Flight to quality: medical, dental and veterinary - Hurstpierpoint College

Flight to quality: medical, dental and veterinary

Brian Schofield, 16+ Registrar, explains how Hurst College supports its students on their ‘flight to quality’ to study medical, dental and veterinary courses.

Having chosen a less than cash-soaked career in teaching, the financial investment market remains an almost entirely closed book to me. But one concept from the world of stocks and shares has massive resonance in education right now – the ‘flight to quality’. This describes what happens in financial markets during times of uncertainty or instability when the smart money pours from speculative, higher-risk investments into reputable, long-established safe havens such as gold or US government bonds.

Quite the same thing is now happening in higher education. The dramatic expansion in undergraduate places in the UK and disruptions caused by innovations such as tuition fees, degree apprenticeships and ‘conditional-unconditional offers’ has led to real uncertainty about the true value of degrees and the benefits of going to university at all. And, less confident than any solid degree from any decent university is a rock-solid ticket to the middle classes, young people are fleeing to quality, to well-established degrees that offer a more secure pathway to professional life. Courses such as law, architecture, pharmacology and radiology have all seen increased applications, but by far the biggest flight to quality is towards medical, dental and veterinary school.

More competitive, more complex
Applying to Medical School and undergraduate Dentistry and Veterinary courses has never been more competitive or more complex. Medicine at Bristol receives 14 applicants per place, Exeter 11 per place and Edinburgh Vet school receives a dozen applicants per place. Entrance requirements have crept steadily up from ABB in my day to as high as A*AA today. Some medical schools have declared they will not consider applicants who have retaken any part of their A-levels, whilst others have announced that if you are applying after a prior degree, realistically you should have received First Class honours.

Desperate to allocate their golden tickets as fairly as possible, universities apply an idiosyncratic range of criteria and qualifying tests to choose between the queue of candidates. There are aptitude tests, interview tasks and, particularly for aspiring Vets, a pretty brutal requirement to complete work experience. It can feel as if applying to join one of the clinical professions has become a full-time job in itself.

Hurst’s specialist advisory team
This is why we devote so much time and energy to our Medical, Dental and Veterinary programme. Our team of specialist advisers provide students with the best advice about where to apply, and give them rigorous preparation for personal statement writing, aptitude tests and interviews.

It starts early – Year 11 students are invited to attend talks and presentations on medical careers, current affairs in the sector and an introduction to ethics. Sixth Formers receive regular sessions on medical ethics, situational judgement, current affairs, imaging methods, international systems and practice business models. Students take part in a medics and vets careers ‘speed dating’ session, a discussion with a local GP, and an online course via The Medic Portal. A postgraduate medic will also give a presentation on their experience of applying to university. Students practice multiple mini interviews, Oxbridge-style interviews and a panel interview, all with experts in medical, dental and veterinary careers. They have one-to-one sessions with our career advisors for their UCAS applications and personal statements. We provide support for Highly Selective Universities (HSUs) as well as other routes into medicine – and parents are invited to all of our information evenings.

The programme is hard work for our students but it pays off. Last year 85% of our aspiring medics and vets successfully secured an offer from at least one university and 100% were called to interview. We celebrate every offer as the great achievement it is. Watching these young people work so hard for their goal serves as a further reminder, if any were needed, that, however gratifying it might be to moan about snowflakes and millennials, we probably had it a little easier in our youth.


Please follow the links below for further information about Hurst College, an independent, co-educational, day and flexi/weekly boarding school for pupils aged 4–18, located just to the north of the village of Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex.

Prep & Pre-Prep
Senior School
Sixth Form
College Campus

Hurst College’s inspection reports and reviews:
ISC Inspection reports
Good Schools Guide