medical schools council


Record number of applicants to medicine results in increased competition for places


A new briefing paper published by the Medical Schools Council shows that undergraduate medicine courses in the UK have attracted a record number of applications for entry in 2021. The total number of applications for medicine at UK universities for entry in 2021 is 28,690, up 20.9% compared to applications for entry in 2020.

This large number of applications consists of both increases in students applying for the first time and increases in those who are reapplying compared to previous years. The consequence of this rise in applications is that the selection criteria universities use in 2021 are likely to be stricter than those used in 2020.

Key findings from the paper include:

  • The number of applications received by UK medicine courses for entry in 2021 is 28,690, consisting of 24,220 new applications and 4,470 reapplications.
  • The percentage of reapplicants from the total number of applications is broadly consistent with figures from previous years, at 15.6%.

In any typical year, medicine is a competitive subject for which to gain entry and is heavily oversubscribed. The number of places available to study medicine is regulated by the different UK governments and strictly controlled through intake targets. There will be greater competition than usual for places in 2021 as the number of places available remains the same as in 2020 at around 9,500 places. Places for successful candidates from 2020 who were required to defer entry to 2021 may be funded by the government separately and in addition to the annual number of places available.

Briefing Paper: Admissions to Medicine in 2021


Notes to editors:

  1. The Medical Schools Council is the representative body for UK medical schools.
  2. The Medical Schools Council 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. The briefing paper published today analyses data on medical school admissions provided by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) between 2016 and 2021.
  4. For more information about this press release, please contact Lucy Chislett, Communications Officer, on 020 7419 5427 or email the press office at
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