The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) appears likely to receive university status in the near future, the Irish Times is reporting, with legislation on the issue set to pass through the Oireachtas soon.
The Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, is drawing up an amendment to legislation that would allow the 235-year-old college to call itself a university and help improve its chances of attracting the best students and researchers internationally.
RCSI has been lobbying for university status for years. The government, however, has dragged its feet, mainly because of concerns that giving RCSI university status could create a precedent that other institutions would look to follow.
The government has also flagged as issues the governance arrangements of a college that was founded by royal charter in 1784, as well as the fact that its staff are currently paid privately.
RCSI has argued that it is not a private institution but a “public, statutory, regulated institution”.
The college says its status as a statutory body extends back to its foundation by charter, which was amended by the Oireachtas in the 1990s.
This statutory status, RCSI has said, is similar to Trinity’s.
It has also contended that it is a not-for-profit registered charity that is regulated by the Charities Regulator.
According to the Irish Times, however, the proposed change, which will probably be added in the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) (Amendment) Bill, will be written so as to avoid the possibility of creating a precedent that would allow other institutions the chance of claiming university status.
The change is currently being drafted, pending advice from the Attorney General.
RCSI is based on St Stephen’s Green and has about 3,500 trainees and students. It is currently planning to create a “university quarter” in the area.
The college has recently expanded to York St, where it built an €80 million medical education building. RCSI says the building offers students the most advanced facilities in Europe.