Plans to let students complete the first two years of a medical degree through part-time distance learning before entering the third year of medical school have taken a step forward, writes Alison Goddard.
Last week, 11 medical schools expressed an interest in a course the Open University is developing. Five, including Imperial College, have exchanged letters of intent to work with the OU.
Michael Whitehouse, vice-principal for undergraduate medicine at Imperial, said: "Routes into medicine are standard. If someone happens not to have the right qualification at the right time, it blocks their entry. The risk is that we exclude those who would make good doctors."
Almost 1,000 extra places for medical students will be created by 2005. A decision on proposals for medical schools at the universities of East Anglia, Exeter and Plymouth is expected after easter.
The course must be approved by the General Medical Council. The earliest students could start would be September 2003.