Private schools cry foul over medical courses

The Times, 22/09/14, medical schools have been accused of moving the goalposts by changing entry requirements after some candidates have applied for places. Chris Ramsey, co-chairman of the HMC/GSA committee on higher education and headmaster of the King’s School, Chester is quoted.

Head teachers of leading independent schools have commissioned an audit of published admissions criteria and demanded that these are honoured. Changes in entry rules have included not accepting A levels that pupils sat a year early and refusing to recognise certain GCSEs.

Places at medical schools are among the most sought after in higher education because of their near guarantee of highly paid work. Medical degrees have the highest graduate employment rate of any course at 99 per cent, and the third biggest average salaries six months after graduating at £28,548, tables published today in The TimesandSunday Times Good University Guide 2015 show.

With 11 applicants for every place, competition is fierce: some schools expect candidates to have at least five A* grades at GCSE and A-level grades of A*AA. They must also sit one of two tests and are interviewed to test their bedside manner.

Head teachers at leading private schools say the entry requirements have become too complex and have called on Britain’s 33 medical schools to agree a more common approach.

They have also accused some medical schools of changing their admissions rules while the application process is under way. Examples cited by the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) and Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) include:

University College London said two years ago it would only recognise A levels sat in the upper sixth, or Year 13;

the University of Leeds said last year that it would not accept candidates entered for iGCSE English;

Leeds School of Medicine said last year it would only recognise AS level grades certified or “cashed in” at the end of Year 12, which not all independent schools do.

Private schools are to circulate their audit next week.

Chris Ramsey, co-chairman of the HMC/GSA committee on higher education, said: “This should also stop the practice of unwittingly unfair or clumsy changes to criteria which universities have sometimes brought in after the time at which an applicant can be expected to have any control over them.”

Mr Ramsey, headmaster of the King’s School, Chester, said admissions criteria had become “complex and esoteric”. “All medical schools are looking for the same things but cannot agree on the criteria to select them. More commonality of approach is needed,” he said.

The Medical Schools Council said: “Medical schools constantly review their selection processes to ensure that they remain fit for purpose and therefore some changes to criteria are inevitable.”

By Greg Hurst, The Times. Read the full article © The Times (subscription may be required)