Widening access to medical schools

New courses to help less affluent students.

New courses will be established at two medical schools to assist more students from deprived backgrounds to enter the medical profession.

Four high quality bids were received and, following a competitive process, Aberdeen and Glasgow University Medical Schools will share £330,000 funding to run the pre-entry courses. Between them, they will host 40 students during the 2017/18 academic year.

The aim is to give students the experience and qualifications needed to meet the entry level requirements to study medicine at university. Applications for the courses will be handled as part of the 2017/18 UCAS application process.

The move is part of the Scottish Government’s efforts to recruit a sustainable workforce for the future of the NHS, and to widen access to higher education. It comes on top of an additional 50 Scottish Government funded medical school places being offered to students from more deprived backgrounds in the previous academic year. 

Health Secretary Shona Robison said:

“Gaining a place to study medicine at university is a competitive process, and rightly so. However, we must make sure we have a level playing field, and that everyone with the ability and desire to study medicine gets a fair chance.

“Often, applicants from more deprived backgrounds have the academic ability, but lack the opportunity to get the experience and knowledge universities are looking for. This new course will give 40 young people the opportunity to develop their skills to better equip them for an application for medical school, and to pursue medicine as a career.

“I welcome the quality of all bids submitted, and greatly appreciate the willingness of our medical schools to work collaboratively with us in meeting the needs of NHS Scotland.”

Professor Steve Heys, Head of the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition, University of Aberdeen, said:

“This is a fantastic opportunity for young people who had never thought of pursuing a career in medicine to do so with the help of the University of Aberdeen and North East Scotland College.

“We believe widening participation in medicine is key, both to address inequality for those from social and geographically disadvantaged situations, and to create a diverse environment that benefits all our students and medical practice in Scotland. 

“Our nationally acclaimed research in this area shows that high-achieving school pupils at schools in deprived areas are less likely than those from other school backgrounds to consider medicine as an option.  When they do, the practical support available is often limited or even discourages medicine as a career.

“We have a long track record of building initiatives that encourage disadvantaged students to study medicine and to work in remote and rural areas, and this latest initiative will enhance this further.”

Professor Matthew Walters, Head of School, Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing at the University of Glasgow, said:

“The Medical School at the University of Glasgow has an excellent track record in widening access to allow talented students to fulfil their potential and become doctors regardless of their background.

“We share the Scottish Government’s view that the community of medical students should reflect the broader society which they will eventually serve. As such, we are delighted to have the opportunity to further develop our widening access activities with this innovative pre-medical entry course which will help to level the playing field for prospective applicants to medicine from non-traditional backgrounds.”


  • An evaluation will be carried out to determine how effective the courses are in increasing the number of medical students from deprived backgrounds
  • Around 70% of Scotland’s medical students come from the least deprived communities.
  • The new pre-entry course is in addition to an extra 50 medical school places for students from more deprived backgrounds last year. These widening access places were spread between Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and St Andrews
  • The Commission for Widening Access has set a target that by 2030, students from the 20% most deprived backgrounds should represent 20% of entrants to higher education in Scotland


Media enquiries

Back to top