AMA President, Dr Rosanna Capolingua, said today that the extraordinary cost for full fee medical degrees, on top of the increasing the number of full fee paying medical student places, does not serve Australia well.
"With the Government's decision earlier this year to remove the cap on full fee paying places, the number of full fee paying first-year medicine students will continue to rise because universities see them as a lucrative source of income," Dr Capolingua said.
"While it is a privilege to study medicine, we are reaching a situation where there will be two tiers of medical students - those who enter through HECs places, and those who are privileged enough to be able to afford full fee places."
The 2008 Good Universities Guide has revealed that full fee paying students could be charged up to $242,000 for a medical degree at Bond University or $237,000 for a combined arts/medicine degree at the University of NSW.
This means that the gap between the level of assistance offered by the Government to full fee paying students and the cost of degrees is widening. The maximum loan available is $100,000, leaving up to $142,000 that students or their families must find.
Dr Capolingua said the AMA believes that equity of access is an underlying principle of the Australian education system.
"Students should be able to enter medical school on the basis of their academic and personal achievements and not their ability to pay large amounts of money for a degree," Dr Capolingua said.
"Australia is currently doubling the number of medical students. We have real concerns about the system's ability to provide the infrastructure and resources needed to give these students high quality training.
"We are working to ensure that it will, but pumping more full fee-paying places into the system will make the problem worse.
"In addition, currently there is no guarantee from the Federal and State and Territory Governments that full fee paying students will be able to access internships, which they must complete to be registered to practise medicine.
"The AMA wants all medical school places to be HECS-funded and the Government must reverse its decision to remove the cap on full fee paying places. At the very least, the Government must guarantee clinical places and intern jobs for all medical students."