Addressing the Award Gap at medical school
Medical schools welcome a study published today that increases our understanding of the award gap. The study, Is the awarding gap at UK medical schools influenced by ethnicity and medical school attended? A retrospective cohort study, by Brown et al published in the BMJ Open, identifies a correlation between ethnicity and performance at medical school. This study is a positive step in helping medical schools identify and tackle the wider issues that cause differential attainment.
What is the award gap and why is this research important?
The award gap, also referred to as differential attainment, describes the “difference in academic performance between white students and those from minority ethnic backgrounds”
The results from this study are not unexpected, and tackling the award gap has been an important and ongoing concern among medical schools. In order to begin to address the causes of this gap, it is essential we first understand the root of the issue which can only be achieved through the collection and analysis of attainment data. The findings from this study were conducted by medical school staff, using data from the UK Medical Education Database (UKMED) - a database run collaboratively between the Medical Schools Council and the General Medical Council. We hope this study will encourage further research in this area.
What are medical schools doing to address the award gap?
The award gap is a symptom of a wider issue. In 2021, the Medical Schools Council formed an Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Alliance, made up of experts in this field across UK medical schools, with the purpose of identifying and challenging barriers to fair, diverse and inclusive learning environments. Since then, the group has developed guidance for medical schools such as Active Inclusion: Challenging exclusions in medical education and Supporting students of different faiths, highlighting the importance of intersectionality in education. The Alliance is also working on a report exploring how medical curriculums can be decolonised.
Our commitment to addressing the gap
With the government’s ambitions to expand medical places, as set out in the Long-Term Workforce Plan, and the introduction of the Medical Licensing Assessment, it is crucial that closing the award gap remains a focus in the design and implementation of these changes. With regards to the Medical School Applied Knowledge Test (MS AKT), MSC has made a commitment to publish information on the relative pass rates of people who share protected characteristics and to use these data to benchmark progress in closing the gap. Further work is needed to establish whether protected characteristics other than ethnicity have an impact on medical student performance. The data collected through the delivery of the MS AKT will allow MSC to examine these issues through an intersectional lens.
Medical schools are committed to working together to address differential attainment. If we are to make the NHS an inclusive and desirable working environment, we owe it to the future workforce to make learning environments welcoming and equitable.
 Brown C, Goss C, Sam AH. Is the awarding gap at UK medical schools influenced by ethnicity and medical school attended? A retrospective cohort study. BMJ Open. 2023 Dec. Available from: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/bmjopen/13/12/e075945.full.pdf
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