Congrats! You got into medical school!

You got in to medical school - but there's a problem...

David Kernohan is Deputy Editor of Wonkhe

… loads of other students got into medical school too. In fact, too many. So the course at the university you prefer might not be able to take you. If we slipped you a cool £10,000 would you consider going somewhere else?

Many popular higher education courses were either bumping along the top of their available capacity or bidded a fond farewell to their actual, top-of-margin, “we literally have no more space in the seminar room”, limits late yesterday evening. Medical courses, capped as they are by the government via the Office for Students are particularly vulnerable to an unexpectedly good year of results (or even, cynically, an exepctedly good year of results) because funding is only available for a given number of students per provider.

A university’s stated capacity plays a part in the setting of these limits, but so does the capacity of the local NHS to offer clinical placements. The latter, especially this year with the service under so much pressure, is what creates the problem in expanding undergraduate medicine numbers. Alarm bells were already ringing when DfE and DoH announced the relaxation of the caps (already up sharply on previous targets to take account of 2020 forced deferrals) for 2021 entry.

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You’ll see from the map that medical schools aren’t just allocated at random, there’s been a concerted effort between DoH and DfE to spread them around the country, and the reason for this isn’t the standard “leveling up” – it’s to ensure we can use the capacity of thelocal NHS to place students for clinical experience. Again, if a university is “full” it really means the capacity of the local NHS is full and no more clinical placements can be offered.

So – by rearranging medical students around the country, you can make maximum use of capacity and ensure every student gets the medical education they want, right?

It’s not as simple as that

Wrong. There is a hierarchy of medical schools. This involves all the usual newspaper league table/ self-selecting mission group prestige nonsense, as you might expect.

But there is a lot of more detailed data about the student experience and graduate destinations available at each provider available from the General Medical Council – here, the colours show the proportion of 2019 graduates who agreed or strongly agreed that they felt prepared for their first foundation post (I chose this question because it seemed interesting, and 2019 as the last “normal” year).

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However you take information like this, it feels like something those contemplating taking the money and moving school need to take into account.

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