Medical student England

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Private medical degrees could worsen employment prospects, BMA fears

Medical student leaders fear two new private medical courses will make it even harder for final years to secure their first jobs. academics

Buckingham University, which is a private higher education institution, announced yesterday that it would be charging £35,000 a year for a four-and-a-half year medical degree, due to accept its first intake of students in January 2015.

UCLAN (the University of Central Lancashire) is also hoping its private medical degree proposal will receive GMC approval in time for it to start accepting applications this autumn for a September 2014 launch. It plans to charge £32,500 a year.

A Buckingham University spokesperson said its course was not part of the number controls imposed by the government to help ensure the supply of medical students matches the NHS’s future workforce requirements. This could mean extra medical graduates competing for foundation programme places, raising the prospect of medical unemployment.

No-one from UCLAN was available to comment.


Workforce planning needed

BMA medical students committee co-chair Alice Rutter said the Buckingham University announcement did ‘nothing for workforce planning or for widening access to the profession’.

MSC joint deputy chair Melody Redman added: ‘The NHS needs meticulous workforce planning, so the opening of private medical schools could pose a direct threat to future jobs of medical school graduates.

‘This is extremely concerning and is compounded by the fact that £35,000 per year fees will be affordable only to those from higher socio-economic backgrounds, which is detrimental to the ongoing work to widen access to medicine.’

It costs about £269,000 to train a medical student. Graduates must complete their first year of foundation programme training in order to gain GMC registration and be able to work as doctors.

Medical schools in England and Scotland recently agreed to reduce their intakes to help prevent future medical unemployment. In England, there are 6,071 places for the 2013/14 academic year, down 2 per cent from last year while Scottish medical schools are accepting 784 students, down 6 per cent from 2011/12 numbers. The higher education funding councils can take action against institutions that exceed their intake.


International appeal 

Buckingham is planning an intake of up to 70 students a year. The spokesperson said the university was expecting the majority of students would be from overseas. She added the university was talking to the UK Foundation Programme Office about its graduates and the foundation programme. Its website says: ‘Students will graduate in time to apply for [foundation year 1] training programmes in the summer of 2019.’

There were almost 300 more applicants than foundation programme places this year, the third consecutive year of oversubscription. The government had to create 132 extra places in England, 45 in Scotland and 36 in Wales to meet its pledge that no eligible graduate from a UK medical school would be left without a foundation post. Other posts were freed up by students withdrawing from the process or failing exams.

The GMC confirmed it had received UCLAN’s application for approval for its medical course but could not say when this process would be completed.

The regulator, which is responsible for ensuring the quality of medical schools, will be monitoring the delivery of Buckingham’s new course, which is based on Leicester University’s degree. Students will spend the first two years at the university, studying biomedical science and clinical skills, before undertaking clinical placements at Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the charity St Andrew’s Healthcare and other local healthcare providers.

Read more about the Buckingham University course

Read more about UCLAN’s course


The story so far