The Prime Minister was amongst a group of ministers who visited St George’s, University of London to speak with medical students about their education and aspirations. The visit was shortly after the government announced a series of measures to promote the aspirations of young people from all backgrounds and put social mobility at the heart of plans for economic growth.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Alan Milburn MP, Pat McFadden MP - Minister of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, and Tooting local MP Sadiq Khan visited St George’s today (18 January 2010) in recognition of the pioneering work that the University has done in widening access to higher education.

The St George’s widening participation team works with pupils from the age of nine years old upwards, supporting their educational development and aiding their transition from primary to secondary, secondary to further education, and then onto Higher Education. The team reaches over 3,000 state school pupils each year to support their educational development, raise their aspirations, challenge inaccurate stereotypes and inform them of their career options.

Amongst these initiatives is the adjusted criteria (AC) scheme, pioneered by St George’s in 2003. This access scheme helps to level the playing field by considering applications to study medicine in relation to the peer group with which applicants studied, rather than in relation to the national average. Under the scheme, the standard AAA entry requirement can be dropped to two Bs and a C if a student’s results are 60 per cent better than the school’s average.

Other initiatives include school visits, residential summer schools and a web site to raise awareness about opportunities in medicine and healthcare, as well as a new scenario-based interview process designed to assess skills and characteristics that make a good doctor beyond academic achievements. As a result, the proportion of students joining St George's from state school has increased from 53 per cent nine years ago to 80 per cent today.

Whilst at St George’s, the ministers met with students from a cross section of backgrounds and chatted to them about their studies and their dreams for the future.

The visit immediately followed Downing Street’s response to ‘Unleashing Aspiration’, the final report from the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions, setting out plans to implement the vast majority of the panel’s 88 recommendations.

The panel, led by Alan Milburn MP, had challenged the government to do more to ensure that talented people can succeed in top professions regardless of their social or economic background.

Speaking in his weekly podcast yesterday, the Prime Minister said: “We can’t be a truly aspirational society if some people are still denied the chance to get on and not just get by. And although we have raised the glass ceiling we have yet to break it. That is why our priority will be to remove all the barriers that are holding Britain back - to ensure that it is character and endeavour that matter most.”

A video of the Prime Minister’s visit can be found on the Number 10 website: