Why the course MBBS is So Called Instead of BMBS?

Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery; commonly known as MBBS in India; is the first professional degree pursued in the course of medicine in countries that follow the tradition of the United Kingdom. It is one of the most desired courses by the students not only across India but across the entire globe. The medical industry is also one of the most reputable and in many cases, one of the most paid professions to pursue.

Yet curiosity often arises among students and parents alike – the abbreviation does not quite sit well with the course, unlike many of the other courses pursued. The truth is that it does, with the key being in a lack of awareness. MBBS courses are generally a reflection of the western system of medicine and thus, reflect a part of its western history: The Latin Language. MBBS’s true expansion is not “Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery” but part-Latin and part-English. It stands for “Medicinae Baccalaureus & Bachelor of Surgery” which makes the abbreviation quite clear. Since Latin is not a global language, the entire phrase is often said in English where Medicinae Baccalaureus stands for Bachelor of Medicine.

However, MBBS does not globally have a common name, thus, some countries do abbreviate the course as BMBS. Other common abbreviations used for the same curriculum involve MB ChB, MB BCh, MB BChir, and BM BCh; where Bachelor of Surgery in Latin is referred to as Baccalaureus Chirurgiae. No matter what the abbreviation, the name clearly suggests that the courses combine two different realms of medicine into one and provides a generalized degree. Historically they were known to be separate, and even today, the specialization courses or the second level of medicine require the student to opt for only one of the above. The concept of MBBS does not exist in some countries such as the United States, where the curriculum is distinct and the course is referred to as MD (Doctor of Medicine) or DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine).


  1. India: As mentioned earlier, the medical program all across India is abbreviated as MBBS, which is a course with a duration of 5 years, and is granted by any college registered under the Medical Council of India. The sole prerequisite in India is getting through the NEET examination to be eligible for an MBBS program post 10+2 education (and a minimum percentage)
  2. United Kingdom: The abbreviations used across the UK differ vastly from one university to another, from one city to another. It can lie within the range of any of the titles mentioned, for e.g., the University of Oxford awards a BM Bch while the University of Cambridge awards the same in MB BChir, despite both being located in and around London.
  3. China: A course in medicine in China generally has a duration anywhere between 5-6 years and traditionally awards a degree in BMed (Bachelor of Medicine). In the past few years, many universities in China have been permitted to award an MBBS degree as equivalent to BMed. Hong Kong, despite being geographically in China, is a separate identity and has its own licensing rules. The University of Hong Kong grants an MBBS in China while The Chinese University of Hong Kong grants an MBChB.
  4. Australia: What makes Australia special is that still largely functions on the traditional format of the MBBS course, where the degree is granted but the title ‘Doctor’ is reserved for honorary doctorates. However, over-time Australia has bent its laws and derived other options for students to be acclaimed as a Doctor of Medicine after pursuing an MBBS course.
  5. Other: Some other countries that grant an MBBS are Bangladesh, Iraq, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore. Most popular countries not mentioned such as Ireland, Scotland, Mexico, Indonesia, etc follow alternative names.


While the curriculum largely remains similar all across the globe, the nomenclature’s wide variety must have a cause. The first act of combining a Bachelor’s in Medicine and that in Surgery into one effective curriculum was seen in England and Scotland. The structure then propagated to the rest of the world, including the US (which follows an entirely different curriculum today), as students from all over the world were pursuing their medical education from the esteemed universities of these nations. Eventually, by the 19th century, America deviated from the combined structure to a specialized Doctor of Medicine as its first professional degree in the medical sciences, while the rest of the world continued to consider MD to denote a higher doctorate and the second level of medical education.

The cause for adoption of different names is still not clear but considering the fact the UK offered the same course under different titles based on universities, the factor affecting the nomenclature the most would be the graduate carrying the tradition back to their country based on what their institution granted.

Regardless of what a degree reads, most countries accept the differences and license the doctors in their countries on having proven their skill. The amount of knowledge often also remains the same and its quality is based on the institution providing it, which can be referenced by their respective reputations. At the end of the day, those letters are just symbols reflecting a name.