Waikato Medical School FAQs

What is the proposal?

The University of Waikato intends to collaborate with other academic institutions and healthcare providers, and proposes to partner with iwi Māori, Pacific, provincial and rural communities, and other organisations across New Zealand to establish the New Zealand Graduate Entry Medical School (NZGEMS).

This medical degree programme would be internationally recognised and unique in this country.

Students who have an undergraduate degree in any discipline would be able to apply for entry, and the School would take 100 students in its first year.

NZGEMS will admit students who have a university degree and prioritise recruitment from underrepresented, underserved provincial and rural communities, and then provide these students with immersive clinical learning in these communities so they are prepared for a career caring for underserved vulnerable high needs populations across New Zealand.

In other countries the facilitated career pathway approach with immersive community engaged distributed education has been very successful in producing highly skilled health professionals who care for high needs populations and generally stay serving these communities long-term.

As part of the proposal, students will receive four years of intensive, practical medical education, of the same quality and standing as the country’s existing six-year medical degrees.

The NZGEMS will collaborate with communities to co-design the programme, selection of students, and their training, and there will be genuine mana to mana engagement with iwi Māori and Pacific community groups on all key aspects of the programme.

Has the Government made any decision on the current proposal?

In April 2021, the Government announced major health system reforms including primary and community healthcare that delivers seamless and accessible high-quality healthcare close to home for everyone in New Zealand.

The University of Waikato is committed to building a healthier New Zealand for all and we believe a new and different medical school is needed in the near future - to meet health workforce needs, to provide diversity in entry pathways and training options, and to produce the diversity in health workforce outcomes that New Zealand needs to provide healthcare for the whole population.

The University of Waikato looks forward to working with the Government, Tertiary Education Commission and Ministry of Health to contribute innovative thinking about the issues facing New Zealand’s need for a fit-for-purpose medical workforce.

Why do we need a new and different medical school?

New Zealand has a serious problem: Māori and Pacific people, and people living in rural and provincial communities have worse health status and substantially limited access to health care. As the Health and Disability System Review report states, “people living in rural towns can have poorer health outcomes, including lower life expectancy, than people living in cities or surrounding rural areas, an effect that is accentuated for rural Māori and disabled people.” These inequities and disparities have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although the two existing medical schools produce high-quality doctors, only around 20% become general practitioners, 3% become psychiatrists, and almost none choose to serve these high needs populations.

New Zealand currently relies on international medical graduates (IMGs) for its supply of doctors to a greater extent than any other OECD country. There are concerns around cultural competence of these overseas-trained doctors, and many of them do not stay long term in New Zealand.

Why Waikato and why a New Zealand Graduate Entry Medical School?

The Waikato region is booming, putting pressure on services that are already struggling to provide healthcare to a large geographical area with a high proportion of communities with high health needs, including Māori, Pacific, provincial and rural communities.

The greatest shortages of doctors are in provincial and rural areas. The Midland region has 13% fewer doctors than the rest of the country.

At the same time, there are many small and medium sized communities stretching from Northland to Southland across New Zealand in need of doctors with the skills and commitment to provide high-quality health care. The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that all coursework can be delivered online so that medical students can undertake their studies living and learning in or near their home communities.

The University of Waikato has the expertise and commitment to help fill the gaps. Although based in Hamilton, there will be clinical education and training centres throughout New Zealand. The aim is to have half the graduates specialise as GPs, outside the main centres, and all graduates would train and work in local communities before going on to serve in them.

What would the programme look like?

The curriculum will meet the Australian Medical Council (AMC) standards for accreditation. The programme will build on proven models and international best practice, customised to address New Zealand communities and New Zealand health issues, including Māori and Pacific health.

Who can apply?

Students would need an undergraduate degree in any discipline from any recognised university, with some minimum scores on specific tests. Grades will be one of the entry criteria, but personal aptitude, demonstrated links with provincial, rural and high-needs communities, and commitment to the ethos of the Medical School will be used to decide who is accepted.

Will scholarships be available?

The University will work with communities to provide scholarships for outstanding students who want to train at the new Medical School.