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Medical schools attract more disadvantaged students through “gateway” courses

A growing number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds are gaining places at medical school with lower-than-usual entry grades through “gateway” courses, according to a new report.

Greater proportions of disabled students, those from deprived areas and black and minority ethnic (BME) students are entering medicine, a discipline that has tended to be disproportionally middle-class.

The number of gateway courses, which allow some students to enter medicine with lower grades and include a foundation year at the beginning, has increased from two in 2002 to 17 in 2019. After the first year, the students study the same medical degree as those on the standard medical degree and graduate with the same qualification.

Data in a report from the Medical Schools Council Selection Alliance shows that the proportion of students entering medical school who have a declared a disability has been increasing, from 5 per cent in 2007 to 10 per cent in 2016. The increase mirrors the rising proportions of applicants to higher education with a declared disability.

BME students are overrepresented in medical schools. Just over 40 per cent of entrants to medicine were from BME backgrounds in 2016, up from 29 per cent in 2007, although the figures mask underrepresentation in some categories such as Bangladeshi or Black Caribbean medical students.

The figures also show an increase in the proportion of entrants whose parents do not have a higher education qualification from 18 per cent in 2007 to 25 per cent in 2016.

However, on other measures progress was less pronounced. Entrants to medicine from areas with the lowest participation in higher education, POLAR quintile 1 and 2, has increased from 13 per cent to just 15 per cent in the decade up to 2016.

Entrants to medicine from the most deprived areas as measured by the Index of Multiple Deprivations show a 5 per cent increase over the same period, to 24 per cent in 2016.

Entrants to medicine from the lower occupation classifications have remained static since 2007. There are 50 per cent fewer entrants to medicine from lower occupations classifications than entrants to higher education generally.

Dr Paul Garrud, Chair of the Selection Alliance, said:"Medical schools are making significant progress in social mobility and widening access – something they were severely criticised about in the past by the Social Mobility Commission.

"There has been a doubling of medical entrants with disabilities, a substantial increase of places in gateway programmes targeted at young people from educationally and socially disadvantaged backgrounds, and a radical improvement in the amount and availability of guidance for potential medical students. Although much more remains to be done, the direction of travel is clear."

The Medical Schools Council Selection Alliance has also produced numerous guides to medical school entry to make the application process clearer for candidates.

A new website has just been launched to help candidates prepare for medical school interviews: www.msccandidatepreparation.co.uk.

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