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Membership exam fees frozen for physicians but set to rise in other specialties

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f5607 (Published 16 September 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5607
  1. Helen Jaques, news reporter
  1. 1BMJ Careers
  1. hjaques{at}bmj.com

The fees for the examinations for membership of the Royal College of Physicians have been frozen for 2014, whereas fees for other royal college membership exams are set to creep up next year.

The Federation of Royal Colleges of Physicians of the UK has announced that fees for the part 1, part 2, and part 2 clinical examination (PACES) of its membership exam will not increase between 2013 and 2014.

The management board for the exams has said that it chose to freeze fees to recognise the difficult financial situation currently faced by junior doctors, such as student debt and poor or non-existent increases in pay. Doctors and other public sector staff were subject to a two year pay freeze from 2011 to 2013,1 and doctors’ salaries rose by only 1% for 2013-14 after the freeze was removed.2 Inflation, on the other hand, was 2.8% in the year to July 2013.

The board said, “We know that candidates are concerned about rising costs, and we want to reassure them that MRCP(UK) is making significant investments to provide a cost effective service, while maintaining the academic quality that our stakeholders tell us is so essential to the professional value of their exams.”

However, the fees for the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health membership exams have risen for 2014—by around 5%, considerably more than inflation, in the case of the RCPCH (table).

Fees for royal college membership examinations in 2013 and 2014

View this table:

Simon Newell, vice president for training and assessment at the RCPCH, said that the college has had to increase fees to meet rising costs. “As with any exam of this calibre, the cost of hosting and facilitating increases year on year to meet rising secretarial, travel, and accommodation costs,” he said.

The college has also had to cover its investment in the move from written exams to computer based testing, in which written exams are sat online by candidates at a choice of “test centres” in the UK and overseas, he added. “By investing in this examinations model, we can make sitting RCPCH exams more efficient and accessible for the candidate.”

The Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Royal College of General Practitioners have yet to set the 2014 fees for their membership exams. Likewise the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has not yet set its membership exam fees for 2014 but has said that fees for next year may rise.

Last year the Royal College of Psychiatrists froze its exam fees after it emerged that the college had made more than £600 000 worth of profit from the fees.3 The college has said that it is holding off setting fees until later this year, when it is better informed about the number of doctors taking the exams in 2013 and is better placed to avoid another surplus.

References

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