Government eases cap on medicine and dental courses

Applications for medicine and dentistry have increased by 20% this year compared to last year

The government has adjusted the cap on medical and dentistry schools for 2021, meaning universities can recruit more than 9,000 students to these courses in what policymakers expect to be a bumper year for student intake.

The Departments of Health and Social Care and Education announced late last night (Thursday 5 August) that they would fund any places that universities recruited above their cap, so long as they can ensure “teaching, learning and assessments standards are maintained”.

“Universities that can accommodate an increase to medical and dentistry places for students that have met the grades and hold a firm offer at a university with pressure on places will be supported to do so,” the government announced.

Universities are braced for a record number of students to receive top A-level grades. Labour accused the government of “operating in panic mode” in anticipation of record competition for places.

Applications for medicine and dentistry have increased by 20% this year compared to last year. The government, Ucas and the Office for Students have established a process to match students with appropriate grades for medical and dentistry courses to schools with spaces.

“We want to match student enthusiasm and ensure as many as possible can train this year to be the doctors and healthcare professionals of the future,” said education secretary Gavin Williamson.

Secretary of state for health and social care Sajid Javid said the adjusted cap would strengthen the “pipeline of high-quality staff” to bolster the NHS workforce.

“Working closely with universities, we’re helping more students who meet the bar to get a place this year to study medicine or dentistry and join these fantastic professions,” the health secretary added.

Kate Green MP, Labour’s shadow education secretary, criticised the government for acting too slowly.

“Ministers dismissed calls for a contingency plan on exams and are now operating in panic mode desperately appealing to universities to clean-up their mess ahead of results day,” she said.

“Young people getting their results have worked incredibly hard in unprecedented circumstances. The Prime Minister has let them down with a second year of chaos and confusion, he must guarantee every student getting their results will be able to progress with their education or employment.

“If the government can create these additional healthcare places at just days’ notice, it begs serious questions about why they have not acted sooner to tackle the ongoing workforce crisis in the NHS.”

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