The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) welcomes the Medical Schools Council’s first ever guidance on how to widen access to medicine courses for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

OFFA advised on the guidance and commissioned the research on which it is based as part of the collaborative Selecting for Excellence project. Our involvement in this project is part of our ongoing work to offer intelligent, evidence-based regulation, supporting as well as challenging universities to improve fair access, particularly highly selective universities which tend to have less diverse student bodies.

Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, commented:

“This guidance represents a major development in helping to improve access to the elite medical profession. Going to medical school opens the door to a career in a rewarding, high-status profession and that door should be open to everyone who has what it takes to be an excellent doctor, regardless of their background.

“So I’m delighted that the Medical Schools Council is proactively supporting its members in their work to improve access. This work is a great example of how groups of higher education providers can collaborate on improving access to professions for talented people from all backgrounds, and thus contribute to social mobility.

“I’m also pleased that the Medical Schools Council chose to collaborate with OFFA on this guidance. Working together, we’ve been able to ensure that the guidance is directly in line with the evidence we have from across the higher education sector about what works best to widen access.

“The guidance highlights the importance of sustained, targeted schemes to raise aspirations and attainment, which starts at an early age because children form attitudes about ‘what kind of career is right for me’ many years before the actual university application process begins. Alongside this, teenagers need good information, outreach and guidance about subject choices and work experience, and to help them prepare for medical school admissions interviews.”

The guidance, A journey to medicine: outreach guidance, is published at and is part of a bank of resources produced by the two-year Selecting for Excellence project. There will also be improved guidance for students and their teachers with information on outreach programmes, online information on medicine courses across the UK, and a bank of outreach resources available for medical schools to use. Selecting for Excellence’s final report (to be published next month) will include further detailed evidence about issues of access to medical schools and firm recommendations on working to address these.