Medical Training Review Panel: fifteenth report

University Medical Training

Page last updated: 15 March 2012

Initial medical education is provided by university medical schools in Australia as six-year and five-year undergraduate courses or as four-year graduate courses. There are 18 universities with accredited medical schools. A number of these schools were established relatively recently. The first graduates emerged from Bond University in 2009. The University of Wollongong commenced teaching in 2007 and its first medical students graduated in 2010. Data is available on all of these medical schools, however, three will not produce their first graduates until 2011. Data on the first graduates from the University of Western Sydney (UWS), which commenced teaching in 2007, and Deakin University and the Sydney campus of Notre Dame University, which commenced teaching in 2008, will be included with that on other 2011 graduates in the next report.

In 2011, there were 16,491 medical students studying in Australian universities, an increase of 1,094 or 7.1% on the previous year, 2010. Two-fifths (41.1% or 6,778) of these students were undertaking a four-year course. This was slightly higher than in 2010.

Three quarters of all places each year are Commonwealth-supported. However, the proportion was slightly higher in 2011, with 78.9% or 13,016 of all students receiving Commonwealth support. The majority of these (9,435 or 72.5%) received Higher Education Commonwealth Support (HECS) (Figure 1). The remainder were in bonded places receiving assistance through the Bonded Medical Places Scheme (BMPS) and the Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship Scheme, which obligate the student to work respectively in a District of Workforce Shortage for a period of time equal to the length of the medical degree, and in a rural or remote area for six continuous years. In addition medical students can be supported by scholarships through a variety of other sources, namely the state or territory, the university or other institutions and, for international students, their home country.

Overall international students occupied 2,535 or 15.4% of places. These students are studying as private or sponsored students and are not Australian citizens, permanent residents or New Zealand citizens. A small proportion of Australian citizens (829 or 5.0% of medical students) also pay fees. From 2009 new full fee paying places for Australian students ceased to be available.

Figure 1: Medical students by type of student place: Number and proportion of places, 2011

Figure 1: Medical students by type of student place: Number and proportion of places, 2011 D

Source: Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand Inc

Two hundred and eighteen medical students in 2011 identified that they were of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin. Although this is a relatively small proportion of all medical students, the number is a third (35.4%) higher than in 2010, when just 161 identified as of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin.

Of the total medical students, 3,770 were in the first year of their medical studies and 3,241 or 86.0% of these were domestic students.

Most students are under the age of 25 years when they commence their medical studies. Data for 2010 shows that four-fifths (82.6%) were under 25 years (Figure 2). A further 11.3% were aged between 25 and 29 years and 6.1% were 30 years or older.

Figure 2: Commencing medical students by sex and age, 2010

Figure 2: Commencing medical students by sex and age, 2010 D

Source: Medical Schools Outcomes Database

Half (52.0%) the medical students commencing in 2010 began their studies after finishing another degree. The number of medical students studying in Australian medical schools has increased significantly since 2000 (when data were first collected on all medical students) and most markedly since 2006. In 2000 there were just 7,746 medical students and by 2011 the number had more than doubled to 16,491 medical students (an increase of 112.9%). In 2000, 14.6% of all medical students were from overseas and this had increased slightly by 2011, when 16.4% were international medical students.

Over the last decade, the total number of commencing medical students has more than doubled, with the intake increasing by 2,110 or 127.1% from 2000 to 3,770 in 2011. This was primarily due to increases in the numbers of commencing domestic students, which rose by 138.1% compared with an increase of 76.9% for international students.

These increases are mirrored in the number of medical graduates each year. In 2010 there were 2,733 medical graduates, almost double the 1,400 graduates in 1999 (Figure 3). The numbers graduating annually fluctuated slightly up until 2006, but since then there have been marked annual increases of over ten percent, with the number graduating in 2010 being 14.8% higher than the 2,380 in the previous year, 2009.

The picture is somewhat different for graduating domestic and international students. International students constituted just 10.3% (or 144 of 1,400 graduates) in 1999, the first year for which data on these graduates were published. Since then the number has more than trebled, rising by 229.2% to 474 graduating international students in 2010. The number has also increased as a proportion of all medical graduates, reaching a peak of 19.5% in 2009. The proportion of graduating international students then decreased slightly in 2010 to 17.3% of all medical graduates.

The increases in the numbers of domestic students graduating each year have been far greater over the same period. However, domestic medical graduates have only increased by 79.8% overall, rising from 1,256 in 1999 to 2,259 in 2010.

Since 1997, the first year of MTRP reporting, the number of domestic medical graduates has increased by 81.6%.

Figure 3: Domestic and international medical graduates, 1997–2010

Figure 3: Domestic and international medical graduates, 1997–2010 D

Source: Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand Inc

It is anticipated that the number of medical graduates will continue to increase in the coming years (Figure 4). From 2009 to 2010, the actual number of graduates increased by 14.8% from 2,380 to 2,733. This is one of the highest annual increases since reporting began. It is anticipated that there will be 3,028 graduates in 2011, a 10.8% increase. Further increases in the number of graduates are anticipated up until 2016, with the rate of growth slowing markedly post 2012. This is, in part, due to these years being outside the period in which many current initiatives impact.

Figure 4: Projections of domestic and international medical graduates, 2010–2016

Figure 4: Projections of domestic and international medical graduates, 2010–2016 D

Source: Medical Deans Australia New Zealand Inc