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25-07-2019 | Original Article | Uitgave 4/2019 Open Access

Perspectives on Medical Education 4/2019

Every picture tells a story: Content analysis of medical school website and prospectus images in the United Kingdom

Perspectives on Medical Education > Uitgave 4/2019
Jack Macarthur, Mike Eaton, Karen Mattick



The decision-making process for students as to which medical schools to apply to is open to many factors and influences. Research has identified several factors which influence prospective students’ choice of medical school and career. There is also evidence that websites and prospectuses may be creating potential barriers to widening access.


The websites and prospectuses of 33 medical schools in the United Kingdom were searched for relevant images. These images and the people in them were subjected to inclusion/exclusion criteria. Data about the images and people were recorded so that a content analysis could be performed. The relative proportions were compared with pre-existing data relating to the medical profession and society.


From 33 medical schools, 650 images were included, with 1,817 people depicted. The largest group for the assumed roles was ‘student’, as expected, with 1,423 people (78%). For the overall theme of the image, community placement themed images made up only 2% of images (14) and hospital placement themed images made up 24% (154). Chi-squared goodness of fit showed statistically significant results for most groups of data when comparing ethnicity, the overall theme of the image and assumed specialty group, but not when comparing gender.


In conclusion, for gender, medical schools are accurately reflecting national data. However, for ethnicity medical schools fail to accurately represent national data, leading to incorrect signalling about the ethnic makeup of their students. Additionally, medical schools are signalling to students a strong preference for hospital-based settings, despite a strong national drive to recruit more general practitioners.
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