Medical schools call for 50% funding boost

Medical deans are calling for a 50% increase in federal funding for student places. Flickr
Australia’s medical schools need a 50% increase in federal funding to boost the proportion of places available to domestic students and reduce their reliance on international fee-paying students, the peak body for medical deans has said.

Australia is facing a shortage of doctors and imports around 1400 a year from overseas to service regional and remote areas.

However, medical schools have been forced to increase their intake of international students, who pay up to $50,000 a year, to cross-subsidise the teaching of Australian students, said University of Melbourne dean of medicine James Angus, who is also president of Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand.

“The cluster funding for medicine is so low because universities have been underfunded since 1996 but the universities have still had to pay salary increases,” he said.

“We probably started with an international cohort of 5% in 1996 and now that’s grown to about 25%. That’s an amazing change.”

The heads of Australia’s medical schools have written a submission to the Higher Education Base Funding Review announced late last year, calling for a 50% boost in Commonwealth supported funding.

“To take on so many international students is denying Australian students the opportunity to take those places,” he said.

“Students are already paying about $9000 for their HECS place. We think to ask for any more will be not fair.”

For every HECS student, the government contributed $19,542. That is much less than the $26,651 to $31,443 per student place contributed by the New Zealand government to their medical schools, said Professor Angus.

He warned that the quality of teaching would deteriorate if nothing was done.

“Now we are totally dependent on the international fee-payers. We have skewed the system and it’s under great strain,” he said, but added he was not overly optimistic things would change soon.

“We don’t hold our breath. We think what might come out of this review, in this climate, is they will establish some principles on how this base funding should be increased and it’s up to the government to say how this should be incorporated into the funding rounds in two years time.”