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The cap on places for Medical and Dental students in 2022 will not be extended to accommodate students who deferred in 2021


The Higher and Further Education Minister @MichelleDonelan and Health Minister Edward Argar (@DHSCgovuk) today (Oct 15) wrote to providers regarding Medical and Dental places for 2022, sent ahead of the October 15th deadline for applications.

The letter confirms that the cap on places for Medical and Dental students in 2022 will not be extended to accommodate students who deferred in 2021.

The letter also signals the Government’s intention to return to pre-pandemic levels for medical and dentistry places. In 2021/22 there were just under 9,300 in medical and dentistry places allocated in England, up from just under 8,400 confirmed places in 2019/20.

A Russell Group spokesperson said:

“We are disappointed the Government has chosen not to increase the cap on medical and dentistry places in 2022 to accommodate deferrals from 2021 as ultimately it will limit the choice and opportunities for students applying this year.

“Despite the best efforts of universities to accommodate additional students last year, some deferrals were necessary given the unexpected increase in students qualifying for places with the move to teacher-assessed grades.

“Rather than restricting the ability of students applying this year to train as doctors and dentists, the Government could support its long-term ambition to increase the number of doctors in the NHS by expanding and properly funding the number of training places available. The additional funding provided to support the ongoing costs of training those extra medical students taken on in the last two years, while welcome, falls short of what is required to cover all five years of high-quality teaching and learning. The spending review is an opportunity for Government to consider how it can better support the ongoing costs of training these students.”

2021/22 intake targets for England:

  • In August 2021, Government allocated an additional 456 medical and dentistry places to universities in England for the 2021/22 intake
  • This was on top of the additional 630 places allocated to universities in May 2021 to accommodate medical and dentistry students who deferred from 2020/21.
  • In total, providers across England were allocated 9,296 medical and dentistry places for the 2021/22 intake.

2020/21 ‘initial’ intake for England (i.e. still to be confirmed):

  • 9,285 medical students and dental students.

2019/20 ‘confirmed’ intake for England:

  • 8,375 medical students and dental students.

Extra places on medical and dentistry courses to support NHS workforce of the future 

5th Aug 2021: Medical and dentistry schools across England will get additional funding to expand courses for the coming academic year to fulfil more offers for UK students who achieve the required grades.

  • Cap adjusted to allow over 9,000 places on medical and dentistry courses for 2021 student intake
  • Universities working to create additional places for students that achieve the grades on vital courses
  • Backed by up to £10m in government support for the teaching of high-cost courses

In response to this year’s unprecedented situation the Government has adjusted the cap on medical and dentistry places so that more students than ever will have the opportunity to study on these courses in 2021, and in the long term help boost our future NHS workforce.

Applications for medicine and dentistry have increased by 20% this year compared to last year. These courses are traditionally some of the most popular for students but a cap on places ensures standards are maintained and that every student has an appropriate placement and training throughout their studies.

The measures bring the total of medical and dentistry places to over 9,000 in universities in England for this year to support courses and public services which are essential to protect into the future.

For this academic year, universities that can accommodate an increase to medical and dentistry places for students that have met the grades and hold a firm offer at a university with pressure on places will be supported to do so. For these universities that can take on more students that have met the grades whilst also ensuring teaching, learning and assessments standards are maintained, there will be flexibility to add to their numbers. 

As in previous years, the government has been working closely with higher education providers ahead of results day to ensure as many students as possible can progress if they get the grades they need.

(Former) Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“Students have worked incredibly hard over the past 18 months and we have continued to put their best interests first to ensure they can progress on to the next stage of their education training or career.

“Throughout this pandemic our NHS heroes have been at the forefront of the response and their resilience, dedication and perseverance has clearly inspired the next generation.

“Medicine and dentistry have always been popular courses and we have seen significant demand for places this year alongside other subjects like engineering and nursing. We want to match student enthusiasm and ensure as many as possible can train this year to be the doctors and healthcare professionals of the future.” 

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid said:

“COVID-19 has challenged healthcare staff and students like never before, and our nation has relied on them to keep us and our loved ones safe.

“As we look beyond the pandemic, it’s incredibly important we safeguard the future of our NHS by ensuring there is a pipeline of high-quality staff to bolster the workforce in the years ahead.

“Working closely with universities, we’re helping more students who meet the bar to get a place this year to study medicine or dentistry and join these fantastic professions.”

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said:

“Despite the challenges students have remained focused and shown amazing drive and ambition, demonstrated by the increase in applications for courses like medicine and dentistry.

“In an unprecedented year, both for students and the NHS, it is important that we as a government look for solutions which is why we have put these measures in place for this year so that more students than ever before can take up a place on these vital courses.”

Clare Marchant, UCAS Chief Executive said:

“We welcome today’s announcement as it gives more students the opportunity to study their first choice of course next year. Students applying for medicine and dentistry have been ambitious with their choices, and continued to stretch themselves during the pandemic to prepare for challenging study and rewarding future careers.”

The Government has also worked with UCAS, the Office for Students and the medical and dental school process to ensure there is a system for 2021 that matches students who meet their grades to unfulfilled places at medical and dental schools with space.

In anticipation of a greater interest in places this year on popular courses that are key to the country’s recovery from the pandemic, up to £10 million in additional grant funding will be provided to universities through the Office for Students to help them to increase capacity in medical, dentistry, nursing, STEM and other high-cost subjects.

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, responding to the Government’s announcement that they are raising the cap on healthcare places at universities ahead of A-level and BTECs results day, said

“Ministers dismissed calls for a contingency plan on exams and are now operating in panic mode desperately appealing to universities to clean-up their mess ahead of results day.

“Young people getting their results have worked incredibly hard in unprecedented circumstances. The Prime Minister has let them down with a second year of chaos and confusion, he must guarantee every student getting their results will be able to progress with their education or employment.

“If the Government can create these additional healthcare places at just days’ notice, it begs serious questions about why they have not acted sooner to tackle the ongoing workforce crisis in the NHS.”

  • Caps on medicine and dentistry are in place to ensure teaching, learning and assessment standards are maintained. Controlling these figures also ensures every student has the appropriate placement and training during the course of their studies.
  • The Government is committed to ensuring that the number and distribution of medical school places are in line with England’s workforce requirements, and continues to monitor the effectiveness of current arrangements.   
  • Over 9,000 refers to domestic and international students across medicine and dentistry but additional capacity was only for domestic students. All additional places will be fully funded including clinical places.
  • Nursing places aren’t capped in the same way as medical and dentistry places and can be a great progression route for students, including from vocational courses.

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