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‘Too posh for us’ - assessing pupils’ perceptions towards medical training.

Publication date: Mar 13, 2006 3:45:29 PM

UCL researchers will today release fascinating new evidence of the perceptions of pupils towards medical education in Britain today. Professor Trisha Greenhalgh from the Department of Primary Health Care and colleagues at UCL have studied focus groups in six London schools, involving a total of 68 academically able and scientifically oriented Year 10-11 pupils from a wide range of social and ethnic backgrounds.

They have explored the pupils’ perceptions of medical school, their motivation to apply, confidence in ability to stay the course, expectations of medicine as a career, and perceived sources of information and support. Their findings raise serious questions about underachievement by able pupils from poorer backgrounds and challenge the current model of ‘widening participation’ that exists in Britain today. Findings from the study will be presented today at UCL’s Teaching and Learning Conference, an annual event promoting innovation and excellence in teaching.

The researchers found that there were few differences by gender or ethnicity, but striking differences by socio-economic status. Pupils from lower socioeconomic groups held stereotyped and superficial perceptions of doctors saw medical school as culturally alien and geared towards ‘posh’ students and greatly underestimated their own chances of gaining a place and staying the course. Pupils from affluent backgrounds however saw medicine as one of a menu of challenging career options with intrinsic rewards (fulfilment, achievement). All pupils had concerns about the costs of study, by only those from poor backgrounds saw costs as constraining their choices.

Professor Greenhalgh comments: “Almost all pupils showed a remarkable lack of knowledge about what actually goes on at medical school and medicine as a profession. Pupils from inner city schools had concrete concerns about the physical environment at university, especially food choices and type of accommodation; more affluent pupils did not raise these concerns at all.”