International medical students being used as “cash cows,” say doctors

Authors: Helen Jaques 

Publication date:  03 Jul 2012


Universities are deliberately breaching the cap on the number of international medical students they can admit in order to raise money from the “extortionate” fees paid by foreign students, representatives at the BMA’s annual representative meeting have heard.

The maximum proportion of international students permitted at UK medical schools is 7.5%, but multiple medical schools are currently exceeding this cap to earn fees of up to £39 000 a year compared with £9000 a year for UK students, medical student Luke Boyle told the meeting.

“This is a disgrace,” he said. “I understand that universities have a funding crisis but we should refuse to allow this to be used to bring in more international students at the expense of UK school leavers simply because they bring in more money.”

Exceeding the government cap also disadvantages UK students who want to study medicine, he added. “Are we going to allow our medical school deans to admit huge numbers of international students when right here in Britain we have some of the brightest school leavers who have worked hard for A* grades at A level but are being rejected?” he said.

However, junior doctor Tim Crocker-Buque said that fees from international students contribute a considerable amount to a medical school’s income, which can then be used to supplement the fees paid by UK students, so insisting on meeting the cap could reduce the number of UK students a school can admit as well as the number of international students.

BMA medical academic staff committee joint deputy chair David Katz suggested that the BMA should focus on ensuring the best possible applicants get into medical school rather than looking at quotas.

Representatives at the BMA meeting also discussed the number of medical students in the UK and asked the BMA to consider lobbying for an immediate reduction in the number of medical student places so that the number of students who graduate from UK medical schools is better aligned with the number of training posts and subsequently the number of career grade posts.

Helen Jaques news reporter BMJ Careers

 hjaques@bmj.com

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