Students who want to study medicine at the University of Exeter are being offered financial incentives – including free accommodation and £10,000 cash – to defer their course for a year.
A record number of students have applied to study medicine at the university this autumn, a rise of more than a fifth on last year, according to a BBC report.
The number of places on medicine courses at universities in England is capped by the Government.
The University of Exeter, which is a member of the Russell Group, has written to students who have accepted an offer to study medicine starting in 2021 asking if they will delay starting until 2022.
If students opt for the deferral, they are being offered financial incentives – including a guaranteed place next year, free accommodation for their first year, and a cash bursary of £10,000.
Last summer, the fiasco around grading led to thousands of A-level students having their results downgraded from school estimates by a controversial algorithm, before Ofqual announced a U-turn.
In August last year, the Government lifted the cap on the number of places on medicine courses following the U-turn as institutions warned they had limited space for students with higher results.
This year, the University of Exeter is asking applicants holding a firm offer to study medicine to decide by July 30 if they will defer as the numbers admitted to the course are regulated by the Government.
Professor Mark Goodwin, deputy vice-chancellor (for global engagement) at the University of Exeter, said: “We’ve seen a significant upturn in the number of outstanding applicants prioritising the University of Exeter as their first choice for medicine this year.
“All medicine student numbers are set by the Government to ensure that we can accommodate everyone in a way that provides a high-quality education and stimulating student experience, as well as safe and secure NHS placements.
“To maximise the choices available to our students, we are offering a range of options, including financial incentives, deferral or studying a post-graduate programme, prior to students commencing their medical studies next year.”
Dr Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group, said: “The significant increase in applications this year and the uncertainty generated by the introduction of teacher-assessed grades means it has been much harder for all universities to anticipate the number of students accepting their offers and achieving the required grades.
“This is particularly the case for medicine, where the number of places is capped by the Government.
“While our universities are being as fair and flexible as possible to students, ultimately the Government decides the number of doctors that can be trained.
“Given its long-term ambition to raise the number of NHS staff trained domestically, the Government could capitalise on the extra demand this year by expanding the number of places available and providing extra funding and clinical placements accordingly.”