Cambridge shuts transfer window on trainee medics

London partners unhappy as university scraps ‘unfit for purpose’ model

November 21, 2013

The University of Cambridge has ended its 60-year tradition of sending half of its medical students to London for the clinical portion of their degrees.

Students accepted to study medicine from October 2014 will no longer have the option to transfer to one of six other medical schools for the final three years of their courses.

Under the existing scheme, medics are able to transfer to one of London’s five medical schools or Oxford University Medical School, allowing them to study at world-renowned hospitals such as University College Hospital, Moorfields Eye Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Diana Wood, director of medical education and clinical dean at Cambridge, said that the current model was “no longer fit for purpose”.

“The ‘pre-clinical/clinical divide’ is now widely regarded as outmoded and our situation hinders innovation, since any curricular change would require coordination with courses in seven clinical schools,” she continued.

Dr Wood added that the changes were supported by Health Education England, the body responsible for NHS workforce training.

However, a senior source at University College London Medical School, which generally takes the highest number of Cambridge students transferring each year, said that the decision had been made without proper consultation.

Instead, Cambridge had simply sent UCL a letter setting out its intentions, according to the source.

The Cambridge medics will now work in hospitals in the East Anglian region. The UCL source said it was unclear whether these hospitals had the capacity and capability to work with the students.

The decision has financial implications for the other medical schools. Each Cambridge student brings tuition fees and funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England to the university they transfer to, as well as £42,000 to the NHS trust where they are placed.

The UCL source said the implications could be “potentially quite difficult” to deal with because they were unexpected.

“We will manage; we will find other ways of getting the income. The difficulty is that the students are not being treated well,” the source said.

Peter Kopelman, principal of St George’s, University of London and chair of London Medicine, a body representing the five London medical schools, said the institutions were “disappointed” by the move. He added that it would be in the best interests of all students for the transfers to continue.

“London continues to offer medical students the greatest and most varied experience when they carry out their clinical training,” Professor Kopelman said.

The University of Oxford, which also participates in the scheme, will continue to send students to the capital each year.

A spokeswoman for the University of Cambridge Clinical Students Society said that its representatives had been involved in discussions about the change from the outset.

She said the move was positive and brought Cambridge “in line with almost every other medical school in the country”. The current system caused “disappointment every year” for students who wished to stay in Cambridge but were unable to do so, she added.

holly.else@tsleducation.com

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