One of the first private medical schools to be established was Lusaka Apex Medical University in 2008. This was eventually followed by the establishment of the Copperbelt University School of Medicine in 2011, the Mulungushi University School of Medicine in 2017 and the Levy Mwanawasa Medical University established in 2019 that are state run. Other Universities offering medical training include Cavendish University and most recently Texila America University, University of Lusaka and Eden University.

For a university to run a medical program as well as other heath related programs such as pharmacy, they need to be accredited by numerous regulatory bodies in the country including Health Professions Council of Zambia and the Higher Education Authority. These regulators ensure that the medical schools are keeping in line with prescribed medical education standards and monitor the quality of medical education delivered. The gradual increase in the number of medical schools in the recent past has seen the national capacity of accepting medical students and producing medical doctors increase exponentially.

Competition for places is still fierce with only those of outstanding intellect and social responsibility eventually going on to enroll but thankfully with the burgeoning medical education sector, the availability of places is not as much a limiting factor as it was a few years ago.

  1. No quotas on foreign medical students

The exclusivity of medical education to government institutions is enshrined in the constitutions of many countries and this has allowed for greater control by governments on the output of medical doctors. Apart from that, several countries enforce strict quotas for medical student numbers enrolled in the country with most of these enforcing foreign medical student quotas with others outright barring enrolment of foreign medical students. Prohibitively expensive tariffs also serve as a deterrent for prospective medical students coming from outside the country.

No such quotas are in effect in Zambia, and foreign medical students are just as welcome to enroll in medical school as a native Zambian for as long as they have the necessary prerequisites. The tariffs associated with pursuing medical school are relatively less when compared to other countries and this ultimately reduces the barrier for entry into medical education for medical students.

The country has been a hub in the Southern African region, educating a number of nationals from this region over the years, especially those that have never had established medical schools. The country boasts vast experience in accommodating foreign students and has allowed the country to mature as an ideal destination for international medical graduates.

  1. Opportunities for postgraduate training

Having successfully completed your medical training and any prerequisite community service, medical doctors may progress to employment or may consider going back to school to enhance their medical qualifications. The numerous medical schools cater to a wide range of disciplines of medicine with Masters of Public Health being the most widely available of the postgraduate courses. 

For those interested in pursuing a more clinical path, the Masters of Medicine is offered by the major universities including the University of Zambia, Copperbelt University and Mulungushi University. There are also several pathways that enable one to pursue a more academic route in their continued medical education with an array of Masters of Science and even training at PhD level available in the country. These programs are open to nationals of all countries as well.

  1. Flexible admission

Most medical universities allow application forms from the so called school leavers or students who have recently completed their secondary education as well as from graduate students who hold a bachelors degree in a related field. In some other circumstances, applications for transfers from other medical schools are accepted and students can transition from the medical school where they started from to a medical school in the country. Admission is subject to review by the necessary authorizing bodies at each university but is definitely a plus when considering medical school and the various routes one may use to enter it.

  1. International employability

Medical degrees are the dual degrees of medicine and surgery, commonly abbreviated as MBChB. Several universities in the country are listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools and these degrees are recognised the world over allowing for medical doctors graduating from Zambia to comfortably fit in to any healthcare system as international medical graduates subject to conforming to the local regulatory authorities prerequisites. Several medical doctors have gone on to successful careers in the USA, UK, Canada and Australia.

  1. Favorable exchange rate

The country also has a favorable exchange rate with most of the major international currencies that allows for international students to have competitive rates for tuition, research and other academic related fees. It also allows for affordable accommodation with costs associated with personal upkeep being relatively inexpensive. Fees related to travel and settling in the country are also relatively less prohibitive than other countries but the lack of a national airline, makes direct flights limited to a handful of countries and connecting flights ultimately raising the overall cost in relation to relocating to Zambia. Thankfully it all balances out in the end with the savings that are derived from settling and upkeep.

  1. IELTS is not required

IELTS is an internationally renowned assessment of English language competency used globally to assess an individual’s likelihood to effectively communicate in English in various day-to-day and workplace interactions. Although it is not a strict prerequisite for international students’ English competence is necessary as all the academic activities are conducted in English in all the medical schools currently.

English being a medium of instruction in medical schools requires one to have attained an acceptable standard of English proficiency as evident by an appropriate passing grade in English at the Secondary school exiting exam such as a GCE ‘O’ level or other internationally recognized school leavers’ certificate. Although IELTS is the gold standard in several English speaking countries as a prerequisite for admission, medical schools in the country will accept English language proficiency as documented by the appropriate school leavers’ certificate.

  1. Favorable climate

The country exhibits a subtropical climate with large areas of savanna and semi-arid regions. The country has two basic seasons of wet and dry season. The wet season which runs from September/October to November/December, is typically hot and is considered summer whereas the dry season does not usually experience rainfall and is referred to as the cold season as temperatures drop during this period. It runs from May to around October. Temperatures tend to be higher during the hot season, with daytime temperatures usually ranging around mid 30°C and cold season temperature hovering around 10°C. These temperature rarely cross the 40°C or dip below 0°C. This relatively favorable temperature may be an important deciding factor for some people who may wish to learn in warmer climates.

  1. Hospitable people

Zambians are well renowned for their hospitality and ability to welcome visitors with a smile. The beauty of Zambia’s natural resources is only matched by the warmth from its people’s heart. Having played a pivotal role in the struggle of independence of several African nations, being a refuge for several luminaries of independence, Zambians have become accustomed to welcoming visitors from all walks of life. The country although being predominantly Christian, has a commendable religious tolerance with several mosques and Hindu temples in the country.

  1. Numerous tourism sites and other attractions

It goes without saying that Zambia has a wealth of natural resources that make it a must-visit location for tourists. The Victoria Falls is the most recognized of these and is one of the most visited tourist sites in the country drawing travelers from all over the world. Livingstone, where the falls are located in Zambia is the tourist capital of the country and is another draw for international travelers with various sites and activities in the town tailored to its descriptive moniker.

There are 20 national parks in the country that provide visitors with scenic views, calming environments and the opportunity to see a whole host of wild animals including the famous big five. This is in addition to all the other natural resources and tourist attractions that are dotted across the country.

Considering medical education is a long and arduous journey, there will be several opportunities to sample some of these places especially during your downtime or to recuperate after a strenuous semester.