Willetts warns over surge in demand for medicine degrees and says heads should ensure students have back up plan

The Telegraph is reporting comments from universities minister David Willetts suggesting bright students should consider abandoning their dreams of becoming doctors because of a “gross excess” of applicants for medicine degrees…

The Universities Minister said the level of competition among sixth-formers for medical courses was “one of the most dysfunctional features” of the education system.

He insisted bright school leavers – particularly girls – should consider careers in engineering or science as a back up to avoid missing out on higher education places altogether.

The comments were made as new figures showed around 4,800 students with straight As at A-level failed to get in to British universities last year.

Of those, the largest number of “unplaced” students – 1,800 – were those aiming for medicine.

Girls were more likely to be left without a place than boys amid a surge in the number of females – notably from leading private schools – applying for courses in recent years.

In all, medical schools in Britain received more than 11 applications for every place last year, up from fewer than nine in 2008.

It is believed that the surge in interest for medicine is linked to rising parental pressure to secure well-paid jobs during the economic downturn – particularly following a hike in tuition fees.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) said the vast majority of unplaced students were successful when they reapplied a year later.

But Mr Willetts said head teachers had “a responsibility” to explain the risks associated with medicine and ensure teenagers had a back-up plan.

He criticised the trend of allowing students to drop physics – which is not required for medicine degrees – at the age of 16 in a move that leaves many students struggling to get on to many other courses at a later date…

More at: Willetts warns over surge in demand for medicine degrees

Are you aware of an increasing number of sixth formers and girls in particular looking to study medicine? Is it sensible (or even right) to talk to them about a back up plan? Should they just be encouraged to ‘go for it’ if medicine is what they really want to do? And does this highlight the issue of so many students – again girls in particular – dropping physics at A level? Your thoughts? Please share in the comments or via Twitter…

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