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: Thursday 28 September 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

In the UK, medicine and being a doctor has traditionally been seen as a career for the elite or privileged in society.

Despite efforts to increase gender parity and ethnic diversity among UK doctors, the lack of people from lower socio-economic backgrounds entering the profession is still a reality.

It’s important we encourage those with the potential to study medicine to regard it as a viable option, irrespective of their socio-economic circumstances.

By supporting widening participation in medicine, we are also ensuring that the NHS is reflective and understanding of the needs of its patients in the future.

Our feature on 'The Right Mix' goes into greater detail on these issues and what we think needs to change. 

To find out more about the BMA's policy work on widening participation in medicine, please email us


Online All-Wales Schools event

An online event took place on 18th November, with doctors and medical students sharing their journeys and advice with pupils across Wales. You can watch a recording of the event here.

BMA Cymru Wales have produced a dual language booklet titled 'Why haven't you thought about starting medicine yet?', detailing the different paths you can take into medicine.

Download BMA Cymru Wales booklet (in English)

Download BMA Cymru Wales booket (in Welsh)


BMA Scotland have produced a booklet titled ‘Have you thought about studying medicine' addressing all you need to know if you are thinking of a career in medicine in Scotland. 

Download BMA Scotland booklet


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.