Access course a success

June 29, 2007

The first students to benefit from the UK's first widening participation scheme in medicine became qualified doctors this week.

King's College London's extended medical degree programme is open to pupils from lower-achieving schools in London who do not have the A-level grades to secure a place on a conventional medical course but have the right attitude and academic potential.

The initiative started six years ago with ten students, but now 50 extra places are offered each year.

Instead of the usual five-year medicine degree, students take a six-year course. This allows them to study at a slower pace and with greater support in their first three years. Some of the students have fled war zones with their families, some have been sent away without their families from countries caught up in war, and others are in local authority care. One third do not speak English as a first language, and most have no family history of higher education.

Pamela Garlick, course director, said of the first cohort: "They have done phenomenally well and have been wonderful role models for the students below them because they have shown it was possible not just to pass, but to pass well."

The outreach project, Access to Medicine, is supported by the family of Damilola Taylor and the trust established in his memory. He had wanted to be a doctor but was killed on a London estate in November 2000.

Damilola's father, Richard Taylor, said of the students: "They are the true embodiment of what young people can achieve when they work hard and grasp the opportunities this country has to offer."

The students received messages of congratulations from Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Gordon Brown.

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