Statement on medical student finance a step in the right direction, says BMA
(issued Tuesday 28 Jun 2011)
The government’s announcement of temporary measures for next year aimed at preserving financial support for medical students is a step in the right direction, but it must become a long term settlement, medical student leaders said today (Tuesday, 28th
David Willetts MP, the Minister for Universities and Science, confirmed in a statement to the House of Commons that the government intends to preserve the current arrangements for the NHS Bursary for the 2012 intake. This will mean that all medical students starting their course in 2012 will continue to have their tuition fees paid through the NHS Bursary from their fifth year onwards.
The government has also pledged support for graduate entry medical students. These applicants will continue to pay £3,375 for their first year, but any fee charge above this level will be covered by a tuition fee loan provided by the Student Loans Company. This will mean that graduate students will not face any extra upfront charges as a result of any increases in tuition fees. However, this will mean that they will graduate with more debt.
Talking about this announcement, Karin Purshouse, Chair of the BMA’s Medical Student Committee said;
“The BMA has been lobbying the government extensively about this issue in face to face meetings with ministers, in Parliament and in the media. We talked to many students who gave us their personal stories which we passed onto the government.
“These experiences demonstrated that for many students the hope of becoming a doctor was at risk of being extinguished, despite their obvious talent. Graduate students, of which a substantial number come from low income backgrounds, were in particular danger of being priced out of medicine because of the unfair suggestion that they might have to pay the increased fees in their first year.
“This was completely unacceptable, as was the months of indecision and delay from ministers on both of these important issues.
“We are therefore pleased that ministers have listened and given guarantees to applicants for the 2012 intake. These individuals can now get on with planning their applications.
“However, despite this step forward the BMA believes that this announcement should not just be a short term fix, but a long term solution. Since the government is committed to allowing universities to treble tuition fees, a decision that will leave medical students facing debts of over £70,000, it must also make sure that all those studying medicine have a basic level of support that enables them to get through their studies.
“We must not reach a situation where access to medical school becomes dependent on the size of a student’s bank balance, rather than the depth of their talent. The BMA will continue to press for the government to give these commitments to all medical students in the future.”
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