Students, Australian Medical Association slam Macquarie Uni’s $256,000 medical degree

| 09.08,17. 03:31 PM |

Students, Australian Medical Association slam Macquarie Uni’s $256,000 medical degree

How much should it cost to study hard for a four year medicine degree - to
?get a qualification that doesn’t guarantee you an internship at the end of it

About the price of two (modest) Sydney housing deposits (or about 300,000 chicken nuggets, depending on how you look at it), according to Macquarie University.

This week Macquarie University launched their brand new graduate-entry Doctor of Medicine program - with a price tag of $256,000 for the 40 Australian students who will commence from 2018.

For 20 International students accepted into the cohort, the degree will cost $280,000 over four years.

It’s Australia’s first ever full-fee paying graduate medical course at a public uni (unlike private unis such as Bond which already offer $350,000 medical degrees, Macquarie Uni is public).

“There are numerous dimensions to this that are just plain wrong,” President of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) Dr Michael Gannon told Hack.

“It’s simply unfair, it’s not the medical workforce we should be looking for. We want doctors who mirror the community they come from, and increasingly restricting medicine to rich people is not the way we need to go.”

A crowded market

The AMA is also concerned Macquarie Uni is adding another medical degree to an already-crowded market. There’s 23 undergraduate and graduate medical degrees offered at private and public universities across Australia.

And according to a report from the Federal Government’s Health Department, the number of medical students have almost doubled in the last decade. The department also predicts there will be an oversupply of 7000 doctors in Australia by 2030.

Meanwhile, the gap is widening between the amount of first-year advanced training positions available and the amount of doctors that want them: in five years, the oversupply of medical graduates vying for the same jobs has more than doubled.

“There’s no need for more medical schools in Australia. We already produce far more doctors than the OECD average,” Doug Roche, a final-year medical student at Griffith University and the Vice President of The Australian Medical Students Association told Hack.

We don’t have enough places to even train the medical students that we have now, let alone any more medical students.”

The Australian Medical Students Association argues that graduates with big student debts are more likely to become specialist doctors, as they attract higher salaries. However, there’s actually a greater need for lower-paid generalist doctors in Australia, Doug says.

“We’re calling on the government to introduce a legislative ban on post graduate full-fee paying medical places in public universities. We’d also like the sector to consider the workforce ramifications of the degrees that they’re offering.”

graduation cover image
Dr Michael Gannon says Macquarie’s decision to offer a medical degree is part of a broader trend in a competitive tertiary market.

“We’ve been in the situation in the last few years that are either chasing the cash cow that is a medical school, the prestige and status of a medical school and they are keen on their own ambition.”

I think it’s time that universities were a bit more honest about the product they’re selling.

“There’s no use in having thousands of people with medical degrees driving taxis.”

Why unis can ‘get away’ with expensive med degrees

Andrew Norton, the Higher Education director at the Grattan Institute, says there probably isn’t a risk of unis starting to offer expensive postgraduate degrees in many other disciplines.

“I don’t think you’ll get people willing to pay that much for a postgraduate arts degree [for example]. What you’ve got historically in medicine is vastly more demand than there is supply,” Andrew told Hack.

“So for undergraduate medicine degrees last year, about 75 per cent of people who applied received no offers at all.

“In that kind of imbalance, unis can get away with charging a lot.”

Entry to Macquarie’s program

Macquarie Uni isn’t just letting anyone wielding their parent’s credit card into their program.

The program has a long list of requirements: including an undergraduate degree with a minimum GPA of 5 out of 7; good results from the Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT), and completed units in anatomy and physiology.

And, of course, a lot of cash. ]

Tired doctor sitting on a chair in a hospital

ERproductions via Getty Images

?Can’t they put it all on FEE-HELP

In short - not all of it.

The 40 local students may be eligible to put their fees on FEE-HELP, like students do with other degrees.

The thing is, the government has a cap on how much student debt you can rack up.

For medical degrees, students can only put $126,000 into FEE-HELP.

So even if a student in this program starts off with zero dollars of FEE-HELP debt (which could be unlikely, seeing as they need to have an undergraduate degree first), and they decide to max out their students loans at $126,000, they’ll need to find $130,000 to pay for the rest of the degree up front.

The 20 international students will need to pay the $70,000 per year up front. There’s no FEE-HELP option there.

What Macquarie Uni says

The Executive Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Macquarie, Professor Patrick McNeil, was unavailable for an interview with Hack.

However a spokesperson answered some of Hack’s questions.

“The University has been transparent about the cost of the program, and is providing a range of generous scholarships which will be available to up to 25% of eligible domestic students,” Macquarie Uni said.

“Our target annual intake is 60 students (40 domestic and 20 international), with no plans to increase. This size has been limited to match the capacity of the University’s own hospital and clinics, where many of the clinical placements will be offered. The small student community is a key aspect of delivering an exceptional student experience in our program.”


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