In what it described as a “watershed moment” for the city, the University of Sunderland has opened its first medical school.
One of 33 in the UK, Sunderland’s is only the second to open in the North East.
The university hopes the facility will address the region’s “chronic shortage of doctors” and boost the number from deprived backgrounds entering the profession.
We initially set ourselves the aim of attracting 15% of students from a widening participation background. We have actually achieved the figure of 25%
– Prof Scott Wilkes, University of Sunderland
The school welcomed 50 new students through its doors as they embark on a five-year journey towards a degree in medicine.
This year, the university will train more than 2,000 students in a range of health professions, including paramedics, nurses, pharmacists and doctors.
In March 2018, Sunderland was one of five universities given government approval to open a medical school. The institution was founded with the guidance and expertise of Keele University’s School of Medicine.
Prof Scott Wilkes, head of the Sunderland University School of Medicine and professor of general practice and primary care, said: “Part of the reason why we were named as one of the five new medical schools is our commitment to inclusivity when attracting medical students and training them to become doctors.
“We initially set ourselves the aim of attracting 15% of students from a widening participation background. We have actually achieved the figure of 25%.”
Sunderland recruits 85% of students from the North East, and more young undergraduates from low-participation backgrounds than any university in the UK.
Ken Bremner, chief executive of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The school gives us an opportunity to develop our own home-grown talent and provide equal opportunities for people of all backgrounds to study medicine.
“The trust has a strong working relationship with the university, and, alongside our regional NHS partners, we will do all we can to support students throughout their training and medical careers to ensure that we continue to build outstanding healthcare services for local people for years to come.”
New medical schools have also been opened at Anglia Ruskin, Lincoln and Edge Hill universities. A joint school has been opened by the universities of Canterbury Christ Church and Kent.