Widening participation in medicine

The widening participation initiative seeks to give the opportunity to anyone who has the ability and desire, to enter into a medical career.

Location: UK
Audience: Medical students
Updated: Wednesday 20 December 2023
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What is widening participation?

Widening participation (WP) is a government initiative offering opportunities to groups of people who are under-represented in higher education.

Some under-represented groups include people:

  • who are the first generation to consider higher education
  • from low socio-economic groups
  • attending schools with low progression into higher education.

Widening participation in medicine

Widening participation in medicine refers to the efforts and initiatives designed to ensure that individuals from underrepresented or disadvantaged groups are supported to pursue a career in medicine. These initiatives include the use of specific admissions policies, financial support, outreach and engagement, and mentorship and support.

Widening participation groups include:
  • Students from lower socio-economic backgrounds
  • Students from non-academically selective state schools
  • Disabled students / students with an Education, Health, and Care (EHC) plan
  • Looked after children
  • Students who are estranged from their families
  • Some ethnic minority students (in certain geographical areas)
  • Students with caring responsibilities

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Schools event

BMA Northern Ireland will be holding its next Widening participation event on 5 October 2023. The booklet ‘Why haven’t you thought about studying medicine yet? a guide for pupils to becoming a doctor from GCSEs to medical school’ has been produced detailing all you need to know if you are thinking of a career in medicine in Northern Ireland.

Download the BMA Northern Ireland booklet

BMA aspiring doctors programme

Our BMA aspiring doctors programme helps to ensure that all students who are interested in entering medicine have a fair opportunity to do so.

We aim to create lasting links between doctors and their local schools by encouraging doctors to give back to their community while helping a greater number of students from diverse backgrounds get into medicine.

Through the programme, we use our network of doctors and medical students to help schools whose students are interested in applying to medical school, in the following ways:

  • offer insight into the application process and a doctor's career path
  • provide work experience
  • help with personal statements and interview practice
  • help to prepare for admission tests.

For more information about the BMA aspiring doctors programme, please email us.

Outreach schemes in higher education

All UK medical schools are required to have some kind of outreach scheme that widens access to courses, that lead to professional careers.

The outreach schemes vary, for instance:

  • primary schools seek to inspire children at a young age to consider medicine
  • some medical schools offer summer schools for secondary students that assist with medical school applications and gaining work experience
  • universities like King’s College London offer a six year extended medical degree programme, that dedicated places for disadvantaged backgrounds.

To find out more about outreach schemes or for extra support, contact the medical schools directly to discuss what they could offer.

Take a look at the medical schools around the UK or read more about how to become a doctor.

ARM (annual representative meeting) schools engagement events

As part of our work on widening participation into medicine, we invite local school students to attend a school engagement event at our ARM.

During the event, local students meet with some of our members and hear about their experience of studying and working in medicine. Through medical-themed group activities, games and quizzes, students have the chance to ask questions about studying and working in medicine.