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Should UK membership exams be held overseas? No

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 28 July 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d4560
  1. Delan Devakumar, Wellcome Trust research fellow 1,
  2. Kate Mandeville, Wellcome Trust research fellow2
  1. 1University College London, London, UK
  2. 2 London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  1. Correspondence to: K Mandeville kate.mandeville{at}

Graeme Muir and Justin Thacker (doi:10.1136/bmj.d4566) believe that UK professional qualifications can help other countries improve training and standards, but Delan Devakumar and Kate Mandeville argue that they lack local relevance

While membership exams from UK medical colleges and faculties are an integral part of training for UK doctors, we believe that they are rarely appropriate and may be damaging in the long term when taken overseas.

All but one of the colleges run membership exams abroad, predominantly in Asian Commonwealth countries.1 From a historical perspective, this practice is understandable because medical training in many of these countries is based on the UK model. In the past, it was common for doctors to come to the UK for further postgraduate training, where many took the membership exams. Membership status thus gained reputational value in originating countries, leading to continued demand for these exams today. So the colleges’ decision to transport the exams overseas could be viewed as a natural progression, with financial benefits for the colleges and convenience for local candidates.

However, UK membership exams are no longer the necessity they once were. Many of these countries have developed their own postgraduate training and examinations,2 which better reflect local context. In this changed world, we believe that UK colleges should not run their membership exams …

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