IRELAND: First graduate medical school

Ireland’s first graduate medical school opened last month at the University of Limerick, a 35 year-old institution with no tradition of medical education.

The Irish government's approval of the course in Limerick annoyed traditional universities, which were the main losers in a bidding war for graduate entry programmes. The recommend share-out of 240 new places nationally was made by an international panel impressed by the preparations made by Limerick.

Three years ago, the university saw the likelihood of a graduate school emerging in Ireland and appointed an Irish academic, Professor Paul Finucane, to do the ground work.

Finucane was the ideal choice as he had played a key role in the introduction of Australia's first graduate-entry medical programme at Flinders University in Adelaide. He is a former vice-president of the Australasian and New Zealand Association for Medical Education and has published extensively in the field of geriatrics.

An agreement was signed some months ago to allow the curriculum at the medical school in St George's University, London, to be adapted by Limerick. The course is based on an apprenticeship model where students experience applied learning based on problem solving in an actual clinical environment from the first week they enter.

The Limerick medical school opened its doors to 30 graduates last month with EU students facing fees of €12,000 (US$8,400) annually for the four-year course while the one Canadian student is paying €25,000. When the school is fully operational it will have an annual intake of 108 graduates.

The other main winner was the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, which started with a graduate intake of 30 this year, rising eventually to 40. The remaining 92 places will be allocated to traditional universities who already have undergraduate medical schools – the National University of Ireland Galway, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and University College Cork.

The four had formed a consortium in the hope they would get the lion's share of the graduate medical places this year. But they have been told to come back with individual applications for next year's allocation.