Widening Participation in Medicine

What it could mean for you

If you’re an aspiring medic, you may have heard of ‘Widening Participation’ in relation to medicine, but what does this actually mean?

‘Widening Participation’ also known as ‘Widening Access’ is the effort to enable anyone with the ability and drive, to enter into a medical career.

Let’s examine this a bit further..

How and why did WP come about?

Widening Participation (WP) is an initiative used by universities. The idea is to encourage people, particularly young people, from the following backgrounds to consider and enter into a career in medicine:

  • the first generation to consider higher education
  • from low socio-economic groups
  • attending schools with low progression into higher education (e.g. university).

Medicine: Known by Some as ‘The Elite Profession’

In the UK, medicine has traditionally been thought of as a career for the privileged.

Government commissioned reports found that Medicine has low levels of ethinic diversity and of doctors from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

As we live in a society which seeks to improve social mobility and allow people the opportunity to achieve their potential, the government has recognised the need to encourage diversity in a crucial sector.

Social mobility is the ability to move from one position in society to another, or ‘going up or down the social ladder'. Living in a socially mobile society means that no social class is entirely fixed and population can move easily between each layer.

Having a healthcare workforce reflective of the society it serves is beneficial for providing healthcare, including a variety of perspectives to help us provide healthcare solutions.

Widening Participation - Who's Taking Part?

Generation Medics

We work to widen access into medicine by providing up-to-date and reliable information about medical school to areas with low progression into higher education.

We run evidence-based, impactful programmes, such as our NHS hospital programmes and those on behalf of UK medical schools and employers, to make it easier for underrepresented groups to find and use the tools they need to succeed in their medical careers and fulfil their potential.

Generation Medics Healthcare Conference


Universities take part in WP in a number of ways. For example:

  • They can lower entry requirements for students who come from particular areas, postcodes or schools that have low progression routes into higher education or come from a disadvantaged background.
  • Some medical schools include an extra ‘foundation year’ before the start the medical degree for students who meet WP criteria.
  • They can also reserve places on medicine courses for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, which is an initiative that King’s College London currently offer.
  • Universities, particularly their Medical Schools can take part in ‘Outreach’ programmes, which involve engaging with non-selective schools in their local area. Sometimes, students enrolled on these schemes are fast-tracked to the interview stage of applying to medicine.

It’s important to note that not all of these initiatives will lead you directly into studying medicine. Some say that you have to be in the top 10% of your peer group to be interviewed but that’s not a guarantee of gaining a spot at medical school.

Who is eligible for Widening Participation initiatives?

This may vary across the board, however, typically eligible students will have faced or currently face an educational disadvantage.

Here are some examples of WP criteria. Medical schools may use one or more of these criteria to determine your eligibility:

  • By postcode: student’s home address is in the bottom two-fifths of areas ranked by the proportion of young people progressing to Higher Education (POLAR 4, quintiles 1 or 2). Look-up which quintile a postcode is in. Universities may also use the IMD postcode checker
  • Student is a care leaver (currently being looked after by a local authority, foster parents/other family members, at home with their parents under the supervision of social services, in a residential children’s home or in another residential setting such as school or secure unit, or someone who has experienced a period of three months in the care of the local authority within the last ten years.)
  • Student is a young carer (providing unpaid care for a family member or friend)
  • Student is a refugee, asylum seeker or has been granted humanitarian protection
  • Student receives a Disability Living Allowance
  • Student is in the first generation of their immediate family to attend higher education
  • Student receives a means-tested bursary
  • Student receives free school meals
  • Student is estranged from both parents
  • Student’s household income is below the national average (e.g. £42,875) 
  • A level: predicted grades BBB (including Chemistry and Biology)
  • Have a minimum of seven GCSEs including English Language, Maths, Chemistry and Biology (or Double Award Science) at grades AABB or 7755 in any order

Contact individual medical schools to find out specific WP eligibility criteria. 

Find out more about how Generation Medics is supporting WP

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