Third medical school not in national interest

18 October 2016

The University of Auckland has hit out at a potentially costly proposal for a third medical school in New Zealand.

Speaking on Waikato University’s proposal to create a third medical school, Dean of the Faculty of Medical & Health Sciences, Professor John Fraser called the plan ill-conceived and unwarranted.

Professor Fraser says: “A new programme is simply not in the national interest and tax payers will have to pay for what is an ill-considered and expensive folly. The existing programmes at Auckland and Otago are already meeting the needs for growth of doctors for New Zealand.” 

Medical student numbers are growing as part of the government’s long-term plan to increase the supply of doctors.  By 2020 New Zealand is on course to produce 570 graduates annually.

Waikato’s argument that the existing medical programmes based at Auckland and Otago are not producing the right kinds of doctors is simply not true and reflects a naïve assumption that careful planning has not occurred to address the workforce shortage they purport to address.

“Evidence indicates that a bespoke programme providing an alternative education path specifically to rural general practice, does not generate larger numbers of graduates committed to being a rural GP.

“What international evidence does indicate is that selecting medical students from rural and regional backgrounds and providing them with a quality rural experience, encourages them to return to those regions to work as doctors,” says Professor Fraser.  

New Zealand is already addressing a lack of rural doctors with long-term rural placements of approximately 250 students/year in the Auckland programme.

For 20 years the University has had a clinical campus in the Waikato with other clinical campuses for training medical students at Whangarei, Whakatane, Tauranga and Taranaki hospitals. Expansion of the programmes at Tauranga and Taranaki is planned for 2017 and 2018.

The University is concerned that the proposal would end a long-standing partnership with Waikato District Health Board and would effectively displace 150 medical students now training at Waikato Hospital, with nowhere for them to go.  

“Introducing another 240 medical students into a medical training system that is already under severe pressure to provide training places can only be considered foolhardy.

“The cost of establishing a medical programme should not be underestimated, so this should be seriously considered only when a clear national need has been argued,” says Professor Fraser.

Additional information

  • The University of Auckland is training an increasing numbers of medical students. There are about 1,200 students in the programme and we expect 219 to graduate this year while around 290 doctors will graduate from Otago in 2016.
  • 163 students from regional and rural backgrounds have been admitted since 2013.
  • 244 students per year are placed on longitudinal clinical attachments outside of Auckland, in Waikato, Rotorua, Tauranga and Whangarei as well as in smaller 25-30 percent of the intake are graduates, most of whom start at Year 2 of the medical programme.
  • There are already challenges with finding adequate clinical placements for students, ironically especially at Waikato DHB, with students who have been assigned to that DHB having to complete attachments in other DHBs.
  • The postgraduate training pipeline is clogged. This year DHBs had to find an extra 53 positions to meet the need of employing and increasing number graduating doctors. The requirement to continue to increase positions will continue through to 2020.
  • 184 Māori and Pacific students have been admitted to the University of Auckland since 2013 and we are admitting Māori students at demographic equity. There are extensive educational supports in place for Māori and Pacific students to ensure academic success and these have taken decades of committed work to establish.
  • The University of Auckland medical programme received the maximum accreditation possible with accolades for the efforts to increase the number of Māori doctors, General Practitioners and provide opportunities for students to learn in regional and rural settings.



Gabriella Davila
Communications Manager
The University of Auckland

Phone: + 64 9 923 2249
Mobile: + 64 (0)21 373 118

Suzi Phillips
Media Relations Adviser
The University of Auckland

Phone: + 64 9 923 8079
Mobile: + 64 (0) 21 416 396