Committee supports Bill which would pave the way for St. Andrews to grant medical and dentistry degrees


Proposals which would mark the first step in allowing St. Andrews University to grant medical and dentistry degrees for the first time in 50 years have been endorsed by a Scottish Parliament Committee.

The Health and Sport Committee supports the general principles of the University of St. Andrews (Degrees in Medicine and Dentistry) Bill. The Bill would remove a legal prohibition currently preventing the university from granting medical degrees by repealing a section of the Universities (Scotland) Act 1966.

If passed, the Bill would enable the university to award a degree to Scottish Graduate Entry Medicine (ScotGEM) students. ScotGEM is Scotland’s first graduate entry medical degree and is aimed at graduates interested in a career in general practice and has a focus on rural medicine and healthcare improvement. It is run jointly by St. Andrews and Dundee universities. It would also potentially enable St. Andrews in future to award degrees in medicine or dentistry in its own right.

Speaking as the report was published, Health and Sport Committee Convener, Lewis Macdonald MSP, said:

“St. Andrews University has been educating Scotland’s students for more than 600 years. However, for the last 50 years, they have been prevented from providing degrees in medicine or dentistry.

“The Committee supports the general principles of the Bill, which would see this prohibition lifted and allow ScotGEM students to receive joint degrees from St. Andrews and Dundee universities.

“We do acknowledge though concerns that St. Andrews potentially opening a new medical school could affect progress in widening access to medicine and this should be taken into account in any future proposals.”


You can learn more about the work of the Health and Sport Committee on the Scottish Parliament website.

The University of St. Andrews (Degrees in Medicine and Dentistry) Bill was introduced on 29 September 2020.

The Committee launched a call for views on the Bill which ran from 7 October 2020 until 18 November 2020 and received eleven responses. SPICe published a background briefing on the Bill which includes a summary of key issues raised by respondents.

Medicine was first offered as a subject in the 17th century and initially MDs were only awarded to established medical practitioners. However, after St Andrews merged with University College Dundee in 1897, the university could award Primary Medical Qualifications (PMQs) for the first time. Medical students had a choice of completing the first half of their studies at either university, and this relationship continued until the 1960s.

The Universities (Scotland) Act 1966 removed the ability of St Andrew’s University to grant degrees in medicine or dentistry. This was because the act made Dundee and St Andrews entirely separate universities. As a result, because the clinical part of the medical school had been based in Dundee, St Andrews had no clinical medical school or teaching hospital and the university lost its right to award MBChB1 medical degrees.

Removal of the legal prohibition will not automatically result in the University’s ability to award other medical and dentistry degrees. This is subject to separate financial and regulatory controls.

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