Funding medical school can be an arduous task. Unlike most other university students, medical students stay in university for a long time - often 5 or 6 years. But what they don’t tell you when you join medical school is that you receive a substantially reduced amount of financial support once you reach your fifth year of study.
This lack of financial support has left students depressed, failing academically and falling behind all for the sake of finding enough money to live off. This topic is so important that we created a number of tips to help medical students get through medicine. We broke this blog post down into what can be done before med school, during pre-clinical years, intercalation and clinical years.
Students do need to think about the affordability of medical school before they apply and whilst they are in medical school. It’s a harsh and unfortunate reality that medicine is still a degree for individuals from higher economic backgrounds. Sadly, given the way society is structured, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are often left behind. It’s one thing encouraging students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to enter medicine, but what is being done to ensure that these students complete their education. Until this is taken seriously as a societal issue, we curated a few tips to help.
A list of useful sources will be linked at the end of this blog post.
The Funding Situation at Medical School
For the first four years of medical school, home students can apply for tuition fee loans and maintenance loans. Typically, this means that students will receive £9,250 to cover tuition fees and a means-tested maintenance loan of up to £9,488 if living away from home, outside of London or up to £12,382 if living away from home, in London.
However, once you enter your final year or penultimate year (for students who have intercalated), you will no longer be eligible for the means-tested amount from Student Finance England. You will only receive the non-means tested amount. In translation, this means that you are entitled to the following for the entire academic year:
£3,354 for students studying in London and living away from home
£2,389 for students studying outside London and away from home
£1,793 for students living at home
In addition to this, you will receive the NHS bursary. This bursary will cover your tuition fees. Furthermore, a non-means tested grant of £1000, from the NHS bursary, will be provided to support maintenance costs. Students are still eligible to apply for an additional means-tested bursary amount from the NHS. Please bear in mind that this amount will be much less than what Student Finance England provides.
When taking into account rent, bills, travel, food etc. This really is not a large amount and as a result, many students do struggle financially. With the cost of living rising at an unprecedented rate, this significantly disadvantages students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
So What Can You Do At Each Stage to Support Yourself Through Medical School?
Before Medical School
Making medical school affordable starts before you apply. There are many different reasons to choose a medical school over another. However, considering the financial implications is also important. Here are some of the tips that we recommend, if you are concerned about finances:
Choosing to go to a local university is one way to save money. One that is within a commutable distance may help in the long run, especially during clinical years. This is something that many medical students have done which, in the long run, can save thousands of pounds.
For students taking a gap year, take the opportunity to find a job and put some money aside into some form of savings account. That money will benefit you later on either as an emergency fund, or even serve as money for an elective.
Apply for scholarships and bursaries. A good example of this is the Amos Bursary which is an organisation that provides mentoring opportunities and networking opportunities to young African and Caribbean students. Students are eligible to receive a £1000 bursary as part of this programme.
Choose your accommodation wisely. If that means paying for accommodation that is further away from campus with a reasonable commute to save a few grand a year it may be worth it. If you have a group of students from your secondary or sixth form that you are going to university with, it may be worth renting together (only if you get along)
Think carefully if you are applying to medical schools in expensive cities.
The UK, in general, is very expensive. More specifically, outside of London, there are a few cities which are very pricey, including Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol, Bath and Reading. Because these cities are outside of London, you will only be entitled to a maximum of £9,488 which is just under £3000 less than the London entitlement.
Apply to universities that offer a generous bursary. Imperial College London, is an example of a university which offers its students a good bursary. If you are able to save this money, this will benefit you in the long run. See below for a screenshot of the bursary Imperial College.
During pre-clinical years there are a number of things you can do:
Firstly, you can get a job. Some universities offer a number of temporary jobs that are flexible around your studies. Other options include NHS 111, vaccinator jobs, admin jobs, retail jobs, tutoring, mentoring etc. Check out our blog post on different jobs for medical students
Additionally, some universities may offer jobs where you can work for their university accommodation and pay significantly reduced rent (and in some cases no rent at all). This opportunity is offered at universities such as UCL. If you are unsure as to whether your university offers this, there is absolutely no harm in calling up your university to find out!
Budgeting is very important. There is no need to splurge excessively if you are concerned about how you are going to make ends meet in the future. There are a number of budgeting templates out there. Pick one and see if it works for you!
PAID internships are a brilliant way to earn a good amount of summer money whilst learning on the job. These do not need to be within the field of healthcare. There are many medical students who have done internships in finance, tech as well as other industries and have managed to earn thousands during the summer period! Check out our networking blog post for further info!
Intercalation is a great way to develop your skills in an area outside of traditional medicine. However, this does not come without a cost. That cost is having to fund another year of medical school. For medical schools which make intercalation mandatory, these students also fall into this category.
A useful, yet forgotten tip is to intercalate in a subject and university that offers generous scholarships and bursaries. As mentioned previously, Imperial is a university which does this. By intercalating you will be enrolled in another university which will allow you to access what these universities have to offer.
You can choose an intercalated degree with less contact hours to allow for more time to work on the side and save up for those clinical years!
For those in clinical years, here are a few things you can do to maximise the amount of money that you can make.
Firstly, make sure you apply early for additional financial support. The NHS bursary has a very short window to apply for extra funding. Make sure you keep an eye on this deadline otherwise your payment will be delayed. And one thing about the NHS bursary, they can delay your payment.
Remember YOU CAN apply for a non-means tested amount for student finance.
There are a number of jobs which are flexible and pay well. Dr Hani’s video on tutoring puts this into perspective. Especially being medical students you can use this to your advantage.
NHS Bursary offers reimbursements on travel and dual accommodation expenses. Occasionally they can even pay for your lunch. Remember every little amount of money helps so make sure you claim back these expenses.
To finish off this blog post, be honest with yourselves about the conversations you are having over money. It genuinely is a shame that university is unaffordable for so many but hopefully these tips help. As a final tip, for those of you in the position to do so let your loved ones know what could happen in the future in terms of funding. They may be in the position to help you and offer financial advice!
Written by: Bimpe Adeyemi (Co-Founder of The Black & Forth Platform)