Views sought on Bill which would let St Andrews University grant medical and dental degrees


The Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee is seeking views on a Bill which would permit St Andrews University to confer medical and dentistry degrees for the first time in over 50 years.

The University of St. Andrews (Degrees in Medicine and Dentistry) Bill would remove a legal prohibition that currently prevents the University from granting medical degrees by repealing a section of the Universities (Scotland) Act 1966.

If passed, the Bill would be the first step in allowing the university to award the qualification to Scottish Graduate Entry Medicine (ScottGEM) students, who are set to graduate in 2022.

Speaking as the call for views was launched, Health and Sport Committee Convener, Lewis Macdonald MSP, said:

“St Andrews is the oldest university in the country and, due to historic reasons, the only ancient university not to award medical and dental degrees. 

“This Bill looks to revisit this matter and, if passed, would be the first step in allowing the university to award such degrees for the first time since 1966.

“The Committee wants to hear from a range of stakeholders including universities, regulatory bodies, medical organisations and students. We look forward to hearing both the case for making this change but also any concerns which may exist in the wider context of the provision of medical and dental education in Scotland.”


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.

Medicine was first offered as a subject in the 17th century and initially MDs were only awarded to established medical practitioners. However, when the University of Dundee’s medical school merged with St Andrews’ Bute Medical School 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 and 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.

If the Bill is to pass the ScotGEM course will still require the General Medical Council’s (GMC) approval. It is for the GMC to determine whether a University will be added to their list of approved bodies to hold qualifying examinations or grant degrees in medicine. 

The Call for views Closes on 18 November 2020 and can be found online at: 

Media information

Warren Hardie: [email protected]

0131 348 5479

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Committee information

For further information on this inquiry please contact David Cullum, Clerk to the Health and Sport Committee –  [email protected]

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