Med school entry case settled

Otago Medicals school's Lindo-Ferguson Building. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Otago Medicals school's Lindo-Ferguson Building. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
A legal challenge to the way students are selected for Otago’s medical school will not go ahead.

The University of Otago and the man who sought to challenge aspects of this year’s medical school admissions process have resolved the matter outside court.

The man, whose child was denied entry to the university’s medical programme, had been set to argue the case in the High Court.

But the plaintiff and university released a joint statement yesterday saying the court proceedings were at an end.

The plaintiff did not receive compensation from the university.

No commitments were made by the university concerning "the outcome of any individual’s application for admission", nor did the university agree to any specific changes to its policies.

The parties agreed, however, that increased clarity and transparency about selection processes would be desirable.

University of Otago processes have been under scrutiny this year as senior management started discussing whether the system that gives priority to students from minority backgrounds should be adjusted.

Priority is given to students who are selected through preferential pathways — Maori, Pacific, rural, low socio-economic and refugee — but the scheme has resulted in intense competition in the general pathway.

Most students selected for second-year medicine this year came through the preferential pathways.

The applicant behind the legal challenge had been set to argue aspects of the system were unfair.

According to the amended statement of claim, the affirmative action scheme "lacked objective parameters" and "unfairly favoured" students in the priority pathways, as well as international students.

In resolving the matter, the university did not appear to concede ground to the applicant.

"The university accepts that the proceedings have highlighted the desirability of increased clarity and transparency in its medical admissions process," the joint statement said.

"The applicant is satisfied that the university will be taking appropriate steps over time towards that outcome."

Court proceedings were "an unhelpful distraction".

The university’s Mirror on Society policy aims to generate a health workforce more reflective of New Zealand society’s make-up and the university has re-asserted its commitment to that policy.

It is regarded as a cornerstone of admissions to health sciences professional programmes at Otago.

The policy is due to be reviewed next year.

University leaders have not ruled out bringing in changes such as capping the number of students gaining entry through preferential pathways.

The parties involved in the court proceedings suggested in their statement that discussions had been helpful.

"The constructive dialogue with the university has satisfied the applicant that the guidance for the future that a court ruling could provide is not required at this stage."

Neither party was willing to provide further comment.


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