2 Jun 2015

Fees a barrier for Māori medical students

7:01 am on 2 June 2015

There is concern from medical practitioners and students that Māori will not be able to afford student fees to become doctors.

Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa, the Māori Medical Practitioners' Association and Māori Medical Students Aotearoa, said the cap of seven years of student loan entitlement was a significant barrier to tāngata whenua entering into medical school.

A medical degree takes six years of study, but with 30 percent of the class selected from applicants with a previous degree, many students spend nearly 10 years at university.

Practitioners' Association chairman Dr David Jansen said the high cost of medical training could be prohibitive for Māori students.

"I don't know that Māori medical students would be calling on whānau to assist with it, I think they would end up with bigger debts at the start of their medical careers and I guess there are a number of ways in solving it.

"I think it is worth having some conversations about how big this is, and who we work with to support Māori medical students, making the contribution we are expecting."

Dr Jansen said it had a disproportionate negative effect on Māori students and their ability to complete their medical studies.

He said he was heartened to hear that the Minister of Tertiary Education, Steven Joyce, was keeping an open mind on the issue.

A spokesperson for Māori medical students, Jake Aitken, said the high cost deterred young Māori from taking up a medical degree and came at a time when Māori were being encouraged into medicine.

"Universities have been really good in their push to increase their places for not only Māori, but for Pacific Island students as well.

"They have aims to make sure our classes are as diverse as possible and kind of reflect the society we live in these days."

Jake Aitken said while removing the seven year cap would be the answer, both the students and the medical practitioners association were open to talks on the issue.

At present there are 135 Māori and 83 Pacific medical students.

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