United Kingdom
Low numbers of state school students enter medical school
Sep 24, 2005 - 8:27:00 PM

The extra funding English medical schools will receive from top-up fees should be used to widen access to the profession, the BMA said on Thursday 22 September, 2005 as new figures show that the proportion of medical students from state schools is far lower than the national average.

Figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency today show that little over two thirds (67.3%) of UK entrants to degrees in medicine, dentistry and veterinary science in 2003 came from state schools. This is lower than the proportion on any other group of courses, and contrasts with the average of 86.8% for all subjects.*

The call to tackle the imbalance comes as part of Medicine in the 21st Century, the BMA Medical Students Committee’s new manifesto for undergraduate medical education, published today (Thursday 22 September, 2005). It argues that medical schools, which are all expected to charge students in England the full £3000 a year to study medicine, should invest the extra money to improve the quality of teaching and resources, and on outreach schemes to encourage applications from students who might not traditionally consider a career in medicine.

Commenting on Medicine in the 21st Century, Kirsty Lloyd, chair of the BMA’s Medical Students committee, said: “The domination of the medical profession by the highest socioeconomic groups has to be tackled. The debt burden on medical students in the UK is going to discourage those from the poorest backgrounds from becoming doctors, and there’s a risk that the good work the government has done to widen access could be undone. Government policies on access to medical school must be fair and equitable, and must encourage diversity.”

Medicine in the 21st Century also calls for:

· NHS bursaries – currently available to medical students in their fifth and sixth years – to be extended to all years
· Tuition fee bursary schemes to be available to mature and graduate medical students
· Medical schools to audit their selection procedures to ensure no discrimination is taking place

The report was authored by Jonathan Beavers, a medical student at the University of Edinburgh, Leigh Bissett at the University of East Anglia, David Burke at the University of Nottingham, and Emily Rigby at the University of Bristol.

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