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Medical degrees at the University of St. Andrews

Bill to remove archaic legislative prohibition.

The University of St. Andrews will be able to award medical and dentistry degrees through a new Bill introduced to the Scottish Parliament which amends existing legislation to give it the same rights as other universities.

The University of St. Andrews (Degrees in Medicine and Dentistry) Bill is being brought forward so that the Fife university can award, jointly with the University of Dundee, Primary Medical Qualifications to Scottish Graduate Entry Medicine (ScotGEM) MBChB students in advance of the first student cohort graduating in 2022. 

A legislative prohibition, which means the institution can’t award degrees in medicine and dentistry, was put in place by the Universities (Scotland) Act 1966 to allow the separation of Queen's College in Dundee from the University of St. Andrews in order to form the University of Dundee. As it serves no legitimate purpose in today's context, its removal would create a fairer higher education sector in Scotland, enabling all institutions to maximise the options and opportunities they offer to students in Scotland.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman yesterday said:

“This Bill will remove an unfair, archaic and anti-competitive prohibition which prevents the University of St. Andrews from awarding medical and dentistry degrees.  

“No other higher education institution in Scotland or the UK is prohibited by legislation from awarding degrees in any discipline.  The Bill will therefore create a fairer higher education sector and enable all of our valued institutions to maximise the options they offer to students.

“It is important to note that even if the Bill is passed, the University would be unable to unilaterally decide to offer degrees in medicine or dentistry in its own right as there are a number of financial and regulatory controls and standards which would have to be met before this could be considered. 

“Any significant changes to the current public funding arrangements for the controlled subjects of medicine and dentistry would only occur following a national competitive process.”

St. Andrew’s University Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Sally Mapstone yesterday said:

“The University of St Andrews fully supports this legislation that simply puts us back on a level playing field with every other institution in Scotland.

“The past few months have underlined just how important our health services are to everyone in Scotland and the University is keen to continue to play its part in educating and training health workers of the future.

“This legislation will help us make our contribution to deliver better health care, retain NHS staff and ensure a sustainable NHS that delivers for our communities, urban and rural. The University of St Andrews is well known as a centre of excellence in health and medicine and we look forward to building on that legacy in the years to come.”

British Medical Association (BMA) Students Committee member and University of St. Andrews student Catriona McVey yesterday said:

“The Scottish Graduate Entry Medicine (ScotGEM) course in 2018 has proved to be a unique and innovative course focusing on rural medicine and health improvement. 

“The BMA believes repealing the legislative prohibition is the right course of action and a matter of basic fairness to ScotGEM students and would allow the graduation of ScotGEM’s inaugural cohort – the first new St Andrews doctors this century.”


ScotGEM was announced in 2016 as part of a package of initiatives to create a more sustainable medical workforce and encourage more people into a career in healthcare whatever their background.  ScotGEM is Scotland’s first graduate entry programme for medicine and has a specific focus on remote and rural medicine.

ScotGEM was jointly awarded to both Dundee and St. Andrews Universities following an open competitive process.  It was awarded on the understanding that it would be a jointly delivered and awarded Primary Medical Qualifications, as was detailed in the initial bid.

University of St. Andrews (Degrees in Medicine and Dentistry) Bill


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