Scrapping educational maintenance grants will create further barriers to low-income students wishing to pursue medical careers, the BMA warned following the Budget.
Existing maintenance grants will be phased out and replaced with a loans system of up to £8,200 per year from the 2016/17 academic year, chancellor George Osborne announced in his summer Budget.
Responding to the announcement, BMA medical students committee co-chair Charlie Bell said that, while he welcomed the higher overall level of funding promised in the new loans, the decision to remove maintenance grants ‘flew in the face’ of Government commitments to widen participation.
He said: ‘We firmly believe that medicine should be attracting the most able, not the most able to pay.
'Taking away a vital lifeline from students from disadvantaged backgrounds can only help to put some of our best applicants off careers in medicine.
‘We call on the Government to reinstate these grants and to commit itself to widening participation across the professions.’
Fall in applicants
MSC deputy chair for finance Tom Rock added that UCAS figures for the year 2014/15 showed a drop in the number of applicants applying to medicine.
He also mentioned the 2012 report Fair Access to Professional Careers by former Labour minister Alan Milburn which shows only 7 per cent of medical students come from the three lowest socio-economic groups.
Mr Rock said: 'MPs are very keen to pretend that none of this is due to cost. That is simply wrong. Current [BMA] members are struggling, and prospective applicants under the new £9,000 fee structure can expect to graduate with more than £60,000 of debt.
'Quite simply students are being put off by high fees.
'The Government has decided there is money to raise the inheritance tax threshold but not to help the poorest students study their way out of poverty.'
In announcing his plans, the chancellor also said the Government would consult on whether to implement a five-year freeze on the loan repayment threshold.
He pledged to link the cap on student fees to inflation for those institutions ‘that can show they offer high-quality teaching’.
Read the BMA guide to student finance