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Medical students face average £70,000 debt

Tuition fees could triple to £9,000 under government plans

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 04 November 2010

Medical students could be left with almost £70,000 worth of debt upon qualifying under government plans to allow universities and colleges to raise tuition fees.

The warning from the BMA has been made following publication of proposals to reform higher education funding by the universities and science minister, David Willetts, in response to the recent government commissioned review by former BP chief executive Lord Browne.

The government said tuition fees would rise from the current maximum of just over £3,000 a year to £6,000, with some universities being able to charge £9,000 if they ensured access for poorer students.

Karin Purshouse, chair of the BMA’s medical students committee said:
“The government’s proposal to potentially treble tuition fees will have a devastating financial impact on thousands of talented young people from low and middle income backgrounds who want to become the doctors of tomorrow.”

The BMA has calculated that medical students graduate with an estimated £37,000 worth of debt under the current system.

However, because medicine is more expensive than most other degrees – due to the fact that it is five to six years long, course materials are more expensive and there is less time for part time work owing to longer terms and teaching hours – the BMA estimated that under the new system, medical students would end up with student loans of around £68,000.

“This figure only includes debts incurred from student loans and does not take into account overdrafts, credit cards and professional loans which many students depend on for additional support,” said Ms Purshouse .

This will be an enormous financial burden for hard-working families. The government is right to recognise the importance of widening access to medicine in its announcement, but its plans will be crippled if it does not address the debt implications of studying degrees like medicine.

The BMA will be fighting these fee proposals vigorously in the coming months. We will also ask that politicians examine Lord Browne’s suggestion that expensive courses such as medicine be given special consideration, including exploration of forgivable loans and other measures.”

The BMA said it was supporting the National Union of Students rally on 10 November, and was encouraging its members to attend.

Professor Michael Rees, co-chair of the BMA’s medical academic and staff committee said:
“It is important that the higher education system is given a stable platform so that it can continue to be at the forefront of international research and, in the case of medicine, train the next generation of doctors. The debt implications of today’s announcement are alarming.”

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