Figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show that the number of applicants for each place at medical school (the selection ratio) fell from 2.11 in 1995 to 1.55 in 2000. Yet medical education in the United Kingdom is currently expanding. Five new medical schools will have opened by 2005.
The worry is that, if in 2005 the number of applicants is the same as in 2000, then the selection ratio will be a mere 1.18, supply barely meeting demand, writes Chris McManus, Professor of Psychology and Medical Education at University College London.
Over 40% of 17 year olds now apply to university. Although that large pool of university applicants may seem the place to find more applicants, few have the right qualifications.
The problem for medical schools could be alleviated by accepting students with lower A level grades, yet evidence shows that A levels predict performance in basic medical science examinations, finals, and longer term in postgraduate membership and fellowship exams, says the author.
Medicine undoubtedly has a problem. The massive university expansion in the United Kingdom has not been accompanied by more science students in schools, and the increasingly urgent solution for that will have to come from the Department for Education and Skills, he concludes.