Medical schools `favour whites'

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The Independent Online
Medical schools are discriminating against British students from ethnic minorities, according to two surveys published today.

One study says that white students are up to five times as likely to get a place despite gaining similar grades at A-level. The other states that on average white applicants are about one-and-a-half times as likely to be accepted. The latter research, from St Mary's Hospital Medical School in London, says that having a European surname is an even stronger predictor of getting a place than a candidate's ethnic origin.

In 12 out of 28 schools the researchers found that applicants with non- European surnames were significantly less likely to be accepted.

They also found that levels of discrimination had reduced since 1986. Female applicants were not disadvantaged, neither were applicants from medical families advantaged.

They propose selection procedures based on anonymous applications and selecting candidates after their A-level results are known rather than offering a place beforehand.

The analysis of applications to the 28 British medical schools is published in the British Medical Journal.

In an accompanying leading article Dr Kwame McKenzie, visiting associate editor, says: "There is now considerable evidence that people from minority ethnic groups are discriminated against at each stage of their medical careers.

"The discrimination which is evident in medicine means that good students are denied places and good doctors denied their chosen careers."

In both papers the candidates are United Kingdom and not overseas applicants.

The second paper, from Dr Aneez Esmail, of the department of general practice at Manchester University, and the Labour MP Dawn Primarolo, found that while ethnic minority candidates with the highest A-level grades did well, white students with lower grades were twice as likely to be accepted as those from ethnic minorities.

In a separate league table published yesterday they found greatest evidence of discrimination at St Andrew's University in Scotland. There, white students were five times as likely to be accepted. In 11 other medical schools they were between two and three times as likely to be offered a place. The authors say that 10 schools "probably do not discriminate".

Ms Primarolo said there was an urgent need for medical schools to review their admission policies "to ensure that the discrimination is stamped out".

Professor Peter Richards, a co-author of the St Mary's survey and chairman of the Council of Deans of UK Medical Schools and Faculties (CDMS), said yesterday that the reasons for it were complex. They have been studying discrimination for 15 years at his medical school, which rated eighth on the Manchester league table.

Professor Richards said that one of the factors that emerged from St Mary's study was that applicants from Asian families were over-represented in terms of the population.

"There can be a great deal of pressure on young Asian people to seek a medical career, which is seen as secure. It has also been suggested that there may be a reaction against a possibility that students from ethnic minorities would come to dominate the composition of medical schools," he said.

"My personal view is that the discrimination is unconscious. We have to go on working at this. The CDMS is interested in and concerned with this problem."