Beware: Caribbean “Online” & 3-year MD Courses

Updated on 21/05/2024 in ,

Students have asked us about four-year medicine courses in the Caribbean, where the first two years are conducted primarily online, with the remaining two years in person. 

At first glance, the convenience and flexibility of such pathways appear highly appealing. However, as Medlink Students, our doctors have advised students against pursuing such experimental and unconventional pathways as outlined below. 

“This university was added to the case by case list due to concerns that a significant amount of the study leading to the award of the qualification is undertaken via online/remote learning..”
General Medical Council, UK

GMC on Online Studies

  1. In recent correspondence, the GMC clarified that while live lectures delivered online can contribute towards the total 5500 hours required for a medical degree, it should NOT form the majority of a course. The GMC also demand that: “There is a minimum expectation for a majority of a course to be taught in person.” In essence, the GMC requires that a medical degree meets the minimum expectation of being taught mostly in person.
  2. The GMC's position on online studies is further illustrated by another Caribbean university that incorporates elements of online learning. While the university is to date on the GMC's "may accept" list, the regulatory body expressed its concerns as recently as July 19, 2023: "A significant proportion of the study leading to the qualification is undertaken via online/remote learning," indicating the GMC's concern over the educational model's acceptability.

Accelerated “3 years” MD

We've received questions about 4-year MD programmes "accelerated" down to 3 years.

These unconventional routes allegedly allow students to study back-to-back, without breaks, and complete the programme in a condensed time frame of "3 years", claiming to meet GMC standards.

  1. Back in March 2023, the GMC clarified an already existing rule: "The World Directory of Medical Schools (WDOMS) states that the length of the programme [...] is 4 years,” Hence, “we [GMC] would not register anyone who has completed their studies in less than 4 years." Even if certain universities appear to allow a quicker course completion, it's crucial to stick to the length of the programme listed in the WDOMS. [1]
  2. America’s Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) requires medical graduates to have a minimum of four years of study. Even if students plan to work in the UK, meeting this rule keeps the door open should students plan to work in the U.S. one day.
  3. The GMC remains non-committal on the acceptability of 3-year medical courses, particularly about the one offered in Saint Lucia. The GMC stated, "Whether a 3-year course is acceptable is not something we can answer definitively. Commonwealth University College of Medicine is an institution we have highlighted as a potential issue due to course duration. Therefore, any qualification from the university will need a full new awarding body assessment at such time as a graduate contacts us regarding taking the PLAB or applying for registration."
  4.  The lack of formal assessment of the 3-year course by the GMC raises significant concerns for students considering Commonwealth University of Medicine in St Lucia, emphasising the need for careful consideration and research into the recognition of the medical program.

CAAMHP Accreditation: Online Studies

The Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine (CAAMHP) does not accredit Caribbean medicine courses that cater to online studies. Hence, prospective students must exercise caution regarding online studies. Students can contact CAAMHP directly for confirmation of the above.

Crucial Advice

Trying to navigate through shortcuts or following unconventional routes may jeopardise your eligibility for registration with professional bodies like the GMC post-graduation. 

A medical degree is not merely about obtaining a certificate but about acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in a rewarding field. Therefore, we encourage students to comprehensively research their options and choose programmes that:

  • Meet the accreditation criteria in the country where the university is located, and 
  • Meet the acceptable criteria in the country where students plan to work post-graduation.

Your future in medicine merits more than just an experimental, uncertain and doubtful approach; you deserve a proven, reputable path abroad. At Medlink Students, we are committed to helping you find that path - get in touch so we can provide you with facts on reliable pathways in the Caribbean

Ensure that you make the right choice in your educational journey in the Caribbean and opt for a programme that will equip you with full confidence in having open doors post-graduation. 

Remember, the journey to becoming a medical professional is challenging and demanding, but under the mantra of 'Sun, Sea & Study Medicine,' the rewards are undoubtedly worth your effort and compromise. 

[1] Most universities in the Caribbean are listed in the WDOMS as stand-alone 4-6 years in length for Medicine courses. You can check the programme length for each university you are researching by using the WDOMS search feature.

Article written by Dr Sam El Mais
Dr Sam El Mais, MD, MSc, BSc, graduated from a renowned medical school in Romania in 2019. He uses his professional knowledge and personal experience to guide students on crucial aspects such as university selection, admissions processes, and cultural adjustments.
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