Concerns for medical education as academic numbers drop

FALLING numbers of medical academics could destabilise undergraduate medical education, a BMA committee has warned.

The student-teacher ratio has “dramatically altered” in recent years according to the Medical Academic Staff Committee who warned that staff will struggle to cope. In the past 15 years the number of medical academics has halved while the number of students entering medical school has almost doubled, the committee’s co-chair Michael Rees said.

He added: “Our medical academic base is now barely able to sustain the increased number of medical students. The temptation in this time of financial crisis might be for universities to shed further medical academic staff. This would be a grave mistake. It would result in a worse student experience at a time of rising fees and would further undermine our research base.”

The BMJ reported Medical Schools Council figures that show a fall in UK medical academics of 38 per cent in the past few years to 3,087 in 2009 – down from 4,963 in 2000. Conversely, the number of medical students entering medical school has risen by 43 per cent, from 5,610 in 2000 to 8,009 in 2010.

The Medical Academic Staff Committee voted in favour of a motion calling on the BMA to undertake a workforce planning exercise to define “appropriate clinical academic staff numbers” for the current number of medical students.