3. The University of St Andrews and ScotGEM
10. It now fits with the medical training requirements of Scotland for the University to have the ability to award medical degrees, in respect of awarding the PMQ to Scottish Graduate Entry Medicine (ScotGEM) MBChB students, jointly with Dundee University.
11. ScotGEM is Scotland's first graduate entry programme for medicine. It was announced by the First Minister in 2016 and formed part of a package of initiatives to meet the Scottish Government's commitment to create a more sustainable medical workforce and encourage more people into a career in healthcare, whatever their background. Other medical undergraduate degrees take five or six years to complete whereas ScotGEM is a bespoke four year medical degree designed for students who are already graduates and wish to train as doctors.
12. The ScotGEM bid was jointly awarded to Dundee and St Andrews Universities after a fair and open competition. It is delivered in collaboration with the University of the Highlands and Islands and partner Health Boards. The first cohort commenced in 2018 and will graduate in 2022.
13. Primary legislation would be required to effect the reinstatement of the ability of the University to award medical, midwifery and dentistry degrees because there is no other appropriate order-making powers that could be utilised. Although the Privy Council has power to make an order under section 48 of the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992 specifying institutions that are competent to grant degrees, that power is not relevant where the body in question already has a power to award degrees (in the University's case under Royal Charter). Lifting of the present prohibition is therefore not a matter within the Privy Council's remit.
14. ScotGEM also requires approval by the General Medical Council (GMC), as the regulator of the medical profession, before the ScotGEM PMQ can be awarded to students. The accreditation process is on-track for completion in time for the first cohort graduating.
15. Although it is proposed that the full prohibition is repealed, at present the only medical degree that the University intends to award is the ScotGEM PMQ, jointly with Dundee University. The University has, however, also submitted a proposal for the separate 2019 Programme for Government (PfG) commitment to "develop proposals for a new medical school". This separate process has attracted seven initial proposals and will be decided through a fair, open and transparent process. Unfortunately, due to the current public health pandemic, this process has been postponed until further notice.
16. Repealing the prohibition on the University's ability to award medical degrees would also result in the University being on an equal footing with the other bidders in the PfG process, given that no other institution in the UK is prohibited by legislation from being able to award medical degrees.
17. Medicine is a controlled subject, meaning that the number of students to enter medical training each year is determined by the Scottish Government, following a workforce planning process, in order to control supply into the profession. The Scottish Government advises the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) of the annual intake target for the sector and the SFC in turn advises individual institutions of their targets, allocates funded places and monitors student uptake separately from non-controlled subject areas.
18. At present, the Scottish Government has no intention of changing the funding landscape for medical undergraduate places. Any future significant changes would result from the 2019 Programme for Government commitment described above. In addition, the University has provided reassurances to the Scottish Government that it has no intentions of operating as a fully privately funded medical school, in line with the way that the provision of teaching for all other degree subjects is funded at the University.
19. Should the University wish to deliver a medical degree on its own, rather than in combination with Dundee University, it would require GMC accreditation – a process which is likely to take a number of years to complete. Part of the accreditation process would include evidencing that a sufficient number of clinical placements could be secured in a way that would not disrupt other medical programmes or put patient safety at risk.