MEDICINE could soon become the preserve of students from wealthy backgrounds, warns the British Medical Association student committee.
The committee, which represents students nationally, campaigned hard throughout the general election to highlight a growing trend among medical schools to charge postgraduate students full fees. It says the move will exclude all but the wealthiest and will mean that patients, medical schools and hospitals miss out on some of the most dedicated would-be doctors.
Until recently, according to Kate Adams, vice chairman of the committee, most school fees were subsidised. This meant postgraduates, who comprise 10 per cent of medical students, paid about Pounds 750 a year towards fees, as well as maintenance costs which often total Pounds 2,000 for five years.
Now a survey by the committee has revealed at least five medical schools which are charging postgraduates increased fees.
Ms Adams, herself a postgraduate medic, said: "Universities are strapped for funding. Some are charging up to Pounds 1,600 in fees for the first two years, and then Pounds 2,800 annually for the clinical years. Fees at these schools have effectively tripled. It is an alarming trend."
She said that already Dundee, Edinburgh, Kings College, London, Aberdeen and St George's Hospital Medical School, London, charge increased fees.
Sandy Macara, chairman of the BMA, has also written to the secretary of state for education expressing his concerns.
Brian Salter, academic registrar at Kings College, said that the college was "not in a position to continue with the subsidy". "The amount of money the funding council makes available has been subject to efficiency gains," he said. He added that there had not been a drop in student numbers and hardship funds were available through the college.