Stimulated by Covid-19’s spotlight on the health professions, applications to St George’s full range of courses increased enormously in 2021, by about 58 per cent year-on-year. Out of 9,500 applicants, the university placed 1,050 new students — more than it has welcomed ever before.
The number of places to study medicine in England is strictly regulated by the government at 7,500, but the cap was lifted in 2021 because of a surge in students achieving high grades. Never an easy subject to get into, at St George’s applications to study medicine rose again in 2022. Professor Jenny Higham, the university’s vice-chancellor, told The Times on A-level results day in August: “We’ve seen a 20 per cent increase in applications at St George’s.” Asked if some candidates with three A*s would be rejected, Higham said: “Yes. They might not have done well in the BMAT or might not have shown empathy in the interview.”
Once enrolled, students are immersed in a professional environment from the start of their courses as the university has the advantage of sharing a campus with a teaching hospital as part of St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
St George’s, founded more than 250 years ago, is based in Tooting, south London, and was the second in the country to award medical degrees. Today, course options extend beyond medicine to include biomedical science and healthcare science degrees covering respiratory and cardiac physiology and sleep physiology, among others. Paramedic science and radiography degrees are also taught on site in a partnership with Kingston University.
The Online Education Framework brought in across the university to get around Covid restrictions is now evolving to support a post-pandemic era. For the 2022-23 academic year, the prevalent teaching model at St George’s is hybrid, combining online and in-person lectures, with much of the practical and lab-based learning also continuing on campus. An Online Education Exchange has also been established on Microsoft Teams, hosting support initiatives such as peer exchanges of practice and technical help.
Outcomes of the latest National Student Survey (NSS), published in summer 2022, suggest that students feel there is room for improvement in teaching quality (129th) and the wider undergraduate experience (128th). Both rankings are near the bottom of the list of universities in our analysis.
The poor NSS outcomes have contributed to the university dropping to 82= in our main league table, falling four places in a year and 33 since 2020, when it was 49th.
St George’s is one of only 11 universities in our rankings rated bronze (the lowest grade) in the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework. Although the panel gave the university credit for an “embedded institutional culture that rewards excellent teaching, and promotes inclusivity among staff and students”, it was held back by low levels of student satisfaction with assessment and feedback, and comparisons with other predominantly medical institutions with even higher employment rates.
St George’s also achieved success in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021), nearly doubling the number of staff who contributed, compared with REF 2014. Thirty-six per cent of the submission was rated world-leading, the top category. Consequently, the university moves ten places up our research quality index, to joint 42nd. Historic developments in cardiac pacemakers and IVF are among St George’s research achievements. Recently, the institution’s expanding range of Covid-19 research projects has included work on a rapid antibody test. Scientists from St George’s are also involved in research to understand the biology of the disease and national and international trials for potential treatments.
St George’s was the first UK institution to launch the MBBS graduate entry programme 22 years ago. The four-year fast-track degree in medicine is open to graduates in any discipline and has become an increasingly popular route into the medical profession. St George’s also offers a four-year graduate-entry Bachelor of Surgery degree at the University of Nicosia in Cyprus. A preparatory centre for international students is based on the south London campus.
Applicants are interviewed for entry to all undergraduate courses except biomedical science and clinical pharmacology. A shadowing scheme offers sixth-formers from state schools in Wandsworth and Merton the opportunity to spend time with a consultant at St George’s Hospital or a local GP.
More than three-quarters of students come from ethnic minority backgrounds (the seventh-highest proportion in England and Wales). However, the university’s overall performance on social inclusion (85=) is affected by its large contingent of recruits from fee-paying or selective state schools (nearly one quarter).
To help to widen participation, St George’s makes contextual offers up to two A-level grades lower than the standard requirement to students who meet criteria for widening participation. The university does a good job of retaining the students it recruits, featuring in our top 20 for course completion. Its dropout rate is lower than the expected level, taking account of the course profile and background of the student intake. More than a third of entrants tend to qualify for financial help including bursaries.
Applicants who have accepted St George’s as their firm offer and apply by July 1 are guaranteed one of Horton Hall’s 486 self-catering rooms.
An active students’ union offers 120 clubs, societies and community projects. The sports centre is five minutes’ on foot from campus and competitive teams play in regional and national competitions. Students have the use of a rowing club on the River Thames and can also take advantage of University of London facilities for sport.