Medical schools were once considered the preserve of the self-proclaimed elite of the Russell Group – the 24 universities perceived to be the most prestigious in the UK.
However, since opening its medical school in 2019, the University of Sunderland is leading the way in changing both access and perception of the journey to becoming a doctor.
In 2018, a UK government plan was introduced to increase the number of places in medical schools by 25%, aiming to reach areas where it was difficult to recruit doctors.
This led to the establishment of a publicly funded medical school in Sunderland as well as other institutions in areas with higher levels of social deprivation.
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In an article in Times Higher Education, Sir David said: “It is important to note that there has been no compromise in admissions standards compared to existing medical schools. We have a powerful testimony from our students saying that they would not have studied medicine without the opportunity to do it more locally or in another type of institution.
Of Sunderland’s medical students, 48% come from the North East and North Cumbria. Perhaps most importantly, only 33% come from private schools.
Sir David added: ‘It is the lowest of any medical school in the country.’
He said: “We have 250 medical students who are training to become doctors. I know that many of these students want to stay local and contribute to the future success of the area’s health department.
Sir David also spoke of the ‘halo effect’ with the medical school playing a key role in changing the perception of the city.
He said: “It’s great for the university, but perhaps more importantly, I think it’s really powerful for the city.”
Answering the inevitable question “do more medical schools mean reduced quality”? the Vice Chancellor highlighted the rigorous standards set for any institution by the General Medical Council.