The first UK undergraduate medical degree to be offered by a private university is expected to cost £32,000 a year in tuition fees, outstripping the cost of attending Harvard University for an equivalent qualification.
The four-and-a-half year University of Buckingham MBChB programme, with an estimated total fee price of £144,000, has yet to be approved by the General Medical Council, but it is expected to commence in January 2015, with the applications process set to open next year. Although tuition fees for the course have yet to be finalised, the university confirmed that they will be set at “around £32,000”.
Typically, a UK-based medical student is charged £9,000 a year to study medicine at a UK university in most years of a five-year course. Those attending Buckingham will pay more than three times as much per year as those taking a standard medical degree elsewhere.
But in a statement, the university said the degree was “designed to appeal to a global market”, suggesting that international students will make up much of the course intake.
Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, said: “Given that a domestic student would be able to borrow only a tiny proportion of such astronomical fees through the student finance system, the University of Buckingham seems to be purposefully designing degrees accessible only to the jet-setting super-rich, while at the same time pricing out domestic students of modest means.”
A statement from the university says: “The University of Buckingham is planning to launch the UK’s first independent medical school. Its central focus would be on excellence in clinical teaching and prioritising the care of the patient.”
According to the university, the first phase of the degree would take place in Buckingham and offer a mix of clinical and biomedical science teaching. The second, clinical, phase would be centred on Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
“Teaching and governance would be delivered to General Medical Council standards,” the statement adds.
After graduation, medical students typically take up a two-year foundation training post, administrated by medical schools, postgraduate deaneries and healthcare providers.
A spokeswoman for Buckingham said details of the post-graduation placements that would be available to its medical students were not yet known. “Under current regulations our students will be eligible to apply for foundation training posts, and we have been in contact with the Foundation Programme in regard to this,” she said.
According to 2012-13 figures from the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average annual tuition fee charged by public medical schools in the US to non-US residents is $48,330 (£30,800). The average figure for private US medical schools is $45,605 (£29,000).
Buckingham’s fees equate to $50,300 per year - more than those charged by Harvard ($49,875), Yale University ($49,500) and Stanford University ($47,343).
In September last year, Buckingham partnered with Leicester Dental Teaching Academy to launch the UK’s first private dental school. Fees for its five-year undergraduate degree in dental surgery are currently set at £32,000 for years one to three, rising to £40,000 for the final two years.