Education And Debate

Broadening access to undergraduate medical education

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.321.7269.1136 (Published 04 November 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:1136
  1. Carole Angel, director of teaching quality (C.A.Angel@sheffield.ac.uk)a,
  2. Allan Johnson, head of recruitment and admissionsb
  1. a University of Sheffield Medical School, Sheffield S10 2RX,
  2. b Recruitment and Admissions Office, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S3 7QX
  1. Correspondence to: C Angel

    Based on a presentation from the Millennium Festival of Medicine

    In their statement of principles, the Council of Heads of Medical Schools indicate that the purpose of a medical education is to graduate individuals well fitted to meet the present and future needs of society for medical care.1 They go on to state that this can be achieved, at least in part, if the social, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds of graduates reflect broadly the diversity of the patient population. It seems that this principle is not currently met by medical schools in the United Kingdom. In a study commissioned by the Council of Heads of Medical Schools in 1998, McManus found that certain groups (students from ethnic minorities, sixth form colleges or further education institutions, and lower socioeconomic groups) were disadvantaged when seeking admission to medical school.2 As a result, the council devised an action plan in which medical schools were required to draw up policies relating to equal opportunities as a matter of urgency.

    Summary points

    The social, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds of medical graduates should reflect broadly the diversity of the patient population

    The groups of people that are underrepresented in the medical profession tend to be overrepresented in the patient population

    In the University of Sheffield Medical School the Compact Scheme and Early Outreach Scheme are aimed at attracting underrepresented groups

    These schemes raise awareness of higher education in lower socioeconomic groups and provide support, guidance, and advice to pupils

    An untapped pool

    In general, the groups of people that are underrepresented in the medical profession tend to be overrepresented in the patient population as a result of many factors, including poverty, poor diet and housing, poor educational standards, and occupational factors. Pupils from lower socioeconomic groups are disadvantaged in many ways when applying for entry to medical education. Their …

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