medical schools council


New data suggests medical schools are making access to the medical profession fairer


Data from medical schools demonstrates their “gateway” courses are successfully attracting students from backgrounds that are under-represented in medicine.

Gateway courses are medical degrees that include a foundation year at the beginning, typically making them six-years in length. The initial year is designed to help students who may have faced additional barriers due to their backgrounds.

Data in the new report from the Medical Schools Council Selection Alliance reveal that gateway courses have significantly greater proportions of students from deprived areas, areas with low participation in higher education and students whose parents do not have a higher education qualification, among other measures.

For students from disadvantaged backgrounds, gateway courses can allow them to access a medical degree with adjusted grades. After the first year, the students study the same medical degree as those on the standard medical degree and graduate with the same qualification. The number of gateway courses nationally has increased from two in 2002 to 17 in 2019.

The Medical Schools Council Selection Alliance Report 2018 can be accessed here.

In his foreword to the report, Dr Paul Garrud, Chair of the Selection Alliance, said:

“Medical schools are making significant progress in social mobility and widening access – something they were severely criticised about, in the past by the Social Mobility Commission.

“There has been a doubling of medical entrants with disabilities, a substantial increase of places in gateway programmes targeted at young people from educationally and socially disadvantaged backgrounds, and a radical improvement in the amount and availability of guidance for potential medical students. Although much more remains to be done, the direction of travel is clear.”

Professor Jenny Higham, Chair of the Medical Schools Council, said:

“Medical schools have long worked to widen access to the degrees they offer. All interventions must be backed with strong evidence, but gathering data can be a challenge due to the complexities and long timeframes involved. Now, powerful tools like the UK Medical Education Database have helped us build a detailed picture. With this we can learn which interventions actually work and share them nationally.”

This national work is led by the Medical Schools Council Selection Alliance, made of admissions leads from every medical school. They have produced many resources to make the application process clearer for candidates. Yesterday a new website was launched to help candidates prepare for medical school interviews:


Notes to editors

  1. The report released today is a progress report on the Medical Schools Council’s work to carry out the recommendations of the Selecting for Excellence Final Report (2014). To learn more about Selecting for Excellence and widening access in medicine, visit
  2. UK Medical Education Database is a partnership between data providers from across the education and health sectors. By linking these data, it is possible to create a large-scale, long-term body of information in the form of a secure, deidentified database. Researchers make proposals to gain access to specific data from the database, with all proposals subject to a formal evaluation procedure based on a set of published criteria. As a stakeholder, Medical Schools Council is able to access data for the purpose of widening participation work. For more information on UKMED, see
  3. 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 please see
  4. For more information about this press release please contact Edward Knight, Senior Communications Officer, on 020 7419 5427 or
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