The lifetime cost to English students of borrowing to invest in a medical degree: a gender comparison using data from the Office for National Statistics

BMJ Open. 2015 Apr 21;5(4):e007335. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-007335.


Objective: To evaluate this impact on male and female English medical graduates by estimating the total time and amount repaid on loans taken out with the UK's Student Loans Company (SLC).

Setting: UK.

Participants: 4286 respondents with a medical degree in the Labour Force Surveys administered by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) between 1997 and 2014.

Outcomes: Age-salary profiles were generated to estimate the repayment profiles for different levels of initial graduate debt.

Results: 2195 female and 2149 male medical graduates were interviewed by the ONS. Those working full-time (73.1% females and 96.1% males) were analysed in greater depth. Following standardisation to 2014 prices, average full-time male graduates earned up to 35% more than females by the age of 55. The initial graduate debt from tuition fees alone amounts to £39,945.69. Owing to interest charges on this debt the average full-time male graduate repays £57,303 over 20 years, while the average female earns less and so repays £61,809 over 26 years. When additional SLC loans are required for maintenance, the initial graduate debt can be as high as £81,916 and, as SLC debt is written off 30 years after graduation, the average female repays £75,786 while the average male repays £110,644.

Conclusions: Medical graduates on an average salary are unlikely to repay their SLC debt in full. This is a consequence of higher university fees and as SLC debt is written off 30 years after graduation. This results in the average female graduate repaying more when debt is low, but a lower amount when debt is high compared to male graduates.

Keywords: JOURNALISM (see Medical Journalism); MEDICAL EDUCATION & TRAINING.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Education, Graduate / economics*
  • Education, Graduate / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Salaries and Fringe Benefits
  • Schools, Medical / economics*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Students, Medical*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Universities / economics*