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Are efforts to attract graduate applicants to UK medical schools effective in increasing the participation of under-represented socioeconomic groups? A national cohort study

14 Feb 2018


Attracting graduates was recommended as a means of diversifying the UK medical student population. Graduates now make up nearly a quarter of the total medical student population. Research to date has focused on comparing the sociodemographic characteristics of applicants to and/or students on traditional and graduate entry programmes (GEMs), yet GEMs account for only 40% of the graduate medical student population. Thus, we aimed to compare the sociodemographic characteristic and outcomes of graduates and non-graduate applicants across a range of programmes.


This was an observational study of 117 214 applicants to medicine who took the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) from 2006 to 2014 and who applied to medical school through Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). We included applicant demographics, UKCAT total score and offers in our analysis. Applicants were assigned as graduates or non-graduates on the basis of their highest qualification. Multiple logistic regression was used to predict the odds of receiving an offer, after adjusting for confounders.


Irrespective of graduate or non-graduate status, most applicants were from the highest socioeconomic groups and were from a white ethnic background. Receiving an offer was related to gender and ethnicity in both graduates and non-graduates. After adjusting for UKCAT score, the OR of an offer for graduates versus non-graduates was approximately 0.5 (OR=0.48, 95% CI 0.46 to 0.49).


Our findings indicate that the aim of diversifying the medical student population on socioeconomic grounds by attracting graduates has been only marginally successful. Graduate applicants from widening access backgrounds are less likely than others to be offered a place at medical school. Different approaches must be considered if medicine is to attract and select more socially diverse applicants.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open