South African medical schools: Current state of selection criteria and medical students’ demographic profile

  • LJ van der Merwe
  • GJ van Zyl
  • A St Clair Gibson
  • A Viljoen
  • JE Iputo
  • M Mammen
  • W Chitha
  • AM Perez
  • N Hartman
  • S Fonn
  • L Green-Thompson
  • OA Ayo-Ysuf
  • GC Botha
  • D Manning
  • SJ Botha
  • R Hift
  • P Retief
  • BB van Heerden
  • J Volmink


Background. Selection of medical students at South African (SA) medical schools must promote equitable and fair access to students from all population groups, while ensuring optimal student throughput and success, and training future healthcare practitioners who will fulfil the needs of the local society. In keeping = with international practices, a variety of academic and non-academic measures are used to select applicants for medical training programmes in SA medical schools.

Objectives. To provide an overview of the selection procedures used by all eight medical schools in SA, and the student demographics (race and gender) at these medical schools, and to determine to what extent collective practices are achieving the goals of student diversity and inclusivity.

Methods. A retrospective, quantitative, descriptive study design was used. All eight medical schools in SA provided information regarding selection criteria, selection procedures, and student demographics (race and gender). Descriptive analysis of data was done by calculating frequencies and percentages of the variables measured.

Results. Medical schools in SA make use of academic and non-academic criteria in their selection processes. The latter include indices of socioeconomic disadvantage. Most undergraduate medical students in SA are black (38.7%), followed by white (33.0%), coloured (13.4%) and Indian/Asian (13.6%). The majority of students are female (62.2%). The number of black students is still proportionately lower than in the general population, while other groups are overrepresented.

Conclusion. Selection policies for undergraduate medical programmes aimed at redress should be continued and further refined, along with the provision of support to ensure student success.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0256-95749
print ISSN: 2078-5135