Colonised! Is Malaysia Over-Recognising UK’s Specialist Qualification? — Concerned Decolonised Physician

A physician says the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in Cardiothoracic Surgery isn’t on UK GMC’s list of acceptable postgraduate qualifications. “Should Malaysia ‘over’ recognise a UK qualification, more than GMC is recognising?”

Dear Malaysians,

In 2024, it would have been 67 years since our independence from the British, but yet, reading what has transpired over the weeks in the media, it seems that we are still very much colonised.

The current debate is on recognising medical specialist qualifications from the United Kingdom, in particular, the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in Cardiothoracic Surgery (FRCS Ed). 

A check on the official stand of the UK’s own medical council, the General Medical Council (GMC), on these qualifications is alarming. 

From the UK GMC’s webpages, there is a strong sense that the fellowship programmes and examinations performed outside of the UK, offered by the UK royal colleges, are not regulated by the UK authority.

On the UK GMC’s webpage, there is a list of acceptable postgraduate qualifications that “provide evidence that an applicant have the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to apply for full registration with a licence to practise”

The Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in Cardiothoracic Surgery (FRCS Ed) is not in that list. 

Upon further reading on publicly accessible websites on Cardiothoracic Surgery training and qualification, it appears that only the training in UK is regulated. 

It is only Intercollegiate Specialty Examinations that are regulated by the General Medical Council (GMC) and it is therefore only the Intercollegiate Specialty Examinations that are recognised by the GMC and Medical Council in Ireland as the test of knowledge within the approved UK/Ireland surgical curricula”. Any other examination giving rise to other qualification is not equivalent for purposes of registration.

Of course, one can still apply to enter the UK GMC specialist register, but this would take a fairly comprehensive exercise to show comparability to the UK training curriculum.

One may be tempted to say, “just apply then”, except that the FRCS Ed is supposed to be a UK qualification. 

So why should our Malaysian graduates possessing this UK qualification need to prove comparability in the UK?

This then begs the question, should Malaysia “over” recognise a UK qualification, more than their own regulatory body (GMC) is recognising? Would we do this if the qualification was from other parts of the world?

The way the international programmes are run by these UK royal colleges smacks of global health education inequality. They are the Global North “saving” and “teaching” Malaysians in the Global South. 

But in this case, the curriculum apparently is homegrown (coined the National Curriculum), the training is done largely by Malaysians (in Ministry of Health hospitals, university hospitals, and the National Heart Institute), and we are paying for this! 

The least UK colleges could do is be accountable by advocating to GMC to allow direct registration of all graduates with their qualifications or to make sure their local Malaysian partners comply to local standi. 

I feel as if Malaysia is still being “colonised and plundered” by the UK’s double-standard policies that are couched as saviourism.  

Sadly, our own Malaysians are welcoming this “plundering” with open arms, even to the extent of changing Malaysian laws and Acts.

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