Press Office


Tackling entry barriers to medical degrees


A new report has highlighted the need for an expansion of outreach activity to ensure that there are more medical school applications coming from across the whole of the UK.

Research undertaken and commissioned by the Selecting for Excellence project found that 20% of schools or colleges provide 80% of applicants to medicine, with grammar or independent schools being responsible for about half of all medicine applicants.

To address these significant disparities, the report makes a series of recommendations as to how medical schools, organisations such as Health Education England, and Government, can work together to address them.

In particular, the 18-month study has highlighted the need for an expansion of outreach activity to ensure that there is coverage across the whole of the UK. At present, bright and able school children who do not live near a medical school may miss vital opportunities to explore medicine as a career. 

The report also calls on the NHS to expand the provision of work experience for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This will benefit not just those wishing to pursue a career in medicine but will broaden horizons for all those wishing to join other healthcare professions.

Chris Day, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Medical Sciences and Professor of Liver Medicine at Newcastle University UK, said: “Newcastle University has a long-standing reputation for being one of the best places to study medicine, dentistry and health sciences in the UK and in the world, and attracts students form a wide-range of backgrounds. 

“We work hard to promote diversity across the student body and our workforce, which helps push the boundaries of medicine and has an impact on society as a whole. Our excellent record of widening participation in the North East of England shows that our initiatives are delivering tangible results and are helping more students from different backgrounds gain access to study medicine.” 

Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said: “Improving access to the higher education courses that lead to professional careers such as medicine is vital to creating a more socially mobile society. So this report and guidance are tools that medical schools can use to change individual lives and benefit the whole country by making access to medicine fairer. 

“The report and guidance add greatly to the pool of evidence about what’s most effective at widening access, and are based on research commissioned by the Office for Fair Access as part of our work to support as well as challenge universities. I welcome the focus on activities to raise aspiration and attainment, work experience, and the use of contextual information.”

Wendy Reid, Director of Education & Quality and Medical Director, Health Education England, said: “This report is the result of a genuine collaboration of all those with an interest in our future medical workforce. It presents a clear pathway for ensuring that our future doctors are drawn from all walks of life and that those entering the medical profession have got there on merit. In turn this will ensure that future patients will receive the best possible medical care when needed and the best advice for staying healthy.”

Other recommendations set out in the final report revolve around crucial areas such as data collection, student information, and selection methods. As a means of encouraging and monitoring the use of the recommendations, ten-year targets have been set concerning the increased participation of students from socio-economic groups which currently are under-represented in medicine.

published on: 11 December 2014