UK Medical School – Stressed Students and the Hardest Year to Enter
2022- UK Medical School – Stressed Students and the Hardest Year to Enter
Medical school heads say this is the hardest year “in living memory” for A-level students to get a place to study medicine, with several thousand high-achieving applicants left without a position. Unless the government increases the number of doctor trainee places, they say, there will be a “disaster” in the NHS in 10 years.
Medicine has long been one of the most difficult subjects for A-level students to net a place in, but this year’s UK competition has been tougher than ever.
The inflation rate for medical school places is currently at 4%, meaning that more people wanting more people want to study medicine than there are places available. This is even though the government has increased the number of medical school places by 1,500 in the last three years.
According to UCAS data, there are currently around 6,000 unplaced applicants who have the grades to study medicine. This is up from 4,000 last year and just 2,000 the year before. The problem is particularly acute in England, where competition for places is highest. More locations in Scotland and Wales are available relative to demand, meaning it is easier to get a spot.
This year, only 26% of English applicants who met the entry requirements were offered a place at medical school, down from 29% last year. In Scotland and Wales, the figure was 33% and 32%, respectively. The reasons for the increase in demand are two-fold. Firstly, there has been a population growth of around 400,000 18-year-olds in the last five years. Secondly, medical schools have become increasingly popular, with applications increasing by 50% in the previous decade.
The government has responded to the increase in demand by increasing the number of medical school places by 1,500 in the last three years. However, this has not been enough to keep up with rising demand, and several thousand high-achieving students are being turned away from medicine. Medical school heads say that unless the government takes action to increase the number of doctor trainee places, there will be a “disaster” in the NHS in 10 years. They warn that patient care will suffer without enough doctors, and waiting times will increase.
The government has said that it is “monitoring the situation closely” and is committed to ensuring that there are enough doctors to meet patient needs. However, it has not yet announced plans to increase the number of doctor trainee places. UCAS, the UK admissions service, says fewer than 16% of applications to study medicine and dentistry resulted in an offer this year – down from 20.4% in 2021.
Andrew Hargreaves, co-founder of Data HE, a consultancy advising universities on admissions, and a former director at Ucas, said: “The largest group of unplaced applicants are in medicine. I’m hearing that we have several thousand medical applicants without healthy choices.” The figures will pressure the government to increase the number of university places overall. Universities minister Michelle Donelan has ruled out any increase in undergraduate places this year but is facing calls from some vice-chancellors and Labour to rethink.
Sir David Eastwood, chairman of the Russell Group of leading universities, said: “We are particularly concerned about those students who have achieved the very highest grades but still do not have a place at their first choice university. We would urge the government urgently to review this issue.” Labour’s shadow UK education secretary Kate Green called on the government to increase university places. “The Tories’ botched handling of university places risks a lost generation of young people,” she said.
“With the country facing an employment crisis, the government must act now to increase the number of university places available this year. It is nothing less than a jobs plan for our future.” A UK Department for Education spokesperson said: “We understand how disappointing it is not to receive an offer from your first-choice university, which is why we have expanded university places by 30% since 2010. “There are now more opportunities to study at a UK university, with over two million students in England alone – including a record number of disadvantaged young people.”