After making the decision to pursue a career in OMFS, the first thing on many junior trainees' minds is how much studying the second degree is going to cost and how these costs can be covered.
Individual circumstances will vary widely. For some the second degree may even be a third undergraduate degree, or come after studying for postgraduate qualifications. Some trainees may be coming away from a long period of paid work and training, some may have worked only a couple of years since qualifying. Some will have families, dependents and other financial commitments. Some will be International trainees. For a fortunate few the finances will not be too much of a concern, but for many the money is a major worry.
There are several options when it comes to financing the second degree. This article aims to give a comprehensive guide to funding options, correct at the time of writing.
You are entitled to student loan for both fees and maintenance for your second degree, whether Medicine or Dentistry and regardless of whether the course is a ‘graduate’ course, provided you meet the other qualifying criteria. Ordinarily the Student Loan Company will only fund you for one degree but they currently make exception for Medical and Dental degrees. Anecdotally most students who apply for student loan, who meet the nationality/residency criteria, have been granted it without issue. If there you encounter problems with your application it is advisable to phone Student Finance and ask to speak directly to the ‘Graduate Entry’ team.
Student Loan is the first, and only, option for many new students to cover the majority of university fees. The high compound interest rate (currently up to Retail Price Index +3%), the high cost of fees (currently £9250 for home students) and existing loan debt mean that many will be committing to career-long repayments.
Both Medical and Dental students are eligible for NHS Bursary, whether it is their first or second degree. The funding differs between ‘graduate’ degrees and full-length undergraduate degrees and whether you are classed as ‘independent’. You also need to have been ordinarily resident in the UK for 3 years preceding the start of the course.
If you are studying on a full-length (five or six year) degree course, whether it is your first or second degree, you are entitled to the NHS bursary from your fifth year of study. This includes periods of intercalation for bachelors or masters level qualifications (although not PhD). If you are studying on an accelerated ‘graduate’ degree (four or three years) you are entitled to NHS bursary in all years except the first year. This is the case regardless of how many degrees you have studied previously.
It is important to note the UCAS coding for your course before starting. Occasionally students may find themselves on an accelerated ‘graduate’ course that is coded as a five-year degree by UCAS (i.e. if you were to join in the second year of the five year degree). In this situation you may find that you are only eligible for funding from your fifth year. If this is the case you should approach the university, although there may be little that can be done.
Whether you are classed as independent will dictate how you are means assessed. If you are classed as dependant your parents’ income will be used. To be classed as independent you will need to have financially supported yourself for 3 years prior to the start date of the degree. You will need to provide evidence of this. Also beware of starting part way though an undergraduate course- the start date of the degree will be taken as the date of the first year of the course, not the date you start, which may result in you being classified as dependent. This is something that you may need to discuss with the University.
Other criteria that will class you as independent are: parents being deceased or irreconcilably estranged, if you are married, in a civil partnership, widowed, divorced or legally separated, or if you have a child under the age of 17. If you are married or in a civil partnership your spouse or civil partner’s income will be used to means assess you.
The NHS Bursary website has simple calculators to check your eligibility and student status. At the time of writing the NHS will contribute £3715 towards tuition fees for eligible years. Other bursary awards are means tested and the website has an estimate calculator to give a rough guide as to how much you could be getting per month.
BAOMS currently offer 12 bursaries of £2000 each year. To qualify you must submit a proposal for a prospective project in the field of OMFS and payment is made upon completion of the project. You can apply every year that you are a student. The next applications will open early 2020 and close around June. Further information can be found on the BAOMS website or by emailing the office.
Other Bursaries and Prizes
Many institutions, societies and some charities offer grants, bursaries and prizes. Some will be aimed at trainees and others at students so you will always be able to find one that you are eligible for. Some offer only meager financial reward but a prize is always an excellent accolade to have on your CV. Many Medical and Dental societies offer both undergraduate prizes and elective awards to help cover costs.
Many Universities offer bursaries and grants. Some are for very specific groups and vary in amount but it is always worth asking the University directly what grants they have available as some are very generous. All universities have some kind of hardship fund available should things get desperate, although amounts can be minimal and difficult to access. If you find yourself in desperate need of help you can contact the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund, British Dental Association Benevolent Fund and British Medical Association Charities who also offer annual grants to second degree medical students.
Professional bodies will often offer discounted rates during your second degree, but you need to ask for them. Most are dependent on your yearly earnings being below a threshold, rather than your student status.
BAOMS offer free membership for students.
The General Medical Council and British Medical Association will reduce fees if you earn less than certain thresholds in the year. See their websites for details. Unfortunately at this time the General Dental Council will not offer discounted rates.
The Royal College of Surgeons of England will reduce fees if you earn less than certain thresholds in the year. The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh will waive fees for the period of your second degree. You are allowed to switch colleges.
Many indemnity services will reduce the cost of your cover if you are only working part time hours. You will need to shop around as some indemnity services are much more expensive than others.
The yearly Intercollegiate Surgical Curriculum Programme fee will be refunded if you are a member of the Junior Trainees Programme (JTP) and have satisfied the simple criteria. Further details of the JTP can be found on the BAOMS website.
There are various student discount schemes that can be joined e.g. the National Union of Students (NUS). Ask at establishments for student and NHS discounts. Your university Student Union will be able to advise about how to make the most of student discounts.
It is advisable to undertake some paid work whilst studying your second degree. Many universities have policies on how much you are allowed to work during term time, some have a strict ‘no work during term time’ policy. It is important that work does not interfere with your studies. It is also important to maintain your skills in medicine or dentistry and links with local OMFS departments. Joining the JTP is an important part of this and more information can be found by Registering your Interest via this site.
Medicine first students also need to bear in mind when they will be due for Revalidation and the need to maintain regular appraisals and multi-source feedback. Revalidation can be approached via locum agencies but will usually incur a cost. If you are able to secure a contract with a department the hospital will be able to act as your designated body.
Locum work can be very lucrative and is best approached during the holiday periods. Speak to the OMFS departments associated with your University and look for job adverts. The Junior Trainees Group and their Facebook page can also be helpful networking tools when looking for work.
Prior to starting your second degree it is advisable to spend time saving up funds. Even saving a small amount each month for a year or two can benefit you immensely during your studies, especially during busy times when you may not be able to work as often. Make use of ISA savings accounts and try to ensure your outstanding debt is paid off (e.g. credit cards) before becoming a student again.
Most people would rather not ask family for financial help, but it is always helpful to be honest about your financial situation as your family may be able to assist you if things get hard.