Letter
Open Access

Should we standardise medical student awards?

Kristen Davies[1]

Institution: 1. Lancaster Medical School,
Corresponding Author: Mr Kristen Davies [email protected]
Categories: Students/Trainees, Selection
Keywords: Medical student, awards, foundation programme, academic foundation programme

Letter

Dear Editor,

Final-year medical students in the UK have submitted their applications to both the regular Foundation Programme (FP) and Academic Foundation Programme (AFP) in preparation for their first jobs as junior doctors. Whilst there is very clear guidance for what constitutes additional points towards an applicant’s Educational Performance Measure (EPM) in the application towards the FP, the same cannot be said for application into the AFP.

Students can be awarded points on their AFP application for a number of extra-curricular activities and these activities vary depending on where in the country you are applying. Application onto the AFP at the London and South East (LaSE) Unit of Application is understandably competitive. As a part of the further educational achievements section of the application, LaSE award up to five points for distinctions, merits and/or prizes. These prizes can be institutional, national or international (Health Education England, 2017).

Whilst I agree that students should be rewarded for the prizes they earn whilst at university, it appears that achieving these awards, and extra points, may be more accessible to students at certain institutions. For example, The University of Aberdeen offers 123 awards for medical students (University of Aberdeen, 2017), whereas Lancaster University only offers four. It is a reasonable argument, therefore, that students who attend institutions who do not offer numerous awards are left in a worse position than those students who attend institutions which do.

Although institutions may vary with their methods of incentivising or rewarding students, it does not seem fair that these opportunities to gain extra points, either for AFP or for your CV, are not universally available. A potential solution would be to standardise these medical student awards across all institutions so each university could only give out the same number of awards. This, however, does not come without consequences. If the same number of prizes were awarded among all institutions, then students attending the largest medical schools would be disadvantaged against achieving a prize. Also, importantly, many prizes and awards offered by medical schools are often intertwined with the history of the medical school itself and by preventing a school from offering such an award would not respect the heritage of the institution.

A potential compromise would be guidance for schools on the number of institutional awards that they should offer in order to give all medical students equal opportunity to achieve and have recognition for their achievements.

Notes On Contributors

Kristen Davies is a final-year medical student at the University of Lancaster, Lancaster, UK. He has previously founded the Lancaster University Peer-Assisted Learning Society (LUPALS) and been awarded the Clegg Scholarship in Medical Education by the BMJ. 

Bibliography/References

Health Education England. London and South East (LaSE) Academic Foundation Programme Recruitment. Academic Prospectus http://www.stfs.org.uk/sites/stfs/files/LaSE%20Academic%20Prospectus%20-%20V1.pdf. Accessed 16/09/2017

University of Aberdeen. Prizes Information, Medicine. https://www.abdn.ac.uk/registry/prizes/index.php?view=available&type=27#avail Accessed 16/09/2017

There are no conflicts of interest.

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Reviews

Trevor Gibbs - (01/12/2017) Panel Member Icon
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Although I am not sure if the UK is unique in its approaches to careers in academia and especially medical education, I do think that it is sensitive to the need to develop future leaders in areas other than service commitment. Although this paper is UK-centric, it does raise an important message for others as to how we build our future healthcare professionals and how we invest in that future. I do recognise this issue and I applaud the author in making this discrepancy and inequality known. I just hope that this message can get to those who are capable of changing the system.