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Medical School Places

Medical school place types and changes to the bonded schemes

by , 04 November, 2018


One of the points of confusion that emerged from one of GradReady Admissions Q&A sessions in the past was the difference between the various place types. This blog post will look at the current place types and the Enrolments close in less than 2 weeks on Friday 18 January 11:59 PM AEDT pros and cons of each, and then highlight the proposed changes for 2020 entry.

 

The free as a bird places


The stock standard place type is the Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP).  This means that the Government contributes towards the cost of your degree, and you can defer the rest (the student contribution amount) to tax later on, through the HECS-HELP system.  You don’t get anything more from the Government (except of course an affordable education) and they don’t ask anything of you. Most people preference CSP #1 and as such, they generally have a higher cut-off score.
 

The rurally bonded places


There are 2 types of bonded places.  These places are also Commonwealth supported (meaning the Government contributes towards the cost of your degree and you can defer the rest to tax via HECS-HELP), but they have additional ‘return of service’ (ROS) conditions:

  • Bonded Medical Place (BMP): requires graduates to work in districts of workforce shortage (generally speaking, outside of major cities) for the period of time equivalent to the length of your Medical course.

  • Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship (MRBS): requires graduates to work in rural or remote areas for 6 years less any scaling discount.

The premise of the rurally bonded places is pretty straightforward – you must specialise and complete your return of service within an allotted time (roughly 10 years from graduating) – or else you’re in breach of the agreement. The penalties for breaching the agreement are serious (we’re talking big bucks, plus restrictions on employment for the MRBS), but I won’t go into them in this blog post.

The BMPs are generally awarded to those with slightly lower cut-off scores (as higher ranked applicants take all the CSPs).  The MRBS places, on the other hand, are often the hardest to get as it seems they are often preferenced first by some particularly brave applicants who are fond of the country, like the sound of a scholarship and aren’t scared by the onerous conditions or harsh penalties for breaching the agreement.
 

The show me the money places


At the other end of the spectrum, some medical schools offer Full Fee Places (FFPs).  Some important things to note about FFPs:

  • These are not subsidised by the Government, so the student is required to pay the entire tuition cost.

  • Students may borrow money from the Government through FEE-HELP, and defer repayment to tax (similar to HECS-HELP), but they can only borrow up to the ‘FEE-HELP limit’

  • If the degree is an undergraduate degree (MBBS) there is also a 25% loan fee added to your FEE-HELP debt, but the loan fee doesn’t count towards your FEE-HELP limit.

  • Cost of the MBBS at UNDA = $131,944 + 25% loan fee.

  • Cost of the MD at UMelb = $257,440 (no loan fee).  Ouch.

The most obvious drawback to a FFP is the cost.  However, there is a potentially more serious issue with FFPs. Currently, in NSW, all domestic graduates from NSW medical schools are guaranteed an internship (check your state or territory health department for local internship priority lists).  However, this guarantee is not an indefinite one and given the intern crisis, there are concerns that if the priority list were to change, FFPs would be the first to get shafted. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing what the priority list will be in 4-5 years time, so like most things in life, it’s simply a case of buyer beware.

 

What to expect in the coming couple of years

 

Before 2018, the MRBS was being scrapped (the 100 places previously available through this scheme were being folded into the BMP scheme) and the ROS obligation for the BMP is being reduced to 1 year.

Just in case you didn’t catch that, the ROS obligation is being reduced to 1 year.  That’s nothing!  This should have even the most hardened of city folk running off to purchase a Driza-bone and some R. M. Williams.  There may of course be changes to the timing and currency of your ROS, but all things considered that’s a pretty sweet deal.  Especially as most doctors need to accept the prospect of working in rural and regional areas.

Nevertheless, according to the Department of Health, there are currently new arrangements for bonded medical students, which will take effect on January 1, 2020.  These changes include improved bonded arrangements by turning individual contract arrangements to a legislated regulatory model, improved support in fulfilling their ROS, and better ROS options.

Now, that’ something to get excited about. It looks like things are looking up for those who are planning to go the Bonded Medical Places path.