Schools: The University of Exeter Medical School, Plymouth University Medical School

Connection to the Academy: Received funding from the INSPIRE programme

Year: 2015-17

INSPIRE Lead: Professor Tamsin Ford

Prior to the INSPIRE scheme very few first year students were aware of and interested in research careers with only a handful knowing that they could get involved in research projects during their degree. To tackle this issue, Exeter Medical School, thanks to INSPIRE funding, gives all first year students one compulsory lecture about clinical research and possible future direction. This one-off lecture allows the school to reach and involve students who are not initially aware of or oriented towards research and lays the groundwork for further INSPIRE activities.

What impacts has the INSPIRE programme had?

A major impact of the scheme is that it has enabled students to become involved in various research activities. To introduce students into the world of research Exeter and Plymouth, in conjunction with Cardiff and Bristol Medical Schools, have held taster days enabling students to visit a research group for a day and gain a more rounded understanding of an Academic Research career. The taster days link in successfully with another INSPIRE activity; studentships. By hosting the taster days students and supervisors could forge links allowing the student to have more success when applying for studentships within their chosen project group. These awards were made on a competitive basis with those who undertook the studentships forming the panel who judge the next round of applications, a useful learning experience in how to write bids. By working in partnership with Plymouth, Bristol and Cardiff it has enabled close working relationships to be formed between the staff and students of all four institutions thus increasing the support of the scheme overall and broadening the opportunities for the students within.

What is the best way to engage students?

Following on from studentships, the students who undertook them were given the opportunity to present their work at an annual conference, held in either Exeter or Plymouth each year, which also featured keynote speakers and provided the opportunity for the medical school to demonstrate what INSPIRE is how and how students can get involved. The conferences were very well attended with roughly 50-70 attendees each year. Students themselves play a big role in engaging their peers. By using student voice, word of mouth and social media to spread awareness, once a few students had become involved and were benefiting from the scheme and enjoying it a snowball effect took place engaging more and more students over time.

Additional activities are wide ranging including:

  • student-led research journal with contributions from Exeter, Plymouth, Bristol and Cardiff.
  • An INSPIRE mentoring scheme where students are able to contact an ambassador for support and information as and when they require.

With commendation of the INSPIRE programme from the GMC in their report after their recent inspection of the new University of Exeter Medical School, the INSPIRE grant has been very successful and allowed us to do a lot with a relatively small pot of money.


For full details of the activities implemented by Exeter and Plymouth Medical School, please visit the INSPIRE activities page.

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