Scottish Parliament Unanimously Passes to Bill to Allow The University of St Andrews to Award Medical Degrees

New legislation has been approved in the Scottish Parliament that removes the prohibition that previously prevented the University from awarding degrees in Dentistry and Medicine. 

The University of St Andrews (Degrees in Medicine and Dentistry) Bill was unanimously passed to amend paragraph 17 of the 1966 Universities (Scotland) Act which previously prevented the University of St Andrews from awarding degrees in Medicine and Dentistry. 

The decision will allow the University to award the ScotGEM Primary Medical Qualification jointly with the University of Dundee, bringing it in line with other Scottish medical schools. 

The 1966 Universities Act created the University of Dundee which took over the clinical aspect of the St Andrews medical school and degree when Queens College in Dundee separated from St Andrews. 

The decision to revoke paragraph 17 removes the prohibition which prevents St Andrews from awarding degrees in medicine and dentistry. However, the university must still be included in the General Medical Council list under the 1983 medical act and be made a medical authority under the 1984 dentists act before it is able to hold qualifying examinations or grant degrees.

In response to the news, St Andrews’ Principal Sally Mapstone said: “We are grateful to members of the Scottish Parliament from across the political spectrum who have supported this important piece of legislation, which will now allow us to operate on an equal basis with other universities in relation to any current or future developments or commissions for a new medical or dentistry degree provider.

“The University of St Andrews was the only academic institution in the UK to be legally barred from awarding PMQs. The legal prohibition was anomalous and so it was appropriate to remove it.

“I know our ScotGEM students, who enrolled to their programme of study with the clear expectation that their degree would be jointly awarded by the University of St Andrews and the University of Dundee, will be delighted at this decision.”

The ScotGEM programme which is a four-year graduate entry medical programme, run jointly with the university of Dundee, is designed to develop doctors who are interested in pursuing a career in general practice in Scotland.

Current ScotGEM students who had previously appealed directly to the Scottish Parliament to remove the prohibitions articulated in the 1966 Universities (Scotland) Act are currently located across 72 GP practises throughout Scotland.

The bill attracted ample support in the Scottish Parliament and the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport Jeane Freeman said: “The bill’s purpose is to repeal an archaic, unfair and, arguably, anticompetitive prohibition that prevents the University of St Andrews from awarding medicine and dentistry degrees.”