Equity and Medical Education
Lead University: University of Newcastle
Lead Researcher: Robbert Duvivier
Research Team: Robbert Duvivier, Erica Southgate, Caragh Brosnan, Wendy Hu, Barbara Griffin, Boaz Shulruf and Amanda Nagle
Year Funded: 2015
Funding Received: $98,015
The low SES student cohort across four universities was profiled to understand the pathway into medical school for students from low SES backgrounds. Students’ perceptions of barriers and enablers to enter medical school were analysed across each stage of the application process within the domains of peer, family, and external support. The project sought to identify best practice career counselling and advice in secondary education.
- The project objectives were to:
- Provide information on the differences between the profiles of the low socioeconomic status (SES) student cohort by examining the total applicant pool across four universities: the University of Newcastle, the University of New England, the University of New South Wales and Western Sydney University.
- Understand the pathway into medical school for students from low SES backgrounds.
- Identify best practice career counselling and advice in secondary education, with a focus on comparing and contrasting effective strategies used in urban, regional and remote settings.
- The project had the following components:
- A dataset was established of all applicants in 2013 of the four participating universities in three medical programs, of which five per cent were from low SES backgrounds; 72 per cent medium SES; and 23 per cent high SES. Data was combined at individual level, linking administrative information on applicants’ demographics, ATAR and Undergraduate Medicine Admissions Test (UMAT) scores, interview offers, and whether they were offered a place to study medicine.
- A questionnaire was designed to identify applicants’ perceptions of barriers and enablers across each stage of the application process within the domains of peer, family, and external support, such as teachers, career advisors, doctors, and sources of information about the application process. In total 948 questionnaires were completed (response rate 20–25 per cent) with 13 per cent from low SES; 35 per cent from medium SES; and 52 per cent from high SES.
- Interviews were conducted with 50 applicants and seven career counsellors to gain a better understanding of perceptions and experiences.
- An e-guide was designed with advice and tips for prospective medical school applicants. This was designed around common myths; for example, “you can only apply once” or “you have to be a genius to do medicine”.
- Key findings included:
- Applicants from high SES backgrounds achieved statistically significantly higher scores than those from medium SES backgrounds which, in turn, were higher than scores from low SES applicants.
- High SES applicants were more likely to receive offers to interview to at two or three schools than at none or one school.
- The main bottlenecks or “sticking points” for low SES students might be at the decision point to apply for medical school.
- The questionnaire showed a self-selection bias in the sample, with higher proportion of low SES than in the main applicant pool (13 per cent from low SES; 35 per cent from medium SES; and 52 per cent from high SES backgrounds), but no significant difference in gender between SES groups (33 per cent male and 67 per cent female).
- Respondents who attended a private, Catholic or other religious school, when compared to respondents who attended a public school, were more likely to report that school careers counsellors were helpful in preparing them for the UMAT. Respondents from low SES backgrounds were more likely to report that family members had been helpful.
- For interview preparation, respondents who were first in their family to attend university were less likely to indicate that parents or carers were helpful in preparing them for medical school interviews.
- Overall, careers advisors and secondary school teachers were rated as the least helpful resources in terms of preparing students for aspects of medical school admissions and were the resources most often rated by applicants as “detrimental to my preparation”.
- The first two objectives were met. As regards the third objective—identify best practice career counselling and advice—the report authors found that, due to low recruitment of career counsellors, the data collected did not allow for comparisons based on locations. Consequently, the data only allowed insights into best practice counselling and advice at an aggregate level, without consideration for urban, regional and remote settings.
Summary prepared by the NCSEHE.