Isn’t it time for a #LiveableNHSBursary?

Imagine being a (home domiciled) full time student on a demanding course - the sort where you’re advised not to get a part-time job because of the demands of placements and whatnot - and only having £5,500 to live on.

Jim is an Associate Editor at Wonkhe

One of the things that the new government-sponsored and regulator-implemented drive on “getting on” as well as “getting in” is supposed to do is stop providers from being able to “play the averages”.

In other words, where universities might have previously recruited posh kids as medics but mature, working class locals as nurses, the average on access might have been OK. Now in theory we’ll see and be able to bear down on the access issue in medicine.

Similarly, where previously universities might have recruited a bunch of WP students but then they do worse than their posh peers on continuation, completion or progression, we’ll supposedly be able to spot that and address it.

Plenty of people are up in arms about the potential uses and abuses that are potentially in play here – but for me one thing it should help to do is highlight staggering injustices like what we do to medics in their final year.

Generally medical degrees are funded differently to your classic 3 year course.

In England, we provide a classic means tested maintenance loan for the first 4 years of the degree. We’ve talked before about how problematic that that amount is (and the thresholds that trigger it), particularly where the unspoken assumption is that it’s topped up by part-time work that some students on some programmes at some universities can’t really undertake.

The thing is, medical students traditionally spend 5-6 years at university, and the final years aren’t covered properly by the DfE system – instead students have access to a means tested NHS Bursary.

That means that students see their available funding halve in what is arguably the most critical, time intensive and stressful two years of the course. In “clinical” years, students are on placements 9am-5pm and studying in the evenings – and just don’t have time to take up a job what many universities prohibit during term-time anyway.

Why are students having to choose between passing their finals or eating dinner every night?

To highlight the issue, Doctors Association UK has kicked off a campaign with the hashtag #LiveableNHSBursary, and I’d recommend spending some time on Twitter soaking up the stories.

On the surface, people like Michaela (a final year medical student from a WP background) sounds just like Michelle Donelan John Blake when she says:

What’s the point of widening access for WP students at admission, if we don’t let them finish their medicine degree due to lack of funding?

But unlike Mchelle Donelan or John Blake, she doesn’t lay the blame for that lack of support to get on rather than get in at the door of universities. This one’s on the government.

As DAUK argues:

We need doctors of all backgrounds to work in the NHS, and that includes low income students who often have battled upstream against the odds to achieve the highest grades to gain admission into medical school.

Why are tweets like like this even close to OK here in 2022?

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