A-Level Results: Czechs woo medical students by degrees

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WOULD-BE medical students who have dropped a grade in their A-levels are to be targeted by eastern European universities in need of foreign cash.

Six universities in the former Czechoslovakia have launched degree courses, taught in English, for students of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and engineering. Next month, their professors will travel to Britain for a recruitment campaign among students who have narrowly failed to get into the university of their choice.

The courses, which cost between pounds 4,000 and pounds 7,500 per year including accommodation, are recognised by the General Medical Council, so their graduates will be able to practice in this country.

Students, who will be expected to have three B grades in their A-levels, will be invited to take an entrance exam for the courses this September. If their grades are not good enough, they will be asked to take a one-year foundation course at the Abbey College in Malvern.

They can then choose between universities in the Czech and Slovak republics, including the Charles University in Prague, founded in 1348 by the Czech King Charles IV.

Hekmat Kaveh, the Czech universities' agent in Britain, said 200 students were expected to sign up this year, 90 per cent of whom would choose to read medicine.

Forty students began the course last year on a pilot scheme, and a further 12 have just completed the foundation course. They will join other students from South-east Asia, the Middle East and Africa on the English language course.

The main aim was to bring in Western capital, Mr Kaveh said, but it was also to enrich the cultural life of the universities.

Among the students who will embark on the courses this autumn is Lakshmi Gedela, 19, from Oxshott, Surrey. She had planned to do dentistry at King's College, London, but dropped two grades in her A-level results last year.

Instead of repeating a year in the hope of improving her grades, she decided to take the foundation course and to read medicine at Pilzen University.

'If I had done my A-levels again there would have been no guarantee of getting the grades, and this course seemed quite inviting.

'But I went into it with my eyes closed, without knowing very much about it. I think I would tell other people who are thinking about it to get all the information they can first,' she said.

Paul Keating, 28, used the foundation year to take A-levels as well as to learn the Czech language, and will now begin a degree in medicine at the Charles University in Prague, where he has already met his tutors.

'I don't think it's going to be an easy time, but from what I have seen they are very keen to have us. They are very genuine people and although they want to make money out of us, I don't think they will go over the top,' he said.