The lifetime cost to English students of borrowing to invest in a medical degree: a gender comparison using data from the Office for National Statistics

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Colleges, School and Institutes


To evaluate this impact on male and female English medical graduates by estimating the total time and amount repaid on loans taken out with the UK’s Student Loans Company (SLC).
4286 respondents with a medical degree in the Labour Force Surveys administered by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) between 1997 and 2014.
Age-salary profiles were generated to estimate the repayment profiles for different levels of initial graduate debt.
2195 female and 2149 male medical graduates were interviewed by the ONS. Those working full-time (73.1% females and 96.1% males) were analysed in greater depth. Following standardisation to 2014 prices, average full-time male graduates earned up to 35% more than females by the age of 55. The initial graduate debt from tuition fees alone amounts to £39 945.69. Owing to interest charges on this debt the average full-time male graduate repays £57 303 over 20 years, while the average female earns less and so repays £61 809 over 26 years. When additional SLC loans are required for maintenance, the initial graduate debt can be as high as £81 916 and, as SLC debt is written off 30 years after graduation, the average female repays £75 786 while the average male repays £110 644.
Medical graduates on an average salary are unlikely to repay their SLC debt in full. This is a consequence of higher university fees and as SLC debt is written off 30 years after graduation. This results in the average female graduate repaying more when debt is low, but a lower amount when debt is high compared to male graduates.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere007335
Number of pages7
JournalBMJ open
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2015