medical schools council


MSC Summer Schools provide boost to medical school widening participation work


New data from the Medical Schools Council show that, against all measures, the MSC Summer Schools programme has recruited students who are the most underrepresented in medicine and higher education. Participating medical schools recruited 735 students to the summer schools, exceeding their set target of 560 students by 31.25%.

Funded by Health Education England, the programme is designed to provide targeted support to students from areas in England where few apply to study medicine. The summer schools provide confidence and social capital building activities as well as admissions advice and support to those considering applying to study medicine. The initiative was first piloted by four medical schools in 2019 and was successfully extended to five medical schools in 2020.  

Published today, the first report on the summer schools builds a profile of the participants’ characteristics by pooling data from different sources on their socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. Key findings include:

  • Over 61% of participants were from ‘cold spots’, defined as those areas which have limited engagement with medical schools.
  • More than half (57.65%) were from the most disadvantaged IMD quintiles and nearly half (45.48%) were from the lowest POLAR 4 quintiles.
  • 37.2% qualified for Free School Meals (or other support measures) against a national average of 17.7%.
  • 11 students have been or are in local authority care. This compares to only 10 students entering medicine in 2017 from a care background.
  • There was a greater representation of students from a minority ethnic background compared to the national population or the composition of medical students.
  • Nearly half (47.2%) have parents with no experience of higher education.

Importantly, it can be seen that the students were overwhelmingly positive about the summer school experience. The greatest change was detected in students feeling more confident in applying their thoughts and ideas (up 12%).

Whilst the summer schools were planned as residential events, following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic the programme was delivered online in 2020. An IT accessibility survey was taken to inform this shift and therefore a key recommendation of the report is to identify how to best support students if remote delivery is adopted in future summer schools.

Dr Paul Garrud, Chair of the Medical Schools Council Selection Alliance, said:

“Whilst the final university destinations of the summer school students will not be known until 2022 for the first cohort, this report provides welcome confirmation that the programme has targeted and successfully recruited students from some of the most deprived communities in England. It is even more gratifying to see that the summer schools are achieving their objectives in boosting students’ confidence and making applying to medical school feel like a more attainable goal.

“One of the key findings from the attitudinal gain survey was that there were different outcomes from Year 11 and Year 12 summer schools. Year 11 summer schools had the greatest impact in preparing students to develop the skills and attributes they will need as a student doctor, whereas the Year 12 summer schools supported students in considering their future career paths. These outcomes must be further considered when planning future summer schools to ensure that widening participation outreach is timed to have the greatest impact.

“We would like to thank Health Education England for its continued support of this vital work.”

The report can be accessed here.


Notes to editors:

  1. The report released today is a progress report on the Medical Schools Council’s Summer Schools in 2019 and 2020.
  2. The Selection Alliance was set up in 2015 to implement recommendations from the two-year Selecting for Excellence project, including to widen access to medicine and to make selection equitable, transparent and evidence-based. The Alliance comprises admissions deans and tutors from UK medical schools.
  3. Beginning in 2015, the Selection Alliance has compiled a national map of all outreach from medical schools. ‘Cold spots’ – areas where little or no outreach was in operation in 2015 and 2017 – have been targeted by several initiatives, including the MSC summer schools. To learn more, see Section 3 of the Selection Alliance 2018 Report
  4. POLAR 4 is a geographical measure that assigns postcodes into quintiles based on participation in higher education. Postcodes in quintile 1 have the lowest participation rates.
  5. The Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) is a measure that uses a postcode to assign a household’s socioeconomic status. Households are then ranked according to their Index of Multiple Deprivation score and this allows the most and least deprived areas in England to be identified.
  6. In 2019 residential summer schools were run by:
  • Exeter Medical School
  • Keele Medical School
  • Imperial Medical School
  • Manchester Medical School

In 2020 online summer schools were run by: 

  • Exeter Medical School
  • Imperial Medical School
  • Leicester Medical School
  • Manchester Medical School
  • Brighton and Sussex Medical School in partnership with Kent and Medway Medical School

7. For more information on this about this press release, contact Lucy Chislett, Communications Officer, on 020 7419 5427 or lucy.chislett[at]

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