Last year DfE and Health Education England had to grant special permission for medical and dental schools to admit more students, providers had to find more capacity on courses that are some of the most meticulously planned and resourced in higher education. Some students who got the grades in the summer of 2020 were asked to defer their study until 2021, offering a safety valve for providers reaching capacity limits.
Well – Michelle Donelan has just gotten round to confirming the additional 480 medical places and 150 dental places needed to accommodate those deferring students alongside the new cohort in 2021. There is no extra money linked to these places – the allocation comes from the existing strategic priorities grant, so someone else will need to miss out.
The Office for Students and Health Education England will work directly with medical and dental schools to confirm the number of students they will be able to offer places in 2021-22 (based on the offers that have been made and the deferred entrants from last year) – and where a provider cannot offer all entrants a place, these additional places will be made available elsewhere in the system.
And, unbelievably, despite widespread expectations that the teacher-assessed 2021 A level grades will also sit above the trend line, there is no offer to repeat the expansion of places again when exactly the same thing happens this year. It is possible that providers are pricing this expected continuation of last years higher grades into their offer-making, and it is also plausible that DfE and OfS may have data on this – at least when it comes to capped courses. But there are a lot of competitive courses in higher education, and one would hope that somebody somewhere in government is making a wider contingency plan.