Australian Medical Schools Must Consider an Opt In/Opt Out System for 2020 GPA Results

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As recently stated by the Graduate Entry Medical School Application System (GEMSAS), nearly all Medical schools, as well as Physiotherapy, Optometry and Dentistry schools across Australia have made the decision to discredit the use of any grades achieved in 2020 in future postgraduate applications due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of students who have worked extremely hard despite adverse circumstances this year feel it is unjust that their efforts will not be recognised. Although this change is rooted in good intention to relieve academic hardship associated with the pandemic, the consequences are disastrous for thousands of students and signify a considerable loss of opportunity as aspiring medical practitioners. Students around Australia urge Australian universities and the admissions board to reconsider the methodology proposed by the recent addendum for the acknowledgement of 2020 results. We strongly suggest an opt-in/opt-out system, as implemented by Griffith University Medical School.

 

Graded Point Average (GPA) scores for many universities are heavily weighted towards students’ final years of study. For all current final year undergraduate students, the eradication of 2020 results would cause up to 40% of their GPAs to disappear. Instead, applications into Medical School would be solely based on the first and second years of their undergraduate degrees. If these students did not perform to their potential in the past, they would have no opportunity to redeem their GPA unless they begin a completely new and potentially irrelevant course in 2021 – a prospect that may be expensive both in money and time. Furthermore, these students are held at an unfair disadvantage to other current applicants who have completed their degrees and are thus able to utilise all three undergraduate years in their GPA calculations. It is distressing that 2020 graduates are being denied a fair grading scheme merely because they completed their final year of study amidst a global crisis.

 

Many Honours students use the additional year of study after their undergraduate degree to boost their GPA scores in order to have a fighting chance at their dream course. As it is a single-year degree, this addendum to the application system denies the use of some 2020 Honours courses into some GEMSAS schools. No marks from the entire Honours course will be recognised by such medical schools despite the commendable efforts of these students who continue to study in such a difficult year. The opportunity for GPA improvement will be lost, presenting an unfair disadvantage as compared to past and future students who choose to complete an Honours degree in any year other than 2020. It is absurd that marks for this course may be considered for higher degree pathways such as PhDs and higher research, but not for medicine.

 

It is also appalling that this announcement was made after the census date for all universities. This has left many students locked into paying for a degree for which they either feel no reason to complete or are unable to utilise for application processes as normal. For students enrolled in a Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP) course, this amounts to $5,557 for 4 units this semester. For international students, this could amount to tens of thousands of dollars. All students are now unable to withdraw from these degrees without incurring huge payments, coupled with the penalty of numerous fail grades on their academic transcript if they choose to do so. Both current international and domestic students face adverse circumstances that may have drastic consequences upon their financial situation. This unnecessarily contributes to what already is a very strenuous time in their life.

 

This addendum is devastating not only from an academic perspective, but also with respect to the mental capacity and emotional exhaustion of applicants. In a time where uncertainty is already plaguing humanity on a global scale, further ambiguity about the methods by which results will be used for postgraduate healthcare courses is only posing greater difficulty. These changes were brought about at an incredibly crucial point of the year; the Graduate Medical School Admission Test (GAMSAT) is next week, medical application deadlines are around the corner, and university assessments are at their peak. Current students should be utilising their utmost academic potential right now. However, the pressures brought about by these changes are likely causing further debilitation on both a student’s mental wellbeing and their performance in assessments during this critical time.

 

Prospective medical students urge Australian medical schools to reconsider their definition of equity during such difficult times. While it is creditable that GEMSAS-affiliated universities are acknowledging potential academic hardship brought about by COVID-19, the current approach is devastating and unfair. We are advocating for an opt-in/opt-out system. This would recognise the hardships of those who have been negatively affected by COVID-19 by giving them an option to opt-out of 2020 results in GPA calculations. Equally, students who were not adversely affected in their academic performance could opt-in to include their 2020 marks in the GPA calculations. This method has already been adopted by Griffith University Medical School, and is the only fair, reasonable, and sensical methodology that ensures all current students will be equally represented and accounted for in their applications.

 

At a time where the medical profession is of paramount importance across the globe, students feel as though their efforts in entering it have been cut short. For some, this year was their best chance in obtaining a competitive score for Graduate Medicine entry which they now cannot use. We urge for Australian Medical schools to acknowledge our statement and to amend the application criteria. We do so in the hope of achieving not only our individual goals but also achieving the goal of a healthier world – one we so desperately need right now.

 

Supported by:

  • University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU)
  • Monash Biomed Society (Monash University)
  • Monash Science Society (Monash University)
  • Biomedicine Students’ Society (University of Melbourne)
  • Science Students’ Society (University of Melbourne)
  • Australian South Asian Healthcare Society (University of Melbourne)
  • Adelaide Health and Medical Sciences Association (University of Adelaide)
  • Student Association of Science Societies (University of Queensland)

  • Association of Biomedical Students (University of Queensland)