Government lifts cap on medical student places after A-level results chaos

Limits on teaching, dentistry and veterinary courses also dumped

Kate Devlin
Whitehall Editor
Thursday 20 August 2020 12:19 BST
Nick Gibbs says he was warned about potential fairness issues with grading algorithm in July

Ministers have scrapped a cap on the number of medical student places this year as they try to stem the continuing crisis over A-level results.

Similar limits on undergraduate teaching, dentistry and veterinary courses will also be dropped and universities will be given extra money to teach expensive subjects.

The government has also agreed with universities that every student with the required grades will be offered a place at their first choice institution either this year or next.

The moves follow a dramatic U-turn earlier this week when education secretary Gavin Williamson raised hundreds of thousands of GCSE and A-level results.

His climbdown, after days of growing anger over this year’s results, means thousands more students now have the marks for sought after courses.

In a bid to head off cries of foul play ministers removed a cap on the overall number of students at UK universities.

But a separate cap on the number of medical students, who require clinical placements as part of their training, remained in place.

Now ministers say that will also go.

The Royal College of GPs had called for the number of undergraduate medical places to increase by a fifth, as well as extra funding for universities.

Universities UK also called for "increasing flexibilities within the medical student numbers cap".

Dr Tim Bradshaw, CEO of the Russell Group, said: “The government’s decision today to provide additional funding for high-cost courses, such and chemistry and physics, and to lift the number caps on specialist courses, including medicine and dentistry, is a very positive step, which will allow us to increase capacity and help more students to benefit from a high-quality education.

“Russell Group universities are working with government and will do everything they can to accommodate as many students as possible on their preferred courses this year and will continue to do so wherever this is practically possible. Where this isn’t possible, our universities will look to offer deferred places or explore places on alternative courses where the student meets the entry requirements.
Extra funding will be provided for courses including medicine and nursing as well as Stem and other high-cost subjects deemed vital to the economy and the country’s social needs.
Universities minister Michelle Donelan said:   “This pandemic has highlighted more than ever the importance of our fantastic healthcare services and the need to invest in them. So I am pleased we are removing the cap on these courses and providing additional funding so more students can take up their places now and become our future doctors and healthcare professionals.” 
There are no government caps on university nursing places.  

Ministers say if a student’s new grade meets the conditions of their original offer they should get in touch with their preferred university to discuss options. 

Students can also "self-release", through UCAS, from their existing offer and accept a new offer at their preferred institution.

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