Universities are developing some imaginative techniques to cash in on the increase in medical students, writes Alison Goddard.
New medical schools, partnerships between existing schools and other universities, and fast-track graduate entry schemes are all being considered.
The universities of Keele and Manchester are pressing the government to establish a medical school for the North Midlands.
"Keele has long had aspirations to establish a medical school," said Janet Finch, vice-chancellor of the university.
Students would spend the first two years of their training at the University of Manchester's existing school then move to Staffordshire for the remaining three years.
Keele already has a school of postgraduate medicine and research centres specialising in topics such as cell and molecular medicine. "We would like to use the facilities at Keele to teach the extra students," said Roger Green, dean of the medical school at Manchester University. About 100 students could be taught there each year.
In addition to its collaboration with Keele University, the medical school at the University of Manchester has formed a partnership with its counterpart at the University of Liverpool in an attempt to attract some of the extra places. Other partnerships being developed include the universities of Sussex and Brighton, Warwick and Leicester, Durham and Newcastle, and Bristol and Plymouth.
Other institutes have merged to form gigantic new medical schools. The official merger between Guy's, St Thomas' and King's College London medical schools takes place this week. The new school will train 330 doctors each year.
And the first students on the new medical degree at Imperial College, London, are due to start in October. Its school of medicine was created from the merger of St Mary's, the National Heart and Lung Institute, the Royal Postgraduate Medical School and the Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School. A total of 286 first-years are expected.
Meanwhile, the Open University is planning to set up a foundation course in medicine. It would create the chance for some people, possibly graduates who do not want to spend a further five years at university, to do a shorter course with the Open University before entering medical school at a higher level.
Leader, page 9