Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI), has petitioned the Irish Government to grant it university status. The RCSI which is known as a “University of Medicine and Health Science” abroad, is prohibited from using the term in Ireland.
Conditions for use of the term ‘university’ are controlled under the Universities Act 1997. Obstacles to recognition of the RCSI as a university include governance arrangements and its existence outside of public sector pay controls.
However, the RCSI has argued that although it is mostly self-financed, it is not a private institution and therefore should not be denied University classification. “It is a statutory body – founded by a charter (1784) – which has subsequently been amended by the Houses of the Oireachtas (1993),” the RSCI announced. “Its statutory status in that respect is precisely the same as that of Trinity College Dublin.”
The Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015 has allowed the RCSI to use the term ‘university’ to describe itself outside of Ireland. However, the RCSI has reported resulting confusion for prospective students and staff. “We find it difficult to explain the restriction – and hence have been playing down the ‘university authorisation’ given to us,” a spokeswoman said. “It’s not helpful.”
The Department of Education and Skills is yet to address the issue due to its ongoing legislation establishing technological universities. Concerns exist among some officials that a move to allow the RCSI to describe itself as a university could put this concurrent process at risk.
Education spokesman for Fianna Fáil, Thomas Byrne, supports the move for granting university status to the RCSI. Byrne reported plans to propose an amendment allowing the change when the technological universities Bill reaches the report stage.
The RCSI is urging the Government to prioritise its status. It says its status leaves it open to “potential reputational damage and accusations of misrepresentation” and that its current ability to “attract students” is limited.
The RCSI is registered as a not-for-profit charity. It is regulated by the Charities Regulator.