This AUCMS Twinned programme involves the integration of the high quality medical education which UCC and NUI Galway have traditionally provided to Malaysian medical students coming to Ireland, and the far-sighted development plans of Allianze University College of Medical Sciences (AUCMS) to develop medical education in Malaysia. The outcome is a joint programme where students will commence their medical studies in Ireland and, having completed 2.5 years of their programme, they will then transfer back to Malaysia to complete the second 2.5 years, involving their major clinical rotations in Malaysian hospitals.
The Irish Universities have been engaged in the medical education of undergraduate Malaysian students for more than 20 years in what the Universities regard as an outstandingly successful programme. Large numbers of high-quality school-leavers have been recruited from Malaysia –the majority are Government sponsored and some are privately funded. The students have benefited from the high standard of medical education in Ireland, and the Malaysian Government recognises that students educated through the Irish system achieve high clinical standards and it is keen therefore to maintain and further develop the link.
In the medium to long-term, Malaysia plans to become self-sufficient in medical education.. In 2005 the Ministry of Health in Malaysia approached the Irish Universities with a view to developing a partnership arrangement with an education institute in Malaysia to provide a programme more closely aligned to the healthcare setting for Malaysian graduates The partnership arrangement with NUIG and UCC is the outcome of these discussions – finalised in a Memorandum of Agreement, signed in Penang on January 22nd 2009.
The partners will deliver a 5-year medical programme, under the approval of the Medical Councils in each country. Up to 120 students are recruited each year, allocated 60 each to the medical schools in UCC and NUI Galway. This is where the ‘pre-clinical’ phase of the programme is delivered, providing the first 2.5 years of the degree programme in Ireland. Subject to satisfactory progression, students will then return to Malaysia to undertake clinical training in the final 2.5 years (the second part of the medical degree).
In this Malaysia-based clinical phase, the Irish partners are providing the academic structures to ensure that the quality and standards of medical education are those of the Irish medical schools, delivered in the Malaysian setting. This will be assured by the appointment of a Dean and a team of Clinical Professors to be located principally in Taiping Hospital. While the clinical phase is delivered in this way, in a system jointly governed by the partners, the medical degree awarded to each graduate will be that of UCC or of NUI Galway – depending on the medical school where their studies commenced. This gives the Irish Universities a key responsibility to assure the quality of the educational and clinical outcomes.
A representative of NUI Galway and UCC has been in place since October 2008 to oversee the necessary preparations, arrangements and communications between the partners. The programme enters the very exciting phase of its first student intake in September 2011.
ACMS as it was originally known, was established in 2002 on a campus in Kepala Batas in Northern Malaysia close to the main bridge to Penang Island. Recently awarded University status, the name has changed to Allianze University College of Medical Sciences (AUCMS). The College currently delivers a range of programmes in Medicine, Physiotherapy and Pharmacy.
It is recognised as a key partner in the development of the northern corridor of Malaysia and has clearly articulated and ambitious plans for development of health care facilities, education and medical research in Northern Malaysia. MARA, the key Government agency, is also collaborating with AUCMS by allocating substantial sponsorship places to this twinning programme.
The principal cohort of students are sponsored by MARA and enter the programme having attained an agreed academic standard. This includes students in any of the following categories:
- Students who have achieved high grades in SPM, and have pursued a foundation/pre-medical year –such as the Foundation Programme provided by AUCMS at its Kepala Batas campus or an equivalent programme, achieving a grade point average of 3.65 or better;
- Students achieving ABB or better at A levels or International Baccalaureate results with a score of 36 or better, excluding bonus points.
- Science graduates with high grade point averages.
All students will have achieved an overall grade 6.5 or higher, with not less than 6.0 in any component, in the International English Language Testing System(IELTS). All students will also be interviewed by members of staff from UCC and NUIG. Students who reach the required academic standard and are successful at interview will be offered a place at either NUIG or UCC.
The curriculum is delivered over 5 academic years, in ten semesters. In Ireland, the academic year commences with the first semester of the year in September, and the second semester commences in January following seasonal holidays in late December.
The first 5 semesters (2.5 years) are delivered in Ireland, with students registered either in the Medical School of UCC or of NUI Galway. They will be taught the curriculum of that Medical School and therefore the detail will be slightly different for students in each school. The following is a general composite description however.
The curriculum has a significant amount of integration of basic and clinical science education in a systems-based approach throughout. Many modules include teaching from basic scientists and appropriate clinicians with a view to ensuring that students can see the relevance of their basic science education throughout their future clinical practice.
The curriculum is delivered in modular fashion and it follows the European Credit (ECTS) system. Each undergraduate year has 60 ECTS credits – in Galway each of the two semesters being 30 credits each. The general building block adopted is that of 5 modules of 6 credits delivered simultaneously over a semester, with interdisciplinary cohesion and joint assessment across disciplines. In UCC modules carry 5-20 credits each adding to a total of 60 credits per year, again with interdisciplinary. Both curricula meet the EU requirement of 5,500 hours for medical education and this is reflected in the length of the academic years .
Professionalism and Behavioural science form a vertical strand in the curriculum focused on understanding health and illness, personal development, communication and patient-doctor interactions. The professionalism modules comprise strands of Medical Informatics, Communication and Interview Skills, Behavioural Science, Health and Medical Law, Ethics and Human Rights. In addition, the professionalism modules include a very attractive programme of Student-Selected Modules, periods of optional study chosen by students who can devote time to areas in which they have a particular interest. Early patient contact is a component of the Professionalism modules in years 1-2.
In Years 1-2, 80% of the curriculum is devoted to Systems-based basic sciences Education. These modules provide discipline-specific introductory material before proceeding on to integrated system-based content in Cardiovascular, Respiratory, Gastrointestinal, Neurological, Renal, Endocrine and Reproduction. These systems-based modules incorporate teaching from the disciplines of Physiology, Biochemistry, Anatomy and Pharmacology and in addition each module has selective teaching from clinicians with a view to placing the systems-based basic science education in a clinical context, thus ensuring the students can see the relevance of their basic science education through their future clinical practice. Students also undertake a module each year which acts as an introduction to the clinical and communication skills required for effective interaction and assessment of patients. The course lays heavy emphasis on the demonstration of the relevance and application of the fundamental medical sciences and bio-psycho-social models in clinical presentation and examination, and includes training in basic proficiency in first aid skills.
The transition from learning the scientific basis of medicine to clinically centred teaching is facilitated by modules in Epidemiology, Health & Disease, Human Genetics, Pathology and Organ Failure and Pharmacology in Year 2. These modules provide a foundation for a more extensive integrated module on Health and Disease in Semester 5 – as preparation before students return to Malaysia. The Health & Disease modules are delivered by the disciplines of Bacteriology, Pathology and Public Health with contributions from other disciplines. Information is included in Global Health and Development with input from public health medicine, bacteriology, infectious diseases, obstetrics and paediatrics.
Students should note that the second half of year 3 commences in Ireland and students will transfer midway through to Malaysia. In Ireland, the teaching is primarily devoted to Preparation for Clinical Practice. On transfer to Malaysia, clinical rotations commence with Clinical Practice interwoven with Professionalism. Once again, the modules are systems-based and integrated. They are taught by the disciplines of Medicine, Surgery, Anaesthesia and Radiology. Vertical integration with revision of surface Anatomy and physiological principles are included and delivered by basic scientists. Year 4 concentrates on modules in Maternal and Child Health, Mental Health, Primary Care and ENT, again interwoven with curriculum time devoted to Professionalism and reinforcement of clinical skills.
Teaching in the final year comprises integrated Advanced Clinical Practice and Specialist Clinical Modules (Dermatology/Plastics, Neurology/Ophthalmology, Renal/Urology, Musculoskeletal, Cancer Studies). This year also includes Shadowing for Clinical Practice to provide further training in procedural skills and competencies. 20% of the curriculum time in Year 5 will be devoted to Professionalism delivered in a manner which is closely integrated with the bedside teaching and practice in this final year.
The clinical part of the programme will be delivered from the main AUCMS campus at Kepala Batas and incorporate clinical placements at the major district hospital in Taiping, along with Kulim and other smaller local hospitals. The curriculum – as described above– will be delivered under the direction of the Irish partners, the Dean and a team of academic and clinical staff. Programme regulations and examinations will be those of the Irish Universities.
Studying in Ireland is a well-travelled path for Malaysian students over many years. Through their International Offices, the Irish Universities provide a very well-developed support services for International students. Services include accommodation advice, orientation, ongoing support and connection with the wider student services of the Universities.
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