UKMACS Research Methods

This page provides information about the research methods used in the UK Medical Application Cohort Study to help find solutions to problems facing the UK medical workforce.

UKMACS aims to produce evidence that will improve the medical workforce and benefit patients

UKMACS consists of two interlinked workstreams, which will benefit patients by 1) improving how medical schools attract and select future doctors from diverse backgrounds, and 2) providing the foundation for research on how medical selection shapes the medical workforce.

Workstream 1: Improving informed choice in potential applicants to medicine

Research questions

  • How do medical applicant characteristics influence choice of medical school and application success?
  • Which factors influence applicant choice of medical school?
  • Do factors influencing choice vary by applicant background?
  • Does applicant choice of medical school mediate the relationship between applicant background and likelihood of gaining a place to study medicine?’

Phase 1

Interviews will establish how factors affecting choice of medical school vary by applicant background. Participants will be potential applicants to medicine from non-traditional backgrounds attending widening participation activities, plus current first year students at up to seven medical schools (Brighton & Sussex, Dundee, Exeter, Hull York, Lancaster, Southampton, UCL). Up to ten participants from each medical school will take part, resulting in 70 interviewees – 35 from each group. The medical schools chosen according to the seven application clusters identified in Garrud’s work.

Phase 2

Interview findings will be used to develop a questionnaire to measure reasons for choices in a nationally representative sample of medical applicants from traditional and non-traditional backgrounds. The questionnaire will also measure factors previously found to influence performance as a medical student and doctor.

Phase 3

Potential medical applicants registering to take UKCAT between May and October 2019 will be eligible to take part. It will be made clear to applicants that this research is sponsored by the NIHR and is entirely separate from the application process. Consent to take part in the study, and to have data linked with UKMED, UKCAT, and UCAS data will be sought.

A follow-up questionnaire will be given to all UKCAT registrants just after the medical school application deadline in mid-October 2019. Those who did not respond to the first questionnaire will be given the opportunity to enrol in the study. For those who take UKCAT and apply to study medicine in 2019, the questionnaire will measure the medical school choices, reasons for those choices, and applicants’ information sources. Those who didn’t take UKCAT and who took UKCAT but didn’t apply will be asked why not and what they have decided to do instead, including deferring application to the following year.

Phase 4

Together with Medical Schools Council (MSC), in particular the MSC Selection Alliance, the research results will be used to develop a tool for medical schools to enable them to help potential applicants make informed choices. The tool will provide schools with information such as the socio-demographic and academic profile of their applicants and entrants, information about why applicants from different backgrounds choose or don’t choose them, and which information potential applicants from different backgrounds value. The tool will be designed to enable schools to these data to improve the information they provide to potential applicants, especially those from non-traditional backgrounds.

Workstream 2: Providing the foundation for a longitudinal cohort study of applicants to UK medicine

The questionnaire data will be linked into  the UK Medical Education Database (UKMED) with support from stakeholders the General Medical Council and Medical Schools Council. It is anticipated that these data will be made available in anonymised form to other researchers via the standard UKMED research process (see ).