All entries for Monday 21 November 2005

November 21, 2005

Medical Schools

The Times comments on the increased popularity of foreign universities in the light of high domestic competition for places and impending top-up fees. It focuses on those hoping to study dentistry or medicine.

British medical students are heading for eastern European universities to beat fierce competition for places in the UK and the prospect of rising fees. They calculate that the chances of being accepted on courses in countries such as the Czech Republic are better than at UK universities and that the cost, including living expenses, is lower. The option has become increasingly attractive since the admission of more countries to the European Union last year. Doctors and dentists with degrees from within the EU are able to practise in Britain without taking conversion courses.
Komel Ali, 20, a medical student from Preston, Lancashire, studying medicine, studied at the independent Kirkham Grammar, a girls’ school near Preston. She chose Prague because of the strong competition for places in British medical schools. The latest figures in Britain show that 17,826 students applied to UK medical schools in 2004, but only 7,955 were accepted. Some of the most popular universities had 17 applications per place.

Read it in full here.

It seems crazy that the health sector, so in need of qualified staff is managing without so many eager applicants. The lucky few who are selected and make it though years of study are clearly very able. However, highly intelligent doctors are of little use if their efficiency is hampered by long hours and strict targets, or if waiting lists prevent you from seeing a specialist and getting treatment for weeks or months. I'm sure many would be happy with a merely average doctor if it meant they could get treatment immediately.

The capacity of the country’s medical schools is constrained by the availability of government funds. Private medical schools exist though I’m not sure what hoops must be jumped though to set one up. The low prominence of private schools may reflect the high fees charged or the fact that they’re hard to create in the first place. If it’s unambiguously the former you could say that state subsidising of medical study is all that’s preventing an even greater shortage. However, it’s the government that ultimately sets the salaries that determine whether a large investment in education will be worth it years down the line.

I don’t know what the solution to the ‘doctors crisis’ is. Yet there must be an option that doesn’t involve turning away willing medical students on our doorstep whilst we poach much needed staff from developing nations.

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