Graduate doctors dread deep cuts

Fears of sevenfold increase in upfront fees if NHS stops paying for tuition. Simon Baker reports

June 23, 2011

Graduates wanting to study medicine as a career change from 2012 are facing a possible sevenfold increase in the upfront tuition fees required, prompting warnings of course closures.

According to a document seen by Times Higher Education, the government is "unlikely" to be able to continue funding a scheme under which the NHS covers the majority of tuition fees for medical students on accelerated graduate courses. Funding for the later years of undergraduate programmes may also come under threat.

Currently, about 10 per cent of medicine students are on four-year graduate-entry courses, which are run at 16 of the UK's 31 medical schools. The courses are intended to widen access to the profession.

The students, who are not entitled to state-financed fee loans, must pay for the first year of their tuition - £3,375 in 2011-12. The Department of Health pays for the following years through the NHS Bursary Scheme.

However, with fees increasing to about £9,000 from 2012-13, there is now uncertainty about whether the government will be willing to cover the extra cost.

A briefing note prepared for a cross-departmental strategy group on health and education, seen by THE, estimates that the additional cost of higher fees for all medical degrees, including undergraduates, would be about £60 million a year.

It states that this represents a threefold increase in NHS funding for medicine and dentistry courses, and warns that the Department of Health "cannot afford to take this increased pressure without serious implications to other parts of the education and training budget".

If students have to meet the shortfall - almost £6,000 for years two to four in addition to the £9,000 year one cost - it would equate to a graduate-entry course costing about £26,000 upfront.

Will Seligman, a University of Oxford medicine undergraduate who chairs a committee on student finance at the British Medical Association, said there was real risk that graduate-entry courses would have to close.

"The graduate route will cease to exist if nothing is done about it," he said, adding that BMA research indicated that graduate-entry courses had a higher proportion of students from lower socio-economic groups compared with undergraduate courses.

He said he understood that the Department of Health and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills were in talks on the issue, but said a decision was now urgent as prospective students had only a few months before the application deadline for 2012 courses.

Meanwhile, there are concerns that undergraduates studying medicine for up to six years would also be hit as, at present, their fees are paid by the NHS after the fourth year. A Department of Health spokesman said it was considering whether the NHS Bursary Scheme remained "fit for purpose".

simon.baker@tsleducation.com.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

sitting by statue

Institutions told they have a ‘culture of excluding postgraduates’ in wake of damning study

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate