It is easy to forget that as a medical student, I will be graduating in five years with debts exceeding £60,000. Although it is not a huge worry for me as a fresher, I know many who are already struggling to keep finances under control. It has recently been suggested that medical students should be entitled to a fourth maintenance loan, to help fund summer placements. And I agree, an additional loan would be very useful.
On average, my week consists of 20 hours of contact time, the majority of which are compulsory. This doesn’t include the 15 hours of self-study that the University recommends. The intensity of the course means that very few medics have dared to seek part time work. 9-5 days and busy weekends make having a job without negatively affecting your education almost impossible. Additionally, every year students get less time away from studies, leaving only a small period for summer and holiday jobs.
As a result, most medical students are relying much more heavily on other sources of funding. On loans, family, and most commonly their overdraft. Limited income can result in financial pressure, often prompting worry. Keeping up with studies and preparing for the exam period is already found stressful by most, and I feel that an increased maintenance loan would help to ease pressure during these difficult times.
The Hull-York Medical School (HYMS) student body is made up of college leavers (medicine being their first degree) and graduates. It is unfortunate that these post-grads are entitled only to maintenance loans from student finance companies. They do not qualify for grants or help with tuition fees. Similarly, as well as paying increased fees, students from outside the EU must be entirely self-funded. This could adversely affect these students in particular. Surely this counts as unfair. At the very least these students would benefit from a little extra funding.
On top of this, medical students are required to spend money on equipment that other students are not. Before arriving at university, HYMS insisted that every student was to purchase their own stethoscope and set of scrubs, costing in total around £70. Other additional fees of the medical school include membership to the British Medical Association and the cost of learning resources not available from the university. In addition, along with most of the students on my course, I have purchased 3 or 4 books, each costing around £60 in order to avoid disappointment in the library and to allow page annotations during revision.
Another fairly noticeable cost of being a medical student, particularly at HYMS, is the cost of travel. My third year will be concentrated on patient contact and full exposure to clinical medicine. Every student will eventually complete a placement in each of the five areas within the HYMS region, allowing an experience of a wide range of disease and illness in a diverse social setting.
Despite being one of the best years of study, I have been told that travel costs are very rarely reimbursed by the University, making the cost of petrol and train tickets an extra drain on the already dwindling student bank account.
Despite medical students being financially supported by both the NHS and their place of study, an additional maintenance loan would not go unwelcomed.
I can see extra funding only improving the quality of time for students at university. However my previous points would be rendered inadequate if this additional maintenance loan was not made available to all medics, and depended on previous education, parental income and nationality. I look forward to seeing what happens in the future, and hope upcoming medical students will gain from the proposal.