SA medical school places in demand

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Durban - Competitiion to get into tertiary education is fierce, especially in the medical field.

This year, there were more than 36 000 applications for the 1 770 places available for first-year students in South Africa’s eight medical schools.

A Durban matriculant who received seven distinctions and an 87 percent aggregate was turned down.

His mother, Lorraine Naicker, whose oldest son is in his fourth year of medicine at the University of the Free State, said it was disappointing that children were not getting the opportunity to study, despite ticking all the boxes.

“We applied to three universities in June last year. We received notification from one saying he was not accepted, another said he was on the waiting list and another did not respond.

“He will now have to study pharmacy for four years and then medicine for four to five years.”

The Daily News contacted medical schools nationally to find out the number of applicants for this year and the selection criteria used.

Lesiba Seshoka, executive director of corporate relations at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said they received about 8 300 applications for 210 first-year places.

“The intake is subject to the race quotas. Twenty percent of the placements are selected from quintile 1 and quintile 2 high schools. For these students, no quota system is applied.

“However, for the remaining places, the quota is as follows: black (69 percent), Indian (19 percent), coloured (9 percent), white (2 percent) and other (1 percent).”

Carl Herman, director of admissions at University of Cape Town, said they received about 5 600 applications for the 220 first-year places.

“We use race-based enrolment targets as a basis for making offers of admission to applicants in the Faculty of Health Sciences and elsewhere.

“This means we make a pre-determined number of offers to various categories of applicants and the number of actual enrolments will depend on the take-up of those offers.”

For an MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine) programme at UCT, applicants need at least 50 percent for English, mathematics and physical science as well as a minimum admission point score of 420 and a “proficient” or “intermediate” in the National Benchmark Test.

The University of Pretoria had 5 908 applications for the 300 first-year places in medicine.

Stellenbosch University reported almost 3 000 applications for 235 places.

Hermien Nel, communications officer at Stellenbosch, said the selection process was based on academic and non-academic merits.

“Academic merits contribute to 75 percent of the selection mark – 45 percent of school mark and 30 percent National Benchmark Test results – and non-academic merit contributes to 25 percent. The non-academic mark is calculated on the involvement with community services, cultural activities and sport.”

He said they did not have a quota system but strived to “equalise the ethnic profile of the students within the MBChB programme to that of the population of the country”.

Special attention was paid to the selection of deserving candidates from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, although all students had to qualify on merit to be accepted.

The Department of Higher Education and Training lists the number of available spaces for first-year medical students at 1 770 across the eight medical schools. This year there were 36 723 applications for these limited spaces.

“We do have too few medical schools in the country,” said Dr Diane Parker, acting deputy director-general of university education with the department.

“We are in the process of developing a new Health and Allied Sciences University that will incorporate Medunsa, as well as establishing the ninth medical school.”

Parker said the Department of Health had also sent many students to Cuba, China, Malaysia and India to train as doctors.

“Medical education is expensive and infrastructure and human resources need to be invested in it to ensure that, in the long run, sufficient doctors are produced for our country’s needs.”

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