Medical schools are warning Government that they must have funding for planned student expansion.
The Government is to boost intakes by 10 per cent over the next five years, from 4,470 to 4,970, but the schools fear it may be on a fees-only basis because they have inadvertently overshot targets in recent years after unexpectedly good school exam results.
Schools recruited almost 0 students over their quotas last October.
"The deans are very keen to rise to the challenge of increasing the number of British graduates for the National Health Service, and especially to help meet the demands caused by shorter working hours for doctors in training," said Peter Richards, chairman of the council of deans of United Kingdom medical schools. "But we are very concerned that these places should be fully funded."
The Medical Workforce Standing Advisory Committee, chaired by Sir Colin Campbell, vice chancellor of Nottingham University, which recommended the increase, has itself warned that medical schools are not "infinitely expandable".
But it believes a new medical school is not needed even though the proposed target is higher than the schools' declared spare capacity. A staged increase can be accommodated, it believes.
Some universities say they cannot expand further without a rise in their recurrent grant. The committee is urging the higher education funding councils to take account of "the desirability of achieving a cost effective expansion" when it allocates the extra places.
The Government is consulting on a reform of NHS funding to universities for teaching and research. The Service Increment for Teaching and Research (SIFTR) is based on actual student numbers, but the Government is proposing capping this at its own targets.
The research funds would form part of a single NHS research and development budget, while 20 per cent of the teaching funds would be earmarked for placement costs, and 80 per cent for facilities.