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BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 03 May 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:S3b-7090

New Zealand has had an affirmative action programme which increases representation of Maori and Pacific islander people in its medical schools since 1972. A recent article in Medical Education (1997;31: 77-80) shows that dropout rates due to academic failure have been higher in the affirmative action group (18% v 8%), but the majority have gone on to a successful graduation. The paper's authors acknowledge the criticisms that the scheme constitutes reverse discrimination, but argue that “continuing to focus on minority groups contains elements of both justice and self-interest for society as a whole.”

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