RCSI School of Medicine recognised for excellence in Student Engagement

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The School of Medicine at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences has been named joint winner of the 2022 ASPIRE- to Excellence Award for Student Engagement.

The award, which was announced today during a live ceremony at AMEE Lyon 2022, recognises RCSI’s efforts to ensure that the expertise and perspectives of students and staff are equally valued and to put the voice of the student at the centre of the University’s decision-making.

RCSI is the first Irish medical school to receive this honour and joins a prestigious group of just 12 European medical schools to be recognised for excellence in Student Engagement. Joint winner for 2022 is the Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University and previous winners include Imperial College London, Warwick University and the University of Western Australia.

The award follows RCSI’s award as Sunday Times University of the Year for Student Engagement 2021.

Strategic vision for student partnership

RCSI’s 2018-2022 Strategic Plan incorporated student partnership as a key enabler in the university’s mission to transform healthcare education, research and service for the benefit of human health. Since 2018, the University has been on a journey of embedding a partnership culture, signaled by the appointment of Professor Celine Marmion as Deputy Dean for Student Engagement. Professor Marmion will now become a member of the AMEE ASPIRE Academy.

Working with and for students, Professor Marmion has led on the establishment of RCSI’s Student Engagement and Partnership (StEP) programme, which empowers staff and students to work with and learn from each other and ensures that students and staff have equal influence on decision-making.

The programme has a ring-fenced budget allowing for annual ‘open’ calls for StEP-funded projects. This has led to a significant increase in partnerships with key outputs impacting RCSI’s governance structures, academic and research programmes, and local communities.

Listening to the student voice

Student representation is written into all RCSI committee terms of references including the university’s senior academic governing authority (Medicine and Health Sciences Board). Since 2020, open calls have been held to recruit students onto committees and the unique RCSI Student Leadership Development programme empowers students in leadership roles.

The voice of the student has been central in the development of the School of Medicine’s new curriculum. Students are co-creators of the medical curriculum, with 36 students forming a Student Involvement Group to ensure that students inputted at every stage of the curriculum review process, including the new School of Medicine learning community framework which will transform the way students engage and learn with each other.

Embedding student engagement in RCSI culture

Through RCSI’s local community engagement programme (REACH RCSI), 450 students a year contribute to local community healthcare awareness and education provision via community-engaged learning (accredited), volunteering (extra-curricular) and RCSI student-led society initiatives.

Celebrating the students and staff who have been leaders in student partnership at RCSI, 87 students and 30 staff awardees have received Student Partnership Champion Awards since 2020.

Professor Cathal Kelly, Vice Chancellor, RCSI, said: “As healthcare educators, we believe that a culture of student engagement empowers students to develop as ‘enlightened professionals’ with the capacity to truly influence and transform human health in their professions. Students are equal partners in RCSI’s key decision-making processes, in their education and research and in serving our wider communities. This meaningful partnership between our students and staff has cultivated an academic environment wherein students have real agency and have the opportunity to build the knowledge and skills that will enable them to become change-makers as they advance in their careers.

“The ASPIRE award is testimony to the work led by our Deputy Dean for Student Engagement, Professor Celine Marmion, who together with students and staff, have truly embedded a universal culture of student engagement and partnership right across RCSI.” 

Amit Kalra, President of the RCSI Students’ Union, said: “At RCSI, the mission of leading the world to better health starts with fostering the growth of leaders in our community. The achievement of this award demonstrates our efforts in Student Engagement while the impact of this achievement will be felt by communities worldwide, for generations to come.”

Tim Vaughan-Ogunlusi, RCSI medical student representative on the StEP Committee, said: “The work put into developing a culture of universal partnership in RCSI has improved how students, faculty, and staff work and interact. These initiatives have built a well-supported harmonious community where hard work and collaboration breed mutual benefits and impactful outcomes. RCSI has developed a unique and equitable culture of student partnership which is woven into the institution's fabric. We are delighted that those efforts have been recognised through our success in this prestigious ASPIRE award.”

Each year, the ASPIRE-to Excellence Awards are given to the very best in health professions education across the world. They reward excellence across a wide breadth of subjects including student engagement, simulation, curriculum development, faculty development and student assessment.

Jim Rourke, Chair AMEE ASPIRE-to Excellence Board, said: “Applying for an ASPIRE award challenges schools to benchmark their school against what is considered exemplary. This requires students, staff and other stakeholders to develop and demonstrate excellence in education. The collaborative process stimulates the school’s focus on improving medical education.”