Medicine at Monash or Melbourne?

1 month ago by Robert

Medicine at Monash or Melbourne?

A dilemma facing high achievers wanting to pursue medicine is whether to choose Monash University (school leaver entry) or Melbourne University (graduate route). Many parents often ask “why did some universities abandon the school leaver entry route to medicine and which route is better?”

The answer is the same to similar questions such as:

Medicine at UNSW or USyd?

Medicine at Curtin or UWA?

Medicine at Adelaide or Flinders? etc

Our view is that Monash school leaver entry is far superior for several reasons including:

1. No guarantee: Melbourne Graduate medicine does NOT have guaranteed places in Medicine, even though the university claims that it has. Even those who obtain an ATAR of 99.95 have to maintain certain GPA to progress to medicine after their first degree! There have been many students misled, disappointed and angry that the 'guaranteed' place is really no guarantee at all - unfortunately they discover it too late: after finishing their Biomedicine degree.

2. More stress and uncertainty: You have just finished a hard slog for your final high school exams. Do you really want to continue to do that for another 3 to 4 years? And you have to live with the pressure and uncertainty that you may not get in, in spite of your hard work. Only those with high GPAs and high score in GAMSAT have a chance of getting in to graduate entry medicine.

3. The dreaded GAMSAT: To get into Melbourne medicine, you will also need to sit the dreaded 6 hour GAMSAT test and do well, to have a chance of getting into Melbourne graduate medicine.

4. Choices restricted: For graduate entry, you can only apply to one university (with six preferences) and will be interviewed by only one through the GEMSAS. Medical schools have colluded so that it makes their job of selection easier. With school leaver entry, there are no such restrictions.

5. Plan B: If you pursue Biomedicine at Melbourne and are then unable to get into medicine, you will have very limited career options (other than a research career which has little job security). Many students (even Careers Advisers) mistakenly assume that a Biomedicine degree guarantees them a place in medicine: nothing could be further from the truth: only about 20% are successful in getting into medicine.

6. Financial reasons: For those who like to look at things rationally, it takes at least two more years of study to do medicine at Melbourne. The average lifetime earnings of doctors in private practice is about $300,000 per year (Source: Australian Doctor 22 July 2011). So by giving up Monash Medicine, you are effectively losing half a million dollars. Plus there is the cost of study – being at university for at least two more years.

7. Length of training: To become a fully qualified specialist, after graduation you will need to train for at least seven years further. The Melbourne university degree will prolong your time training for even longer.

8. After graduating in medicine, once you have chosen the specialty you wish to pursue, you will need to sit exams while working as a Registrar. You will find this last hurdle easier to get through when you are younger (eg by going to Monash) rather than when you are older with family commitments. Studying for exams is less daunting when you are younger for several other reasons.

9. Focussed training: Some of the subjects that you will be studying in the Biomedicine degree may seem irrelevant to you, as it is not focussed on medicine. Monash university offers focussed medical training and patient contact from week one.

10. Most professionals will tell you that real learning takes place when you start work, not at university. Most of what universities teach is irrelevant to real world of work and they teach it because that is all academics know. Hence the adage “Those who can, do; those who can’t teach!”. University is a place for fun and five years of fun is enough for most people!

11. Prestige: In Australia, which university you go to doesn’t count as much as in the USA. This is particularly so with medicine, because patients are more concerned about your bed-side manner, diagnostic skills etc. Even if you wish to work overseas, once you get a registration as Medical Practitioner with AHPRA (all medical graduates get this automatically, unlike in the USA), it makes no difference which university you went to. Please see the blog: "University rankings and prestige: how much do they really matter for studying medicine?"

12. Through attracting better students, Monash is dramatically improving its lead over Melbourne in medical school prestige. There is anecdotal evidence that Monash medicine graduates perform better in terms of career prospects and their ability to get into ‘competitive’ specialties. Please see Medical schools ranking.

13. Increasingly the prizes awarded to medical students by the Royal Colleges (eg RACP/RACS) are being won by Monash students with Melbourne students further lagging behind every year.

14. Misleading MD: The so-called Melbourne MD is misleadingly promoted as a superior degree. It is no different to MBBS degrees offered by other medical schools and you will have no career advantages. The misleading use of ‘MD’ title by Melbourne University has been widely condemned by leading academics and government bodies. Melbourne started this 'degree inflation' and now many other unis are following suit.

15. Many people wrongly assume that because its an MD degree, the duration of their subsequent training is reduced. Melbourne University is unethically aiding and abetting this misunderstanding. The so called MD does NOT reduce your further training by even ONE DAY.

16. Uncertainty of career choice: After commencing at Monash, in the unlikely event that you feel Medicine is not for you (the drop out rate is less than 1%), you can always drop out after a year or two and pursue another degree with prior learning credits.

17. Travel distance: Some students who live in the north are put off by the distance required to travel to Monash. But remember that you go to University at the Clayton campus only for the first two years. For the remaining three years you are being trained in hospitals – you don’t go to the university campus at all.

18. College experience: Many students, even those who live near Monash, find it convenient to live in the halls of residence provided by Monash to experience college life for at least a year or two.

19. Real reasons: There are at least three (real, as opposed to those peddled by the University) reasons why Melbourne has chosen to ape the US graduate entry model. First, by keeping the students at university for two more years, income from fees is increased (University gets an additional $60,000 from each student). Second, due to government policy, Melbourne is able to charge full fee (about $80,000 per year) for their courses but is prohibited from doing so if it is a school leaver entry program. The university is therefore able to increase their income by about 70%. Third, by getting students into their Biomedicine program, they are able to increase the flagging enrolments in their science programs. Since the demand to get into medicine is high, the university is able to lure a large number of students (up to 1000) to commence their Biomedicine program, most of who hope to get into medicine. So it is a nice cash cow for the university, earning a massive $100 million dollars a year. Many students after completion will be unable to get into Med or get jobs and will choose to stay on to pursue higher degrees. This not only further increases the income of the university but they get slave labour (postgraduate research students) to boost their research profile and hence their international ranking.

20. Due to the fact that GAMSAT entry doctors are older (about 6 years older on average), they are likely to choose specialties which is easier to get in, and require shorter training, such as General Practice. There is evidence that graduate entry doctors (GAMSAT route) are more likely to choose General Practice, so your colleagues are also likely to be GPs. You may or may not consider this to be an advantage. Doctors from school leaver entry programs are more likely to choose competitive specialties such as Dermatology, Ophthalmology, Neurosurgery, Gastroenterology, because time is on their side, among other reasons.

21. Competition for everything is increasing in all aspects of life (eg Registrar positions), so the quicker you finish your training, the better it is for you.

When knowledge is so freely available these days, one would expect the time taken to train as a professional should reduce, not increase, as Melbourne university is trying to do.

But you may ask, what if I want to study wider range of subjects or get research experience? Well, you can gain research experience by doing a Masters degree after Monash medicine; and you can learn the subjects that interest you any time, at any university, by enrolling in summer or single subject courses or learning from MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).

In summary, Monash (school leaver entry) medicine is good for you, and Melbourne (graduate entry) medicine is good for the university.

Please also read related blogs such as these:

Why do some 99.95 ATAR students choose Provisional entry for medicine?
12 Factors to Consider when Choosing a Medical School, in order of importance.