2020 results excluded from entrance scores for medicine, dentistry, optometry and physiotherapy

5 June 2020

No student results from 2020 will be recognised by the University of Melbourne for applications to the doctorate degrees in medicine, dentistry, optometry and physiotherapy in 2021.

Many Australian postgraduate medical schools are now following this model. Professor Shitij Kapur, the dean of the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences (MDHS), said this is to “ensure equity for all applicants”. 

“Due to COVID-19, this year’s academic results are being derived in different ways by different universities globally which may disadvantage some students if used in a direct comparison for highly-competitive entry selection,” Professor Kapur told Farrago.

However, many students and student associations are frustrated with the move.

Hayley Stanford is the president of the Science Students’ Society (SSS) and in her final year of the Bachelor of Science. She said that all students who she has directly heard from are against the changes.

“The majority of students are angry that the University has disregarded everyone’s efforts this semester, and it’s left a lot of students feeling quite hopeless,” she said. 

The SSS, the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU), and the Biomedical Students’ Society (BSS) are all campaigning for the University to adopt an “opt-in” approach. This would allow students to elect whether their 2020 results would count in GPA calculations or not.

A group of students started a petition for an opt-in system, which so far has almost 8000 signatures. The petition is signed by student societies from the University of Melbourne, Monash University, the University of Adelaide and the University of Queensland. 

UMSU also launched a petition on Wednesday directed to the Faculty of MDHS. UMSU’s petition lists that the changes apply to medicine, dentistry and optometry, but Farrago has confirmed with Professor Kapur that the changes apply to the Doctor of Physiotherapy as well.

Professor Kapur has ruled out an opt-in approach for the University of Melbourne, given the different approaches universities are using to assess students during the COVID-19 period.

“The selection committees for the Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Dental Surgery, Doctor of Physiotherapy and Doctor of Optometry will not be moving to an opt-in system for 2020 grades.

“We all appreciate what a trying time it is for our students. We fully realise that some of them are disappointed with this change and we feel for them.”

In a post on UniMelb Love Letters, one student agreed with this approach. “The changes to the GPA requirements of med entry is the most fair option,” they said.

“We need to consider those applying from different universities. They have different systems of grading for 3rd year (e.g marking on a pass/fail basis). Isn’t this the way to get to a standard across the board?”

The Graduate Entry Medical School Application System (GEMSAS) announced on 22 May that the University would be making changes to the way grade point averages (GPA) are calculated. Applications for medicine and dentistry opened in early May and will close on 11 June. 

As vice-president of the Australian South Asian Healthcare Society, Sudipta Datta played a key role in organising the “Recognise My Efforts” petition.

“I thought that the University of Melbourne can’t be the only university [making the change]. We have to put pressure on the other universities through their student unions… Student voices need to be heard.”

Datta, who is also a Bachelor of Biomedicine student with Honours in the physiology department, emphasised the impact of such changes on Honours students. He said the majority of his Honours course was completed during the pandemic. 

“A lot of students take on honours for research, yes, but also to improve their GPA. Because of that weighting in the final year, that puts honours students in a position where they can improve their GPAs much more than usual … If I want to be applying to medicine, it was a waste of my time, my money and my mental health.”

Here, Datta references the GPA calculations that place additional weight on results from penultimate and final year subjects. 

The census and fee due date for semester one subjects was 30 April. This means if students withdraw from their subjects now in response to the changes, they will still need to pay their subject fees.

Stanford said she is considering applying to medical schools, and the exclusion of her 2020 results will likely disadvantage her.

“Personally, my results from this year are a big improvement on what I’ve done in previous years. And this year’s results, as it’s my final year, would have had a higher weighting,” she said.


Featured image by Peter Casamento.

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