The Tick Box Culture Amongst Medical Students

Are the Recent UKFPO Changes a Step in the Right Direction?

Recently, the UK Foundation Programme (UKFPO) announced that from 2023, educational achievements will no longer count towards foundation programme application scores. Educational achievements include both additional degrees and publications. Expectedly, this has been met with mixed responses. Personally, I do have my criticisms about the timing and the lack of student involvement in the decision but I feel that it might be a step in the right direction. Especially, when it comes to dismantling the ‘tick box culture’ that is rife amongst medical students.

There’s a chance that you may think that this topic is a bit of a reach and it may not apply to you specifically. Hopefully, after reading this post, it will open your eyes to how medical schools breed an environment where we are encouraged to do things not out of genuine interest, but because it serves as an avenue to having more desirable medical CVs.

What Is This So-Called Tick Box Culture?

Tick box culture is a term that has come to describe the behaviour of completing specific actions that is perceived to be necessary to reach a certain goal. Amongst medical students specifically, I like to loosely define it as ‘pursuing an opportunity for the sake of increased credibility within the field of medicine rather than out of genuine passion’. Thus, figuratively, ticking a box. Whilst this list is not exhaustive, in medicine, this may manifest as taking up a research project just to get a publication, intercalating just to acquire a number of points for your foundation year application, or doing outreach work just to reference it on your CV. In case you haven’t noticed, the key word here is just. It’s likely that, if there are no signs of doing something for personal development or passion, it’s probably just ticking a box.