New pathway will boost access and equity for aspiring Medicine students

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

A ground-breaking opportunity was announced today by the University of Newcastle for students who have overcome major life challenges to study Medicine.

From next year, up to six places in the University’s Medical Program will be earmarked for students who apply through the Excellence through Equity Pathway to Medicine pilot.

Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Alex Zelinsky said the Excellence through Equity Pathway to Medicine would build on the University’s longstanding commitment to widening participation for students from all backgrounds.

“There are many examples of medical researchers and health practitioners world-wide who have used their own circumstances and background as a driver for positive change in healthcare and health outcomes for patients,” Professor Zelinsky said.

“Many people in our community will be familiar with our Open Foundation and Newstep programs, which have long provided successful pathways into undergraduate health disciplines. But until now there has been no similar program available for entry into Medicine.

“This new enabling pathway to the Bachelor of Medical Science and Doctor of Medicine (Joint Medical Program) strengthens the University’s commitment to equity across our degree programs and I’m pleased we are taking additional steps to ensure we are graduating high-quality medical practitioners who reflect our society,” said Professor Zelinsky.

He said the pathway had been developed through a unique collaboration between the Faculty of Health and Medicine, the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education, and the Pathways and Academic Learning Support Centre.

As part of the pilot, students who complete Open Foundation or Newstep programs will be eligible for the pathway into Medicine if they satisfy academic and interview criteria, as well as demonstrate socioeconomic disadvantage and three additional equity indicators. These equity indicators are:

  • Financial hardship
  • Regional, rural, remote or isolated area
  • Carer responsibilities
  • Refugee status
  • Sole parent
  • Personal illness or disability
  • Experience of domestic and family violence
  • Out-of-home care experience
  • School status
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

“Having a medical workforce that better reflects the broader community where they work will ensure that health services and approaches to care are developed and provided with the full diversity of the population in mind,” Acting Pro Vice-Chancellor Faculty of Health and Medicine Professor Elizabeth Sullivan said.

“In turn, this can lead to greater health equity in our society.”

Students who have already graduated from an enabling program, completed an additional 12 months study, and meet the equity criteria will also be eligible for this pathway.

Open Foundation graduate Kurtis Simpson, who is currently studying medical engineering, welcomed the new pathway.

“I began my university studies at age 26, which might not seem very old but when you have spent eight years in the workforce without studying, the pathway into university seems daunting, especially if you did not excel in high school. I was grateful that the University of Newcastle’s enabling program and especially the teachers and support personnel who made the transition as easy as possible,” Kurtis said.

“Had the Excellence through Equity Pathway to Medicine been on offer there is no doubt that I would have jumped at the opportunity to apply for Medicine, as I think it’s a field that thrives on the diversity of experience that its practitioners bring.”

For further information about the program or eligibility please contact the University of Newcastle’s Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education at

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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.