St George’s, University of London made an unprecedented decision this year to retain places on its undergraduate medicine course and to recruit applicants through the post-qualification adjustment and clearing pathways. The university took the decision well in advance of the publication of A-level results in August. This allowed ample time to consider the administration of multiple mini interviews and to prepare a medicine hub to manage the administration of the clearing enquiries. We recruited and trained 15 student ambassadors from our current bachelor of medicine, bachelor of surgery course who answered phones and conducted live online chats with applicants. We also had senior admissions officers and admissions tutors available to answer questions and validate qualifications and entry requirements.
To maintain our values-based approach to recruitment, we used multiple mini interviews to assess for abilities such as communication, problem solving and empathy. We also assessed work experience and the applicants’ desire to study medicine. In a three-day period, we conducted 147 such interviews for applicants who contacted us on results day and who had met or exceeded our published entry requirements.
Of the 4,000 telephone calls that came through the medicine clearing hub, we placed 50 candidates on to our MBBS course. The decision to enter clearing was to ensure that we admit students who are most likely to achieve success on the medical course and beyond. In previous years, we have taken students who have fallen short of their predicted A-level grades, and we have found that many of these students can struggle with the programme, so we changed our strategy this year and are delighted to report the success of this decision.
To dispel the myth that this is an easier route into medicine, the odds of getting a place through clearing worked out as 1 in 80, compared with the usual admissions cycle of 1 in 10. For St George’s, clearing was highly competitive and many of the successful candidates exceeded our offer of three As at A level or equivalent.
As universities brace themselves for the uncertainty that surrounds the A level reforms, we must accept that clearing and adjustment have become a fair and widely accepted route to university. Post-qualification applications can allow medical schools to make more informed choices about the academic calibre of their students. We should bear in mind the thousands of students who have the desire and personal characteristics to become a doctor and achieve the required A levels, but because of the peculiarities of the current admissions system remain unplaced when results are published. St George’s has had a positive experience of clearing this year for our healthcare degree programmes and we look forward to welcoming our high-achieving intake for 2016.
Associate dean for admissions, St George’s, University-of London
MBBS course director, St George’s, University-of London