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Student Careers

Is the medical degree good value for money?

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 08 January 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:j5177
  1. Anne Gulland, freelance journalist

It’s been five years since tuition fees shot up to £9000 a year. Anne Gulland explores whether medical students in the UK are getting good value for money and what effect the rise in fees has had on student expectations

In the 2017 general election, 66% of 18 to 19 year olds and 62% of 20 to 24 year olds voted Labour.1 In their manifesto, Labour had pledged to abolish university tuition fees. In an attempt to appeal to the youth vote, at this year’s Conservative party conference Theresa May promised a freeze in tuition fees and to increase the income threshold at which graduates will have to start repaying their student debt—from earnings of £21 000 ($27 572; €23 373) to £25 000 a year.

Since 2012, when tuition fees rose considerably from around £3000 to £9000 a year, there has been growing disquiet among students about what their fees are paying for and whether they represent good value for money.

Medicine is one of the longest undergraduate degrees in the UK, and although the NHS bursary covers the cost of tuition fees for the final year, the average tuition fee debt for a medical student on graduation is estimated to be just under £40 000.2

Value for money?

Gurdas Singh, a second year medical student who did not want his institution to be identified, says a constant refrain among his fellow students is, “What do our fees actually pay for?” He says he would be less concerned about amassing a huge student debt if he thought the quality of the course justified it.

“I’m not sure why I have to pay £9000 when my predecessors didn’t and there’s been no improvement in quality,” he says.

“Some of the lectures are delivered online, not in person, so it makes you wonder what facilities we are …

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