The U.K.'s University of Exeter is offering students who want to study medicine a £10,000 ($13,735) bursary and free first-year accommodation to defer their place, due to increased demand to study at the medical school.
In addition to offering students a financial incentive to defer their spot to study medicine at the university, located in southwest England, the college is also giving them the option to study a post-graduate program prior to the starting their medical studies in 2022.
University of Exeter Deputy Vice-Chancellor Mark Goodwin said there had been a "significant upturn" in the number of students picking the college as their first choice to study medicine this year.
The U.K. government subsidizes the cost of studying certain health care courses, like medicine, which is typically a five-year course. This means it only allocates a certain number of places to study medicine at U.K. colleges per year.
The cost of a medical degree to the U.K. taxpayer is estimated to be around £185,000, according to the Medical Schools Council, an organization which represents U.K. medical schools.
According to MSC data, the number of applications to study medicine in 2021 rose by nearly 21% on the previous year. By comparison, the data published by MSC showed applications to study medicine rose by close to 6% between 2019 and 2020, indicating an overall jump in demand for the course in 2021.
It said the number of available places to study medicine remained the same in 2021 at 9,500, as in 2020, but that the government has funded 450 additional places for those students who were required to defer their place last year.
Goodwin said the university's "number one priority is ensuring the students that study with us enjoy high quality, safe and fulfilling education."
Coronavirus lockdowns in the U.K. saw colleges move lectures online, with many students studying from university accommodation that they had already paid for and some were even forced to isolate in halls of residence. Students expressed anger at certain universities' handling of infection outbreaks and the fact that fees remained the same despite courses being taught online.
The disruption prompted some students to rethink their plans to go to college in the fall of 2020. A small study of 516 students conducted by London Economics, published in May 2020, found that 28% of respondents said they did not intend to go to university in the fall last year if their chosen college was not operating as normal and still had many Covid-19 restrictions in place.