The government was expected to exceed its stated target of 1,000 extra medical places by 2005, with the announcement this week of two new medical schools and more medical places at King's College, London.
Prime minister Tony Blair was also expected today to use the King's scheme, where places at the merged Guy's, King's and St Thomas's Medical School will be earmarked for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, as an example of the government's anti-elitism drive. Those involved in setting up the schemes and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which is funding them, stressed that moves to widen access to medical schools were not a knee-jerk response to the failure of comprehensive student Laura Spence to get into Oxford.
Bids from the University of East Anglia for a medical school in Norwich from the universities of Exeter and Plymouth for a Peninsula Medical School and for more places at King's, were submitted to Hefce and the Department of Health nearly two years ago.
The government allocated 842 of the 1,000 new places in June last year. This week's bids of 247, if accepted, would take the total to 1,129.