How new schools are added to the list of awarding bodies

We have a duty to ensure that medical education and training in the UK is of a high standard. As well as approving and quality assuring postgraduate training, we also have a responsibility to ensure that undergraduate education meets our standards. Any additions or changes to our list of bodies able to award a primary medical qualification (PMQ) are subject to a range of quality assurance activities.

The process

All institutions looking to establish a new medical school or programme (both overseas and within the UK) will be subject to an extensive period of quality assurance. During this there are various stages which must be satisfied before we can add them to the list of bodies able to award a PMQ or new programme.

The process is set out below. We expect any institution seeking to establish a new school or programme to contact us about three years before they expect their first cohort of students.

Stage 1: Screening

  • Initial identification of risk
  • Use of limited, external evidence

Stage 2: Finance audit

  • Independent audit of the business plan by an external, reputable auditor
  • Check viability and realism of the business plan

Stage 3: Documents requested

  • Review of planning and underlying structures
  • Ensure there are milestones and deadlines

Stage 4: Further documents requested

  • Ensure that the development of the programme is on track
  • Review final documents and check they demonstrate development is on track

Stage 5: Visit

  • Triangulate that school is on track with those tasked with planning and delivery
  • Test understanding of key issues

Stage 6: Decision

  • Commit resources to rolling quality assurance
  • The school can recruit students

Stage 7: Rolling quality assurance

  • Ongoing cycles of quality assurance activities
  • Annual reports issued to monitor progress

Stage 8: Council decision

  • Council agrees to add the school to our list of awarding bodies
  • School is able to award its own primary medical qualifications

Quality assurance activities

At any point in the first six stages we may ask institutions for further development of their application. This might delay the selection of the first cohort of students.

If we agree to commit resources to a rolling programme of assurance at the end of the initial visit, then an annual cycle of quality assurance will begin. A team of associates and GMC staff will undertake a series of visits until the first cohort of students graduate. These visits will assess the institution’s progress in meeting the standards set out in Promoting excellence: standards for medical education and training. A report based on these visits and additional evidence submitted by the institution is published each academic year which summarises our findings, sets requirements and recommendations, and recognises good practice. Read more about visits and monitoring.

Please note that the frequency and intensity of quality assurance activities will depend on a number of factors including risk, quality of application, and timescales.  We will agree a draft schedule of visits with the applying institution.  

For more information please contact the new schools team at quality@gmc-uk.org.

View the medical school annual reports.