Official launch of innovative scheme to widen access...

Launch of widening participation programme
Young people and their supporters at the launch

7 November 2016

  • ·Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds to get chance of medical  career
  • ·Two-year programme’s goal is to ‘level the playing field’
  • ·Backed by Birmingham philanthropist Sir Doug Ellis

More than 200 young people, their families and supporters came to the launch of an innovative programme to give bright students from disadvantaged circumstances the chance of a future career in medicine.

Officially launched at Aston University on Saturday 5 November, The Sir Doug Ellis Pathway to Healthcare Programme is a tailor-made learning and development project that will encourage young people to aspire to greater heights.

Over 100 16 and 17 year-old school and college students from disadvantaged circumstances in Birmingham, the Black Country and Solihull have registered to join the first two-year programme.

Most of these came to the launch on 5 November with their families and carers to find out more about the programme at presentations and information sessions.

Among them was Tiffany Mclaughlin-Beeston from Solihull, who is a student at John Henry Newman Catholic College. She said:  “I want to study medicine because I want to make a difference and impact people’s lives.

“I decided to apply for this pathway because I think it gives students a really good opportunity to get some experience as it offers work experience and, with the study skills, I really think it will help me improve in all my subject areas.”

Ashley Hove, a student at Stuart Bathurst School in Wednesbury, said: “I would like to study medicine because I’ve always been passionate about saving lives. I’ve always had an interest in children in particular because when I was younger I lost my little brother.

“I decided to apply to the Pathway to Healthcare programme because I felt I didn’t really have the opportunity through the normal way. I felt like I was being unrealistic with what I wanted to do, so for me it was the light at the end of the tunnel. It was probably the only way I was ever going to get the opportunity.”

During the programme, which is sponsored by Birmingham philanthropist Sir Doug Ellis, the students will participate in medical taster days, workshops and research projects and gain valuable experience on work placements in local hospitals, GP practices and other healthcare settings.

They will also receive guidance and support to help them though the university application process and interviews, plus an intensive A Level revision “boot camp” concentrating on one of their subjects.

A team of 11 ambassadors have also been recruited from the university’s student community, to help support those on the programme including acting as “e-mentors.” 

At the end of the programme, anyone meeting the admissions criteria will be able to apply for a subsidised place at the new Aston Medical School, or opt for another healthcare degree course in a wide range of subjects such as pharmacy, optometry, audiology and biomedical sciences. They will also be supported in applying to other medical schools.

Professor Asif Ahmed, Executive Dean of Aston Medical School, said: “I am hugely excited at the prospect of delivering a medical school that inspires young people in local schools and colleges with the highest index of deprivation to aspire to greater heights.

“This innovative programme will feed students living in less advantaged circumstances to not only Aston Medical School but also to other local medical schools in the Midlands. This is in line with the Prime Minister’s vision delivered in her first speech to the nation. 

“I hope it will encourage our locally qualified doctors and scientists to find jobs in local hospitals, GP practices and other healthcare settings. This, in turn, will increase the number of qualified healthcare professionals in the West Midlands working to redress the many health challenges of the area.”

Sir Doug Ellis added: “I want to ‘level the playing field’ for access into medical education. Those students from the local community with a passion and ability to study medicine should be fostered and supported – irrespective of their background.

“Aston Medical School is an exciting model for medical education and will have a meaningful and lasting impact on Birmingham and the health of its population.”


Notes to the editor

Aston Medical School

The new Aston Medical School is scheduled to open its doors to its first medical undergraduate students in the autumn of 2018. In addition to 20 places for local* students from disadvantaged areas and backgrounds, the School will accept up to 80 international* medical students each year.

Only students successfully completing the Pathway to Healthcare Programme can apply for one of the 20 UK places available at Aston Medical School. On acceptance, they will spend five years studying for the MBChB undergraduate degree in medicine.

Year 12 pupils applying to join the Pathway to Healthcare Programme must meet at least one of the following criteria: be in receipt of a means-tested bursary (eg 16-19 Bursary); be eligible, or have been, for free school meals during secondary education (Ever 6); be from a local authority care background; be from a family where neither parent has attended university.

They must also have attained B grades, or above, in five GCSE subjects including mathematics, English language, chemistry, biology or double science.

All new medical schools in the UK have to be accredited by the General Medical Council (GMC) before they can open to undergraduates. In 2016 the GMC introduced a new, more stringent and lengthier accreditation programme and schools must achieve all five stages before approval will be given by the GMC’s board. Aston Medical School is the first to apply for accreditation under the revised scheme.

Work to build a purpose-designed medical school at the heart of the Aston University campus is due to commence in 2017 at a cost of £15 million.

*subject to change

Sir Doug Ellis

Sir Doug Ellis is deeply committed to Birmingham and to Aston University and is one of the city’s leading philanthropists. He assisted the university to undertake the refurbishment of the Sir Doug Ellis Woodcock Sports Centre which benefits students and staff and the local community. He is recognised as the pioneer of the package holiday industry and his other business activities have included electronics, insurance, farming and retailing. He was Chairman of Aston Villa Football Club for 35 years and is now the club's Honorary Life President. Sir Doug was awarded the OBE for services to football and the community in 2004 and received an Honorary Degree from Aston in 2007.

For media queries or to arrange interviews, contact:  Susi Turner, Press & PR Officer, on 0121 204 4978 or 

More information about the programme, eligibility, how to apply, etc is here.