Two neighbouring institutions, each dominated by students from opposite ends of the social spectrum - Imperial College London and Thames Valley University - are to collaborate on widening access to medicine.
From 2005, Imperial will accept promising students who have completed the first year of a degree in human sciences at TVU on the first year of its six-year medical degree.
The students will be expected to study additional science and attend lectures and interviews at the college during their TVU year. Imperial will also offer pastoral support to the TVU students and include them in social events to help them integrate.
No more than six students will be accepted in the scheme's first year. But if the scheme succeeds, the numbers could rise and other institutions could be involved.
John MacDermot, head of undergraduate medicine at Imperial, said: "We are looking to identify students who, for cultural, social or financial reasons, have been disadvantaged by the educational system and have not got the grades they need to go to a place such as Imperial.
"We are modifying our entry only - our own students and the TVU students will follow the same course together. Accepting students from a foundation course is a big change for the college."
Sybil Roller, head of human sciences at TVU, said: "To get into university to study medicine, students must have very high grades at A level. However, this can exclude very able pupils who have the desire but have not had the appropriate scientific training or encouragement, and mature students and those who do not have traditional qualifications.
"This option gives able students a chance to upgrade scientific skills and the pastoral support to help them realise their potential.
"This is not an easy option. The students will be expected to prove themselves during the year, and admission to medical school will be competitive.
"Even if they do not get on to the medical degree course, this will not have been a wasted year - students will have completed a year of a degree course in human sciences, and they can progress with this or switch to study another science-based course."
Just 14 per cent of Imperial's full-time undergraduates came from the lower social classes in 2001, compared with 34 per cent at TVU. Both figures are based on the old system of measuring social class by occupation only.