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Scottish universities widen medical school access to poorer students

Scottish universities widen medical school access to poorer students

Medicine is a highly competitive course to get into at university, but traditionally students from Scotland’s poorest neighbourhoods have not attempted to enter the meritocracy that medical school admissions should be. It does cost a lot of money to put yourself through medical school, but grants, loans and other financial assistance are available. An initiative by Universities Scotland aims to raise awareness of the possibilities open to applicants from poorer backgrounds.

Only the brightest students need apply to medical school. Minimum entry grades for pre-med are five As or four As and two Bs at Higher (exams generally taken at 18 when finishing school). You also need to pass the UK Clinical Aptitude Test and a series of interviews. But it should be a level playing field so that those from underprivileged backgrounds have an equal chance of succeeding.

Universities Scotland therefore aims to increase accessibility to pre-med by running a program called Reach which gives secondary pupils more insight into studying medicine as well as practical experience that can help with applications. This includes taster sessions, chances to talk with current medical students, help with work experience and support preparing for the application process, interviews, and the UK Clinical Aptitude Test. Parents are also offered guidance in supporting their children in the endeavour.

The project focuses on secondary schools with low rates of progression into higher education, where less than a third go on to university compared to the national average of 36%. It also seeks out pupils who would be the first from their family to go to university.

Reach has been running since 2010 and has had considerable success. Applications from potential students from poorer areas have grown by 60 per cent over the last five years. The number of offers universities have made to this group of students has also grown, and applications and offers are translating into places at medical school. The number of students from Scotland’s poorest neighbourhoods accepting a place to study medicine has grown by 50 per cent in the last five years.

There are five medical schools in Scotland: Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Dundee and Aberdeen. All participate in Reach.

Universities Scotland is an umbrella organisation whose membership includes Principals and Directors from Scotland’s 19 higher education institutions. Higher education in Scotland is devolved to the Scottish parliament.