State school medical students lead the way at graduations

Medical students from state schools are nearly twice as likely to graduate in the top 10 per cent of their class as students from independent schools, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Aberdeen say it provides evidence that all other things being equal, students from state schools are likely to outperform those from independent schools once at medical school.

The study, published in BMJ Open, is the first in the UK to look at the relationship between students’ secondary school grades, the school they attended and their performance through medical school.

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Professor Jen Cleland, chair of medical education at the university and the paper’s lead author, said: “This study adds to the debate about who is admitted to medical school in the UK and how they are selected.

“While this study didn’t look at why students from state schools significantly outperform students from independent schools, one possibility is that once given equal access to resources, state-educated students take advantage of the opportunities available to them.

“All students who get into medical school have had to work hard, but those from state schools may have had less support in place to assist them, and so once they get to university, they may already have well developed nonacademic attributes such as motivation and resilience, which set them up to manage medical school effectively.

“There is a need for further research to explore the relationship between such non-cognitive attributes and performance at medical school and beyond”.

A spokesman for the EIS teaching union said: “All young people, no matter what their personal background, should have the same opportunity to benefit from an education that allows them to achieve their potential. The young person’s own ability and willingness to learn is always the most important factor in educational success, although many young people face additional barriers to learning that are not of their making. It is important that all educational institutions are aware of this, and that all young people are given a fair opportunity to reach their full potential.”