Dear Dr Mike Masding,
Co-Chair UK Foundation Programme Board
It has come to our attention that a decision has been made to discount ‘Extra Achievements’ from the Foundation Programme Application System (FPAS). We understand that additional degrees and publications, which can count for up to 7 additional points when combined, will be discounted for the cohort due to graduate in 2023.
We acknowledge that this move is well-intentioned, as it moves to mitigate financial disparities between students, some of whom will be unable to afford to study for more than 5 years. However, we would like to highlight some pressing issues with regards to the nature and timing of this decision.
We felt that students were not consulted before the decision took place, and so we at Doctors’ Association UK undertook a survey of 359 UK medical students.
63% wanted the decision to be postponed till after all current medical students have graduated (2025 or 2026), and 23% did not want the change to occur at all. Overall, 75% have been affected by these changes. This suggests that the decision must be reconsidered. Comments have been summarised into four main concerns:
- Changes to guidelines will unfairly affect current students. Many took on the cost and time commitment of intercalation under the impression that it would help them in their FPAS application.
- Those from widening participation (WP) backgrounds have been harshly affected by the changes. Many have had to partly support themselves through their intercalation, which they wouldn’t necessarily have committed to without the FPAS points.
- UKFPO communication has been underwhelming, with Twitter leaks occurring before the official announcement.
- To our knowledge, medical students have not been consulted in making this decision.
We acknowledge that there are many excellent reasons for intercalating, and FPAS points will have been only one factor in making that commitment. However, it is a most important factor. With the announcement of this decision, many of those who are currently intercalating before their fourth year feel blindsided. This extends to those who applied for a six year course this year with FPAS points in mind.
Despite UKFPO’s statement that WP students will be better served by this change, our survey suggests that for a significant proportion of the current cohort of students this is not the case. 30% of our respondents were from WP backgrounds. Although some students commented that this decision would benefit WP students in the future, the timing has left many very frustrated, having self-funded an expensive year out of medical training. Many have suggested this be implemented after the current cohort has graduated to allow the factor of FPAS points to be fairly considered before intercalating.
A decision of such import must be first communicated through formal channels. Unfortunately, a large number of students only became aware of these changes through social media. Only once these had been discussed in a vacuum of official communication did UKFPO link to the Health Education England document – dated 30th November 2020 – in the late afternoon at around 5pm of 8th December. We, and nearly all our respondents, are saddened to see such an important decision being communicated in this manner.
As we said in our previous letters to you regarding the SJT, the Doctors’ Association UK is committed to standing by its medical student members and advocating for their needs. This most recent announcement has caused widespread ire, confusion and anxiety within the medical student community. We think students are rightly aggrieved to have had no role in a critical decision-making process surrounding their professional futures.
This has already been a demanding year for us all, especially the students in line to become the doctors of tomorrow. They deserve as fair a recruitment process as is possible.
As such we would ask that the removal of ‘Extra Achievements’ from FPAS is postponed till 2026, so that students are able to make an informed decision on whether to intercalate, or to apply for longer courses.
We look forward to your reply.
Anna Sutton, Medical Student Lead for DAUK