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Widening participation in medicine

ARM 2019 Annual Representative Meeting Schools event

What is widening participation?

Widening participation (WP) is an initiative that seeks to give the opportunity to anyone who has the ability and desire, whatever their background, to enter higher education. It started out as a government initiative, its main aim to offer 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.


Widening participation guidance for students in Wales

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 the booklet


BMA aspiring doctors programme

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

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

  • offering insight into the application process and a doctor's career path
  • providing work experience
  • helping with personal statements and interview practice
  • preparation for admission tests. 

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.

For more information about the BMA aspiring doctors programme, please email our CSER and charities team at [email protected].


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 our ARM. We invite schools which may not have had the opportunity to attend such events previously with the aim of encouraging students from wider backgrounds into the profession.

During the event, local students meet with some of our members and hear about their experience of studying and working in medicine. Students have the opportunity to experience each step of a doctor’s pathway and the different specialties available by navigating through different stations each represented by a medical student or doctor. Through medical-themed group activities, games and quizzes, students have to change to ask questions about studying and working in medicine.

  • Useful resources

    • The Social Mobility Foundation – a UK wide charity established to make practical improvement to people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
    • Generation Medics – a social enterprise for medical school applicants and hold conferences for aspiring doctors throughout the year.
    • MyBigCareer – a charity that breaks down barriers to social mobility. They set up mentoring and work experience schemes within medicine.
    • Medic Mentor – a social enterprise and professional resources running several courses for prospective students.
    • The Brightside Trust – a charity that helps young people access education and career pathways.
    • The Girls Network– the BMA have partnered with the Girls Network, whose aim is to support and empower girls from the least advantaged communities by connecting them with mentors and a network of professional female role models.
    • - a forum for medical students to find answers to their questions and chat to other students. 

    See our equality and inclusion resources