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Children of doctors disproportionately fill places in university medicine courses

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Twelve percent of medicine students in Ireland have at least one doctor parent. Photo: Stock.

Twelve percent of medicine students in Ireland have at least one doctor parent. Photo: Stock.

Twelve percent of medicine students in Ireland have at least one doctor parent. Photo: Stock.

The strong grip that doctors’ families hold over places in medical schools is highlighted in a new analysis today.

It shows how children of doctors disproportionately fill the limited number of places in university medicine courses.

Among first-year students with one parent a doctor, 20pc chose medicine and, where both parents are doctors, it rises to 33pc.

The figures emerged in an analysis of parental occupations of 67,000 entrants to higher education for the three years from 2015 to 2017.

The extent to which the children of doctors dominate medical schools in Ireland was highlighted in the analysis, which undertaken by Victor Pigott, senior statistic manager at the Higher Education Authority (HEA) as part of broader research work still under way.

The analysis shows that although less than 2pc of parents are doctors and only 2.5pc of students study medicine, 12pc of medicine students have at least one parent who is a doctor.

While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence about succession planning in the medical profession, the HEA research provides hard statistics. After medicine, the children of doctors were most likely to be found in business and administration courses, followed by law degrees.  

The HEA research is focusing on the study choices of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and how they tend to not choose the highest points courses even when they have the points to do so and certainly not to the same extent as students from privileged backgrounds. This is particularly the case in medicine.

Previous HEA research showed that a school-leaver from the most affluent background is nine times more likely to be studying medicine than someone from the most economically disadvantaged family: 5pc of medical students are from the wealthiest families, compared with 4pc from the most disadvantaged.

The issue is due for discussion in the Seanad shortly. Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne has tabled a debate on the socio-economic profile of medical and higher-level professions.


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