Access to the professions

30 May 2012

Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said:

“Alan Milburn is right to say that fair access to professional careers is essential to improving social mobility, and that universities, as well as employers, schools, colleges and the Government, have a role to play. We will look closely at his recommendations.

“We remain concerned that the lack of financial support at postgraduate level is another hurdle for students to overcome - especially those from more disadvantaged backgrounds. We don’t believe that fees deter poorer students when combined with loans and a progressive repayment system. But the lack of funding for postgraduates could have damaging consequences.

“We know that an undergraduate or postgraduate degree from a leading university is often ideal preparation for entry into the professions. Our universities already have a huge range of innovative programmes which help students from non-traditional backgrounds access higher education and then progress into the professions, including extended medical degrees at several universities.

“Sheffield operates special schemes to widen access to medicine and dentistry by encouraging students from local schools and giving them lots of support, including work placements. The scheme is now being extended to law, accountancy and architecture. Edinburgh encourages progression from under-represented groups into medicine, veterinary medicine, law and architecture by working with all 46 schools in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

“Of course the best way of improving access to the professions is to solve the fundamental problem which is that too few students from some state get the right grades in the right subjects to apply to leading universities in the first place. Too few are getting the advice and guidance they need on subject choice at A-level or equivalent.”

Notes to editors

  1. At Kings College London, students from schools in disadvantaged areas get the opportunity to study medicine on a special Extended Medical Degree Programme as long as they can demonstrate real ability, potential and commitment. The programme is designed to give them much more teaching support for first three years to enable them to catch up with the students who won a place on the traditional course.
  2. The University of Southampton runs BM6, a six-year widening access to medicine programme, which has been running for nine years.
  3. The University of Manchester also offers a foundation year for both medicine and dentistry specifically designed to prepare students from diverse educational backgrounds for entry to the five-year courses offered by the Manchester Medical School and the Manchester Dental School.

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