U-turn on ‘unfair’ entry requirements for medical academic applicants

by Tim Tonkin

Changes to entry requirements to the Academic Foundation Programme which could have unfairly impacted medical students have been partially reversed following intervention by the BMA. 

Published: Tuesday 17 November 2020

Retrospective amendments to the programme’s entry requirements for medical students applying for the AFP (Academic Foundation Programme) in London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex have been reversed after the BMA raised concerns that the changes were unfair to candidates and risked undermining faith in the application process.

Originally applicants to the four regions were to be ranked based in part on their medical school decile scores.

Due to disruptions to training and education resulting from COVID-19, however, not all medical schools were able to provide these details, leading to assessments based on other criteria such as presentations, publications, prizes and additional degrees.

The BMA contacted Health Education England on 9 November warning that the association had not been consulted about changes to entry requirements, while outlining a number of concerns about changes to the application process.

These included concerns that the amended assessment would not adequately consider the excellence shown by an applicant throughout their undergraduate studies, something that the association said needed to be the primary factor when longlisting.

In response, HEE has committed to increasing capacity to assess applications and to using decile scores for overall ranking when available.

It has also confirmed that other criteria such as presentations, publications, prizes and additional degrees will be used for scoring at longlisting where decile points cannot be obtained.

BMA medical students committee co-chair Tinaye Mapako (pictured) said he had been relieved to hear that HEE had listened to and accepted the association’s concerns.

He said: ‘As soon as we heard about last-minute changes to the AFP in London and the southwest, we knew we had to act quickly for our members. Students had carefully selected their choices based on the very specific criteria of every deanery, so it was disappointing to hear that had been changed retroactively. 

‘We got into contact with our policy experts and wrote to HEE. It was a team effort which meant all [educational achievements] were included; a great U-turn for applicants.’