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The Selecting for Excellence project releases final report 
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Press release 

Half of UK secondary schools and colleges did not provide a single applicant to medicine in recent years. The Selecting for Excellence project was established to address this, and is proud to release its final report today, the culmination of its 18-month study of selection methods to medical degrees and its particular focus on widening participation. Revealed in the report is a significant amount of data collection and analysis, and the far-reaching recommendations derived from that analysis.

At the project’s outset it was clear that medicine had fallen behind other subjects in terms of widening participation and understanding the barriers which hold many of the brightest school students back from applying and gaining entry to the medical degree. Research undertaken and commissioned by the project found, as well as the above statistic, that 20% of schools or colleges provide 80% of applicants to medicine: grammar or independent schools being responsible for about half of all medicine applicants.

To address these significant disparities, the report makes a series of recommendations as to how medical schools, organisations such as Health Education England, and Government, can work together to address them.

In particular, research has highlighted the need for an expansion of outreach activity to ensure that there is coverage across the whole of the UK. At present, bright and able school children who do not live near a medical school may miss vital opportunities to explore medicine as a career. The report also calls on the NHS to expand the provision of work experience for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This will benefit not just those wishing to pursue a career in medicine but will broaden horizons for all those wishing to join other healthcare professions.

The report makes it clear that contextualised admissions are a key tool that all medical schools should use to widen participation. University Vice Chancellors, the Department of Health (England), and those responsible for health and education in devolved administrations, should publicly endorse the principle of contextual admissions in order to encourage further analysis into this area and sharing of best practice.

These are a few of the many recommendations set out in the final report. Others revolve around crucial areas such as data collection, student information, and selection methods. As a means of encouraging and monitoring the use of the recommendations, ten-year targets have been set concerning the increased participation of students from socio-economic groups which currently are under-represented in medicine.

Professor Tony Weetman, Chair of the Selecting for Excellence Executive Group, said:

‘The release of the final report signals both a major analysis of medicine’s shortcomings in widening participation, highlighted rightly in the 2009 Milburn report, and the first collation of what is being done to address these shortcomings by medical schools and the Selecting for Excellence project itself.

‘Guidance on outreach programmes and on gaining work experience was recently published by the project, and along with the final report is published A journey to medicine: Student success guidance[3] and three pieces of commissioned research: on the backgrounds of applicants; on the impact of work experience; and on selection methods[2].

‘With the cooperation of the members of the Executive Group and others, a huge amount has been achieved and further challenges set down. Future work on longitudinal data collection would prove hugely beneficial, for example, as would developing ways of tracking unsuccessful applicants. To take this forward, the final report recommends setting up an MSC Selection Alliance and an oversight group to monitor progress, and through these we look forward to continuing this work which is so important to the continued quality of the medical profession.’

Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said:

‘Improving access to the higher education courses that lead to professional careers such as medicine is vital to creating a more socially mobile society. So this report and guidance are tools that medical schools can use to change individual lives and benefit the whole country by making access to medicine fairer. The report and guidance add greatly to the pool of evidence about what’s most effective at widening access, and are based on research commissioned by the Office for Fair Access as part of our work to support as well as challenge universities. I welcome the focus on activities to raise aspiration and attainment, work experience, and the use of contextual information. The report and guidance will help medical schools work harder and smarter to ensure that everyone who has the potential to become an excellent doctor has the opportunity to do so, regardless of their background.’

David Johnston, member of Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, said:

‘For a long time medicine has unfortunately been one of the most difficult professions to access for those from less privileged backgrounds, particularly when it comes to areas like work experience. Today’s report shows real commitment from individuals across the profession to try and change that and the Commission hopes that today’s recommendations will be implemented by the relevant actors in full for the benefit of the UK as a whole.’

Wendy Reid, Director of Education & Quality and Medical Director, Health Education England, said:

‘This report is the result of a genuine collaboration of all those with an interest in our future medical workforce. It presents a clear pathway for ensuring that our future doctors are drawn from all walks of life and that those entering the medical profession have got there on merit. In turn this will ensure that future patients will receive the best possible medical care when needed and the best advice for staying healthy.’

Charlie Bell, Co-Chair of the BMA Medical Students Committee, said:

‘It is vitally important that the most able, and not the most able to pay, are entering our medical schools each year, becoming the medical workforce of the future. The work by the Selecting for Excellence Executive Group resulting in the publication of this report is fundamental to achieving this goal, with full analysis of where barriers exist and guidance for how to break them down. The BMA has been fully engaged with this project and we urge medical schools, Health Education England and the government to act on these proposals.’

The final report can be accessed here: 



Notes for editors:

  1. The Selecting for Excellence Executive Group was formed in summer 2013 from organisations across the areas of higher education, healthcare and widening access. Its 18-month project, looking at selection methods to medicine and with a focus on widening participation, will concludes with the publication of this final report. For more information on Selecting for Excellence, including the Executive Group’s membership, see www.medschools.ac.uk/AboutUs/Projects/Widening-Participation/Selecting-for-Excellence
  2. Research commissioned by the Selecting for Excellence project and produced with financial support from the Office for Fair Access, Health Education England and Medical Schools Council, all published today:
  3. Guidance published by the Selecting for Excellence project, with the ‘journey to medicine’ series produced with financial support from the Office for Fair Access:
  4. The Medical Schools Council represents the interests and ambitions of UK medical schools as they relate to the generation of national health, wealth and knowledge through biomedical research and the profession of medicine. For further information about the work of the Medical Schools Council, see www.medschools.ac.uk
  5. For more information on this press release, please contact Edward Knight, Communications and Website Officer, on 020 7419 5427, or edward.knight@medschools.ac.uk  






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