Drastic times need drastic measures: COVID-19 and widening access to medicine

Kathrine Gibson Smith, Jen Cleland*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


In response to COVID-19, schools, colleges and universities across the world have closed or shifted to online/remote or blended teaching, learning and assessment. These changed ways of working pose challenges to students and will likely exacerbate existing educational attainment gaps between different societal groups. Our focus is the potential impact of COVID-19 on widening access to medicine. We provide an account of the process, in the form of comparative cases, of applying for medical school for two applicants from differing backgrounds. Three challenges were identified: family circumstances and support (financial security and parental educational support); staying connected (access to educational material, technology and Wifi); getting the grades and meeting other entry criteria (predicting grades and work experience). We propose that medical schools adopt drastic measures to protect widening access including increasing the use of aptitude tests, contextualised admissions, online multiple mini interviews (MMIs), creative outreach and promotion of alternative means of gaining relevant experience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431–435
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Financial and Competing Interests:
No conflict of interests declared


  • Widening access
  • disadvantage
  • COVID-19
  • widening participation


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