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Brighton & Sussex Medical School

Widening participation to medicine

BSMS > About BSMS > Information for schools, teachers and parents > Widening participation to medicine

Widening participation to medicine

Greater diversity within the medical profession is a goal that benefits us all. BSMS is committed to seeking out talented people who have the potential to become tomorrow’s doctors but who may not have considered it as a possibility, thus enabling medicine to better reflect the patient population. 

For details of all BSMS widening participation (WP) initiatives, please select the relevant section on the left side menu.  

BrightMed students doing an activity with medical students
A BrightMed simulated hospital scenario, with a female patient and 'doctors'

Years 9-13 - BrightMed

BrightMed logo

BrightMed identifies and supports young people from across Sussex who have the potential to become tomorrow’s doctors.

The programme will increase awareness of what it takes to study medicine and healthcare subjects, through fun, inspiring and interactive teaching focused on medicine, health and science.

BrightMed works with students from Year 9 to Year 13. As a ‘BrightMedder’, young people will take part in regular Saturday sessions that involve knowledge sessions, activity days, lectures and seminars. There is also an opportunity to experience life as a student with a stay at the University of Sussex campus during a four-day residential summer school at the end of Year 12. 

Please see below for an overview of the types of sessions we may cover – sessions are subject to change.  

Brightmed sessions 2020

BrightMed aims to instil confidence and develop vital skills in young people, enabling them to submit strong applications to medical schools throughout the UK. Providing advice, hands-on experience and practical exercises allow participants to make informed decisions concerning their future education; an approach that has already had great success. As an example, of the 35 participants in the 2018 Year 12 cohort, 14 applied to medicine with them all receiving one or more interviews, and 11 receiving offers to study medicine. 

Guaranteed Interview Scheme

Sixth form students that are part of the BrightMed programme may be eligible for a guaranteed interview for the Medicine (A100) Undergraduate programme at BSMS.

Students need to:

Meet the academic criteria required: 

  • Taking the BMAT admission test in the year of application
  • Accepted Level 3 qualifications include:
    − Predicted and/or achieved AAB in 3 A-levels including Biology and Chemistry OR 
    − Predicted and/or achieved AA in Biology and Chemistry A-level plus a Distinction in a Level 3 BTEC National Extended Certificate.
    − Predicted and/or achieved 35 points in the International Baccalaureate IB including higher level Biology and Chemistry, one of which must be at grade 5 and the other at grade 6. 
  • GCSE requirements:
    − Predicted and/or achieved at least at grade 5 in English (literature or language) and a grade 5 in Mathematics

Meet the BrightMed criteria requirements:

  • Have 75% attendance at BrightMed in Year 11 and Year 12
  • Have attended a BSMS student society conference and write a reflective piece on it
  • Attend the Year 12 BrightMed residential
  • Submit their E-portfolio bringing together required evidence that is explain to participants taking part in BrightMed. Portfolios have to be submitted by 15 October to be considered.

Participants will be eligible to submit only once for a guaranteed interview and must submit within 18 months of completion of the BrightMed residential.

How to apply to BrightMed

Every year BrightMed aims to recruit 80 Year 8 students, who will start the programme at the beginning of Year 9. Often we also have spaces in other years and so would encourage applications from those currently in Year 8, 9, 10 or 11. To be considered for the programme, students will also need to need to meet all of criteria 1 and at least two of criteria 2 outlined below. Students that are in, or have been in, local authority care only need to meet criteria 1. Students that fulfil more of the criteria will be given the greatest priority. 

Criteria 1 

  • Academic potential – part of a gifted and talented scheme
  • An interest in science and/or medicine and a desire to fulfil their potential
  • An interest and commitment to being part of BrightMed

Criteria 2 

  • No immediate family history of higher education (eg, university), excluding siblings
  • Currently in, or have been in, the care of a local authority
  • Care for someone at home with a long-term disability
  • Have an Educational, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)
  • Are eligible for free school meals and/or a 16-19 “discretionary” bursary. 
  • Family eligible for any means tested benefits (eg, Jobseeker's Allowance, Universal Credit etc)
  • Currently or previously attended a secondary school where the attainment 8 is below national average of 46.7.
    Check eligibility re your secondary school >
  • Current home postcode shows that you live in an area with low levels of progression to higher education. (Postcodes within the lowest 2 POLAR4 quintiles).
    Check the eligibility of your area  >
    OR current home postcode shows that you live in area that falls within the lowest 20% of the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD).
    Check the Index of Multiple Deprivation >

Almost all of the young people we work with have no family background of higher education.

2020/2021 BrightMed applications 

Applications for the 2020/2021 BrightMed sessions are now open for students who live within Sussex. Applications are welcomed from students who are currently in the following year groups: Year 8, Year 9, Year 10, Year 11 and meet the above criteria. Please note, we have limited spaces for students in year 9, 10 and 11. 

Due to the unprecedented situation with COVID-19, we are currently unable to confirm exactly when this programme will start in the new academic year. We will keep successful applicants up-to-date as and when we have more information. 

Applicants will be informed by mid-August if they have been successful or not in gaining a place on this programme.

Apply to BrightMed >

"Throughout the duration of this course, I have received an insight of the medical profession; it has guided my career choice and given me a wider platform of thought. My favourite experience has been diagnostics and learning about the cardiovascular system. BrightMed offers ways of learning that school doesn’t and, arguably, I much prefer how we are taught there. A lot of help is offered in terms of future planning and where to go and what to do after high school. This includes searching what universities look for in terms of A levels, which has helped me enormously. Overall, I’ve had a really good, positive experience at BrightMed and I don’t regret joining at all."

Ella – BrightMed participant 

UKWPMED scheme

BSMS has been working with five other medical schools across the country to look at ways to get our widening participation programmes recognised at each others' institutions. The purpose of this is to further support students from a widening participation background who may want to apply at a university in a different part of the country. 

We are pleased to announce, along with Hull York Medical School, Keele University, University of Birmingham, University of Plymouth and the University of Manchester, the creation of the UKWPMED scheme. 

The UKWPMED scheme is open to students in Year 13 who have successfully completed a specific widening participation programme at a medical school that is participating

UKWPMED scheme - participating schools
Participating medical schools  WP programmes 
Birmingham Medical School    Read more about Routes to Professions >  
Brighton and Sussex Medical School   Read more about BrightMed >
Hull York Medical School   Find out about Pathways to Medicine >
Find out about Next Step York >
Keele School of Medicine   Read more about Steps 2 Medicine >
Manchester Medical School   Find out about Manchester Access Programme > 
Read more about Preston Widening Access Programme (for medicine) >

Peninsula Medical School   Find out about Pathways to the Healthcare Professions >

If students qualify they will then receive the same consideration in the selection process as offered to graduates of the WP programme at that university. The potential benefits that may be offered to a UKWPMED applicant may differ between participating medical schools and may include, for example, prioritisation for selection for interview or a reduction in the offer requirement or a combination of adjustments to the standard process of selection.

Applications will be made through UCAS in the standard way with students indicating that they are part of the UKWPMED scheme. Once applications are received by the relevant institutions, checks will be conducted to ensure the completion of the appropriate WP programme. This scheme is currently open to those looking to apply  via the standard UCAS process, by 15 October 2020 (for 2021 entry).

For more details of this scheme please contact >

BrightMed plastic heart


BrightIdeas is a research project for Year 12 students that seeks to combine scientific literature with patient insight.

Supported by a current medical student as an E-mentor, students interested in studying medicine and enrolled on the BrightIdeas project will:

  • Choose a medical condition of interest, eg, autism, dementia, HIV, leukaemia 
  • Research the science behind the condition
  • Explore the social implications and social stigmas of the condition via discussions with patients, or anyone who has cared for patients with the condition
  • Report their findings via an essay, video, podcast, blog etc
  • Share their reports via a presentation or uploading online to educate local communities at a four-day Summer Residential event - funded by Health Education England - at Brighton and Sussex Medical School
  • Reflect on their experiences.

To be eligible for the programme the students must be:

  • In, or been in, local authority care (1)

Or meet two of the following criteria:

  • Have sat their GCSEs in a school that achieved below the national average Attainment 8 score (2)  
  • Be from a school with a high percentage of students receiving free school meals.
  • Be living in a geographical area with low levels of progression onto higher education (3) 
    • We are particularly interested in working with students living in Kent and Medway, and Hastings and surrounding areas
  • Be a young carer (4)
  • Be from a family where the parents do not have a university degree from the UK or abroad
  • In receipt of or eligible for free school meals, a 16-19 discretionary bursary or any means tested benefits (including PIP)

1) Experience of local authority care is defined as being looked after by a local authority, foster parents/other family members, at home with their parents under the supervision of social services, in a residential children’s home or in another residential setting such as school or secure unit, or someone who has experienced a period of three months in the care of the local authority within the last ten years.

2) The average Attainment 8 score for English school is currently 46.7, and students who sat their GCSEs at a school that has an attainment 8 score lower than 46.7, will meet this criterion. Find out re your school >

3) Students from POLAR 4 quintile 1 and 2 will automatically meet this criterion.  Find out re your area > 

4) Young carers are defined as under the age of 18 who help look after someone in their family or a friend, who is ill, disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol. There is no time limit on the amount of care they provide for their dependents, this is just above and beyond what is normally expected. Please note, elements of the criteria may change between now and when the applications open. The finalised criteria used to assess applications will be made available in due course.

For students currently in Year 11 (2019/20 academic year)

To register interest in the programme and to receive an email notification when the application form goes live, please fill out the expression of interest form below.

Register your interest for 2020/21 (Year 11) >

If you have any questions about BrightIdeas, please contact Charlotte Smyrk via

Our awards

The BrightMed initiative has been nominated for and won numerous awards since its inception: 

  • 2019 – WINNER: University of Sussex Education Awards – Better World Award. Read more about this award >
  • 2019 – WINNER: National Education Opportunities Network (NEON) Widening Access Initiative (Outreach) Award. Find out more >
  • 2018 – WINNER: NEON Student of the Year Award – Jack Whiting, BSMS Medical Student & Outreach Teaching Mentor. Commendation: NEON Contribution to Widening Access Award – Darren Beaney, Head of Admissions. Find out more about our 2018 NEON award >
  • 2014 to Present – Member of Medical Schools Council Selection Alliance Executive board – Darren Beaney, Head of Admissions
  • 2014 – Medical Schools Council Selecting for Excellence Outreach Guidance – example of best practice
  • 2012 – Social Mobility Commission, Fair Access to the Professions report – example of best practice