Medical Training Review Panel: fourteenth report

Medical Students

Page last updated: 11 March 2011

In Australia, initial medical education is provided by university medical schools accredited by the Australian Medical Council (AMC). There are 18 universities with accredited medical schools in Australia and 15 of these had produced graduates as at the end of 2009.

The first graduates emerged from Bond University in 2009. The University of Wollongong and University of Western Sydney (UWS) commenced teaching in 2007 and their first medical students to graduate will do so in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Medical students first commenced at Deakin University and the Sydney campus of Notre Dame University in 2008, with the first medical students due to graduate in 2011.

In the past most medical doctors gained their graduate qualification by completing a six-year Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS). However, over the years an increasing number of five-year and four-year (graduate entry) programs have been introduced.

In the past, university medical degrees usually had two stages:

  • pre-clinical, which was primarily lecture theatre and laboratory-based; and
  • clinical, which incorporated hospital ward and outpatient-based experiences.

Current programs integrate both components and incorporate clinical experience from early in the course. Most significant clinical exposure, however, occurs in the last two years for graduate entry programs, or the last three and four years for undergraduate entry programs of five and six year’s duration respectively.

Medical students are usually attached to a number of clinical teams, mostly in hospital settings. The student is part of the team and, under instruction from interns and registrars, learns in an apprenticeship manner how to undertake a range of clinical tasks. This approach aims to develop the student’s clinical skills to a level that is appropriate for commencing prevocational training as an intern.

Current Data

In 2010, there were 15,397 medical students studying in Australian universities (Table 2.1). Of these, 5,209 (33.8%) were undertaking a six-year course, 4,349 (28.2%) were undertaking a five-year course and 5,839 (37.9%) were undertaking a four-year course.

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Table 2.1: Medical students in Australian universities, 2010

Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4Year 5Year 6Total
6-year course
Adelaide
201
166
158
151
123
136
935
James Cook
209
188
151
95
93
98
834
Melbourne UG(a)
..
4
249
231
216
208
908
UNSW
283
285
253
262
232
223
1,538
Tasmania(b)
..
..
..
..
..
51
51
UWA UG
173
177
139
130
142
182
943
Subtotal
866
820
950
869
806
898
5,209
5-year course
Bond(c)
92
86
81
80
78
417
Melbourne PG(a)(c)
..
88
89
106
87
370
Monash UG
306
292
293
292
279
1,462
Newcastle/UNE
223
196
193
101
125
838
Tasmania(b)
127
126
121
98
52
524
UWA PG(c)
63
64
59
60
30
276
UWS
130
136
106
90
..
462
Subtotal
941
988
942
827
651
4,349
4-Year course
ANU
96
92
80
87
355
Deakin
141
134
112
..
387
Flinders
136
143
131
117
527
Griffith
156
155
134
143
588
Monash PG
78
72
53
..
203
Notre Dame Sydney
108
113
106
..
327
Notre Dame Fremantle
104
106
103
86
399
Queensland
483
426
386
353
1,648
Sydney
276
294
259
262
1,091
Wollongong
84
83
79
68
314
Subtotal
1,662
1,618
1,443
1,116
5,839
Total
3,469
3,426
3,335
2,812
1,457
898
15,397

UG - undergraduate
PG - postgraduate

(a) Undergraduate last intake in 2008. Current graduate program last intake in 2009. New graduate entry from 2011.
(b) Tasmania's 6-year course last intake in 2005. 5-year course first intake in 2006.
(c) These courses are less than 5 years in duration - Bonf 4.8 years, Melbourne PG 4.5 years and UWA PG 4.7 years.

Source: Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand Inc.

In 2010, 12,946 or 84.1% of all students were domestic students (Table 2.2). Of these, 4,199 (32.4%) were undertaking a six-year course, 3,667 (28.3%) were undertaking a five-year course and 5,080 (39.2%) were undertaking a four-year course.

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Table 2.2: Domestic medical students in Australian universities, 2010

Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4Year 5Year 6Total
6-year course
Adelaide
185
143
140
120
100
95
783
James Cook
182
162
148
91
90
95
768
Melbourne UG(a)
..
4
171
156
145
134
610
UNSW
215
223
198
212
195
167
1,210
Tasmania(b)
..
..
..
..
..
42
42
UWA UG
146
150
111
108
115
156
786
Subtotal
728
682
768
687
645
689
4,199
5-year course
Bond(c)
88
82
77
80
75
402
Melbourne PG(c)
..
81
78
90
67
316
Monash UG
251
238
227
218
182
1,116
Newcastle/UNE
195
174
160
75
104
708
Tasmania
103
106
102
71
47
429
UWA PG(c)
63
64
59
60
30
276
UWS
109
124
97
90
..
420
Subtotal
809
869
800
684
505
3,667
4-year course
ANU
94
85
76
83
338
Deakin
134
133
112
..
379
Flinders
122
123
112
103
460
Griffith
156
155
134
143
588
Monash PG
70
66
49
..
185
Notre Dame Sydney
108
113
106
..
327
Notre Dame Fremantle
104
106
103
86
399
Queensland
318
307
302
272
1,199
Sydney
223
249
226
229
927
Wollongong
74
72
68
64
278
Subtotal
1,403
1,409
1,288
980
5,080
Total
2,940
2,960
2,856
2,351
1,150
689
12,946

UG - undergraduate
PG - postgraduate

(a) Undergraduate last intake in 2008. Current graduate program last intake in 2009. New graduate entry from 2011.
(b) Tasmania's 6-year course last intake in 2005. 5-year course first intake in 2006.
(c) These courses are less than 5 years in duration - Bond 4.8 years, Melbourne PG 4.5 years and UWA PG 4.7 years.

Source: Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand Inc.

Types of Student Places

A student undertaking medical studies in Australia may occupy either a Commonwealth-supported university place where, through the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS), the student is required to pay for only part of the cost of his or her degree, or a full fee-paying place, funded entirely through the tuition fees paid by the student. In 2009 new full fee-paying places for domestic undergraduate medical students ceased to be available.

Some medical students occupying Commonwealth-supported university places are participating in the Bonded Medical Places Scheme (BMPS) or have received scholarships through the Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship Scheme (MRBSS), which commenced in 2004 and 2001 respectively.

Students participating in the BMPS have a return of service obligation to work in a District of Workforce Shortage (DWS as identified by the Commonwealth) for a period of time equal to the length of the medical degree. Up to half the return of service obligation, however, can be met while completing prevocational training and vocational training.

Recipients of the MRBSS scholarship are required to work for six continuous years in a rural or remote area of Australia. MRBSS doctors start their six-year commitment to work in rural Australia after completing their vocational training.

In 2010, more than three quarters of students (76.8% or 11,873) were in Commonwealth-supported places (Table 2.3). This was an increase of 3,555 places or 42.7% from 2006.

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Table 2.3: Medical students by type of student place: Number and proportion of places, 2006-2010

20062007200820092010
Medical Students
Commonwealth supported
8,318
9,017
9,878
10,938
(d)11,873
HECS only
7,144
7,317
7,642
(a)8,177.5
8,707
BMPS
688
1,212
1,747
2,279
2,686
MRBSS
486
488
489
(a)481.5
480
Fee-paying
2,496
2,831
3,241
3,373
3,356
Domestic
415
678
932
949
905
International(b)
2,081
2,153
2,309
2,424
2,451
Other(c)
35
101
218
210
231
Total
10,849
11,949
13,337
14,521
15,460
Proportion of places (%)
Commonwealth supported
76.6
75.4
74.1
75.3
76.8
HECS only
65.8
61.2
57.3
56.3
56.3
BMPS
6.3
10.1
13.1
15.7
17.4
MRBSS
4.5
4.1
3.7
3.3
3.1
Fee-paying
23.0
23.7
24.3
23.2
21.7
Domestic
3.8
5.7
7.0
6.5
5.9
International(b)
19.2
18
17.3
16.7
15.9
Other(c)
0.3
0.8
1.6
1.4
1.5
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

(a) ANU offers their research component part time in exceptional circumstances.
(b) International students are those studying as private or sponsored students who are not Australian citizens, permanent residents or New Zealand citizens.
(c) Other includes medical students on state health department bonded medical scholarships.
(d) Total is higher than in Table 2.4, as students can participate in more than one scheme and are included in each in which they participate.

Source: Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand Inc

In 2006 just 14.1% of all Commonwealth supported places were bonded places. This proportion rose each year until in 2010 bonded places constituted 26.7% of all Commonwealth supported places.

In 2010, there were 2,686 students in BMPS places, a four times increase from 2006, when there were only 688 students in BMPS places. The proportion of students in BMPS places also increased significantly between 2006 and 2010 from 6.3% to 17.4% of all places.

Over this same period, the proportion of students in MRBSS places decreased from 4.5% in 2006 to 3.1% in 2010.

Full fee-paying positions were first made available to Australian students in 2005 and ceased to be available for commencing undergraduate students at public universities from 2009. The proportion of domestic fee-paying students rose from 3.8% in 2006 to a peak of 6.9% of all students in 2008 and then down to 5.9% in 2010. Whereas the proportion of international fee-paying students decreased each year, ranging from 19.2% in 2006 to 15.9% of all medical students in 2010.

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Table 2.4: Medical students by type of student place and university, 2010

Fee paying
Commonwealth supported placesDomesticInternationalOther(a)Total
Adelaide
778
5
152
0
935
ANU
338
0
17
0
355
Bond
0
402
15
0
417
Deakin
379
0
8
0
387
Flinders
412
22
67
26
527
Griffith
389
1
0
198
588
JCU
764
4
66
0
834
Melbourne PG
309
7
54
0
370
Melbourne UG
578
32
298
0
908
Monash PG
182
3
18
0
203
Monash UG
1,039
77
346
0
1,462
Newcastle/UNE
701
7
130
0
838
Notre Dame Sydney
240
87
0
0
327
Notre Dame Fremantle
336
63
0
0
399
Queensland
1,129
70
449
0
1,648
Sydney
855
65
164
7
1,091
Tasmania 5 year
429
0
95
0
524
Tasmania 6 year
42
0
9
0
51
UNSW
1,156
54
328
0
1,1538
UWA PG
276
0
0
0
276
UWA UG
786
0
157
0
943
Western Sydney
414
6
42
0
462
Wollongong
278
0
36
0
314
Total
11,810
905
2,451
231
15,397

UG - undergraduate
PG - postgraduate

(a) Other includes medical students on state health department bonded medical scholarships.

Source: Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand Inc

Scholarships

Students can receive scholarships through a variety of sources. Data was collected through the Medical Schools Outcomes Database and Longitudinal Tracking Project (MSOD) from 3,161 commencing medical students in 2009. Of these 421 (13.3%) stated that they received a scholarship to support them in their medical studies (Table 2.5).

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Table 2.5: Commencing medical students source of scholarships, 2009

StudentsProportion (%)
Commonwealth scholarships
128
30.4
State scholarships
58
13.8
Scholarships provided by Australian universities
148
35.2
Scholarships provided by home country to international students
71
16.9
Scholarships provided by other institutions
16
3.8
Total
421
100.0

Source: Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand Inc

Student Characteristics

Data from the MSOD provides some insight into who is studying medical studies. The latest available data is for 2009, in which 3,442 medical students commenced their studies. Of these 3,161 or 91.8% responded. Two-fifths of students commencing their medical studies in 2009 were under the age of 20 years and another two-fifths were aged 20–25 years (Table 2.6)

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Table 2.6: Commencing medical students by sex and age(a), 2009

Age GroupMalesFemalesProportion female (%)TotalProportion of total (%)
<20 years
541
741
57.8
1,282
40.6
20-24 years
611
719
54.1
1,330
42.1
25-29 years
193
179
48.1
372
11.8
30-34 years
63
39
38.2
102
3.2
35-39 years
23
19
45.2
42
1.3
40 years and over
13
20
60.6
33
1.0
Total
1,444
1,717
54.3
3,161
100.0

(a) These numbers are projections only and are subject to change.

Source: Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand Inc.

Just over half of the medical students commencing in 2009 began their studies after completing another degree, with 85.5% having completed a tertiary degree in science, medical science and health and/or allied health. For three quarters (74.3%) these were bachelor degrees, but 11.1% had completed higher level qualifications (Tables 2.7 and 2.8).

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Table 2.7: Commencing medical students discipline of highest tertiary qualification completed, 2009

Discipline of prior degreeUndergraduate entryGraduate entryTotal
Science(a)
27
753
780
Medical Science(b)
15
367
382
Health/Allied Health(c)
28
282
310
Humanities
8
93
101
Commerce/Business/Law
9
60
69
Physical sciences(d)
1
31
32
Other/Unknown
21
54
75
Total
109
1,640
1,749

(a)B.Sci; B Applied Sci (no or unclear major); Vet Sci; Liberal Arts; B Sci in Human Movement; biotechnology; human kinetics; exercise science; psychology.
(b)B.Sci; B Applied Sci (no or unclear major); Vet Sci; Liberal Arts; B Sci in Human Movement; biotechnology; human kinetics; exercise science; psychology.
(c)Radiography; nursing; optometry; podiatry; speech pathology; orthodontics; nutrition; public health and tropical medicine; occupational therapy; kinesiology; naturopathy; pharmacy; physiotherapy; dentistry; dental surgery; oral health; prosthetics and orthotics.
(d)B Eng; B Computer Science; architecture; urban planning, electronics; surveying; IT; mathematics.

Source: Medical Schools Outcomes Database

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Table 2.8: Commencing medical students highest prior tertiary qualification by medical degree entry program(a), 2009

Level of prior degreeUndergraduate entryProportion undergraduate (%)Graduate entryProportion postgraduate (%)Total
PhD
1
0.9
39
2.4
40
Masters
13
11.9
92
5.6
105
Graduate Diploma/Certificate
15
13.8
51
3.1
66
Honours
10
9.2
236
14.4
246
Bachelor
63
57.8
1,219
74.3
1,282
Other/Unknown
7
6.4
3
0.2
10
Total
109
100.0
1,640
100.0
1,749

(a) Based on all individuals who reported previous qualifications.

Source: Medical Schools Outcomes Database

In 2009 a total of 421 students reported that they held temporary or other entry permits to Australia (Table 2.9). The majority of these international students came from Canada (24.6%), Singapore (22.6%) and Malaysia (17.8%).

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Table 2.9: International commencing medical students holding temporary or 'other' entry permits by place of birth, 2009.

Country of birthStudentsProportion (%)
Canada
113
24.6
Singapore
104
22.6
Malaysia
82
17.8
USA
28
6.1
Korea, Republic of (South)
15
3.3
All other (where n<10)
118
25.7
Total
460
100.0

Source: Medical Schools Outcomes Database

Indigenous Students

Data has also been sourced this year on the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status of medical students. Data from the MSOD shows that the number of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander medical students commencing studies has only just slightly increased each year (Table 2.10), with 38 commencing in 2009. Data from Medical Deans, however, shows that there have been significant increases each year in the overall numbers studying. In 2010 there were a total of 161 medical students studying in Australian universities who reported being an Aboriginal and/ or Torres Strait Islander (Table 2.11), an increase of 62.6% over the five years from 2006.

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Table 2.10: Commencing medical students by Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status, 2009

200720082009
Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students
34
37
38
Non Indigenous
2,649
3,180
3,113
Unknown
14
18
10
Total
2,697
3,235
3,161
Proportion Indigenous (%)
1.3
1.2
1.2

Source: Medical Schools Outcomes Database

Table 2.11: Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander medical students studying in Australian universities, 2006-2010

20062007200820092010
Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students
99
125
129
137
161
Annual Increase (%)
26.3
3.2
6.2
17.5

Source: Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand Inc

Rural Exposure

Exposure to rural and remote settings, whether through living, being schooled and/or undertaking medical studies or training there, is considered to have a positive impact on the likelihood of medical professionals practising in rural and remote areas. Data on students who have a rural background is collected by medical schools. In 2010, 614 or 21.5% of commencing domestic students reported that they had lived in a rural or remote area prior to commencing their medical studies (Table 2.12).

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Table 2.12 Commencing domestic medical students with a rural background(a), 2010

MalesFemalesTotalProportion domestic students (%)
Adelaide
6
12
18
9.7
ANU
7
8
15
16.0
Bond
na
na
na
na
Deakin
17
17
34
25.4
Flinders
9
17
26
21.3
Griffith
22
19
41
26.3
James Cook
33
43
76
41.8
Melbourne PG entry (b)
..
..
..
..
Monash PG
12
11
23
32.9
Monash UG
17
28
45
17.9
Newcastle/UNE
31
43
74
37.9
Notre Dame Sydney
10
16
26
24.1
Notre Dame Fremantle
8
8
16
15.4
UNSW
26
37
63
29.3
Queensland
14
10
24
7.5
SYdney
12
17
29
13.0
Tasmania
15
22
37
35.9
UWA PG
1
9
10
15.9
UWA UG
18
19
37
25.3
UWS
na
na
na
..
Wollongong
8
12
20
27.0
Total
266
348
614
20.9

UG - undergraduate
PG - postgraduate

(a) Based on RRMA classification in which RRMAs 3 to 7 are categorised as rural and remote areas.
(b) Melbourne University had no intake in 2010 in preparation for the commencement in 2011 of its masters degree.

Of these 614 commencing domestic students with a rural background 212 commenced their medical studies in New South Wales, 102 in Victoria and 141 in Queensland (Table 2.13). Much smaller numbers of students, commensurate with their relative proportions of medical students overall, started at medical schools in Western Australia (63), South Australia (44), Tasmania (37) and the Australian Capital Territory (15).

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Table 2.13: Commencing domestic medical students with a rural background(a) by state/territory, 2010

MalesFemalesTotalProportion domestic students (%)
New South Wales
Newcastle/UNE
31
43
74
37.9
Notre Dame Sydney
10
16
26
24.1
Sydney
12
17
29
13.0
UNSW
26
37
63
29.3
UWS
0
0
0
0.0
Wollongong
8
12
20
27.0
Total NSW
87
125
212
Victoria
Deakin
17
17
34
25.4
Monsh PG
12
11
23
32.9
Monash UG
17
28
45
17.9
Total Vic
46
56
102
Queensland
Bond
na
na
na
na
Griffith
22
19
41
26.3
Queensland
14
10
24
7.5
James Cook
33
43
76
41.8
Total Qld
69
72
141
Western Australia
Notre Dame Fremantle
8
8
16
15.4
UWA PG
1
9
10
15.9
UWA UG
18
19
37
25.3
Total WA
27
36
63
South Australia
Adelaide
6
12
18
9.7
Flinders
9
17
26
21.3
Total SA
15
29
44
Tasmania
Tasmania
15
22
37
35.9
Australian Capital Territory
ANU
7
8
15
16.0
Total
266
348
614
20.9

UG - undergraduate
PG - postgraduate

(a) Based on RRMA classification in which RRMA's 3 to 7 are categorised as rural and remote areas.

Source: Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand Inc

Trends

Over the last five years the total number of commencing medical students has increased each year, rising by 38.9% overall from 2,497 in 2006 to 3,469 in 2010 (Table 2.14).

Over this same period, domestic commencing student numbers increased by 42.0% or 869 students, while international commencing student numbers increased relatively less by 24.2% or 103 students.

The proportion of female domestic students commencing medical studies has remained relatively stable over the last five years at just above half of all commencing medical students. There has been, however, a significant decrease in the proportions of female international students in recent years, particularly in 2010, when just 42.5% of all commencing medical students were female (Table 2.14).

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Table 2.14: Commencing medical students: Domestic and international and proportion of females(a), 2006-2010

20062007200820092010
Domestic
2,071
2,560
2,934
2,955
2,940
Proportion female (%)
55.1
54.4
54.0
54.8
52.9
International(b)
426
436.0
499
487
529
Proportion female (%)
53.1
49.8
50.9
47.0
42.5
Total
2,497
2,996
3,442
3.442
3,469

(a) Based on the commencing year of the graduate course.
(b) International students are those studying as private or sponsored students who are not Australian citizens, permanent residents or New Zealand citizens.

Source: Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand Inc

Projections suggest that 3,894 medical students will commence their studies in Australian universities in 2011 (Table 2.15). Of these, 3,252 (83.5 %) will be domestic students and 642 (16.5 %) international students.

Table 2.15: Commencing domestic medical student projections(a), 2011

DomesticInternational
Adelaide
190
10
ANU
96
10
Bond
88
0
Deakin
133
16
Flinders
146
20
Griffith
150
0
James Cook
195
25
Melbourne
300
30
Monash
317
67
Newcastle/UNE
175
30
Notre Dame Sydney
112
0
Notre Dame Fremantle
105
0
Queensland
324
197
Sydney
230
80
Tasmania
100
20
UNSW
208
73
UWA
208
27
Western Sydney
100
26
Wollongong
75
11
Total
3,252
642

(a) These numbers are projections only and are subject to change.

Source: Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand Inc

Between 2006 and 2010, there was an increase of 4,548 or 41.2% in the overall number of medical students studying in Australian universities (Table 2.16). Over this same period, the total number of domestic students increased proportionally more than international students, rising by 47.7% to 12,976 students in comparison with a 17.8% increase in international students to 2,451 international students in 2010.

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Table 2.16: Medical students: Domestic, international and proportions of females(a), 2006-2010

20062007200820092010
Domestic
8,768
9,796
11,028
12,097
12,946
Proportion female (%)
55.7
55.8
55.3
54.6
54.2
International(b)
2,081
2,153
2,309
2,424
2,451
Proportion female (%)
53.9
52.3
52.5
51.4
50.1
Total
10.849
11,949
13,337
14,521
15,397

(a) Data covers all years of study.
(b) International students are those studying as private or sponsored students who are not Australian citizens, permanent residents or New Zealand citizens.

Source: Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand Inc