New medical schools ‘ready’ to accept UK students if cap lifted

Deans warn of ‘wasted opportunity’ as Westminster government rules restrict intakes to international students only

一月 17, 2023
Person enters through a turnstile in London to illustrate New medical schools ‘ready’ to accept UK students if cap is scrapped
Source: Getty

The UK’s new medical schools are keen to accept domestic students and feel that it would be “relatively straightforward” to do so, but warned of a “wasted opportunity” if the Westminster government does not lift its cap on places.

A new school that opened recently at Brunel University London caters solely to students from overseas, a situation that was described as “ludicrous” by the shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, given the shortages of staff within the National Health Service.

The Labour Party has pledged to increase the number of trainee places if it wins power at the next general election, after the current Conservative administration reintroduced a 7,500-student cap on medical degrees that had been relaxed during the pandemic.

Experts have cautioned that funding medics’ training is expensive and that a lack of quality placements make scaling up provision difficult. But the deans of the new schools told Times Higher Education that it could be done.

Naomi Low-Beer, the dean of Brunel Medical School, said that although many of the 105 students – from 36 different countries – who made up its inaugural cohort would likely end up staying in the UK, it was “absolutely critical” that more places be made available for UK students because of the “urgent need” for more doctors.

“We’ve set up this medical school with UK students in mind. We are delighted at the calibre of international students that we have, but it is very much our wish to have UK students alongside them. We are just waiting for that to happen,” she said.

Professor Low-Beer added that while there was a need for different approaches if training places were to be expanded across the county, at Brunel “it would not be a problem” to accept local students, which would be done by “redressing the balance” of the cohort rather than increasing the overall number of students.

The University of Surrey will open a new medical school in 2024, also catering to international graduates, aside from a small number of scholarships for UK students.

“We’ve had a really positive number of applications for those small number of places, so it definitely shows there is appetite,” said Juliet Wright, the founding dean of medicine at Surrey.

“We would have to look at the actual numbers, but it would be relatively straightforward,” she said when asked how easy it would be to open up more places.

“The first part of our course is university-based, so a lot of it will be in simulation or teaching groups where we could facilitate more students relatively easily.

“Then, I think, there is lots of opportunity to find placements where we haven’t before. We could work with other professions, use technology and remote consultations, think about the huge number of clinical opportunities in hospices, private healthcare, home visits, virtual wards – you could be really creative.”

Professor Wright cautioned that not lifting the cap would be a “wasted opportunity”, particularly as a new school would find it easier to accommodate more students, as opposed to established institutions where such a change might disrupt entrenched practices.

“There are certainly a lot of local students who would like to study medicine. I think there is a lot of opportunity for the country, and for the NHS, to take talented graduates,” she said.

A spokesperson for the University of Chester, where another medical school is planned to open in 2024, said there had “certainly been strong interest from both international and UK applicants, and we very much hope by the launch date to be able to take both categories”.



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