Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI; Irish: Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn) is a professional association and educational institution that is responsible for the medical speciality of surgery throughout the island of Ireland. Uniquely among the four mutually recognised royal surgical colleges in the United Kingdom and Ireland, it also incorporates a medical school, which is now Ireland's largest with over 3,000 students from 60 countries. Since 2019 the body has had full university status, making it the first private university in Ireland.[3]

Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn[1]
MottoConsilio Manuque
(Scholarship and Dexterity)
Established11 February 1784 (precursor Guild, 1446)
Students4,185[2] (as of 2013)
Address, ,
Professor Cathal J. Kelly
Professor John Hyland
AffiliationsNational University of Ireland

The RCSI's main campus is situated on St. Stephen's Green in Dublin, having received its royal charter in 1784. At present, it incorporates schools of medicine, pharmacy, physiotherapy and nursing, and thus provides both undergraduate and postgraduate levels of education and research activities in a number of healthcare fields.



Since medieval times, the practice of surgery was licensed by the Barber-Surgeons' Guild, also known at the time as the Guild of St Mary Magdalene. The guild chapel was in Christ Church Cathedral. Guild membership at that time was obtained by a 3-year apprenticeship followed by 2 years as a master. In fact the College of Surgeons maintained a mandatory period of apprenticeship to a qualified surgeon until 1828.

In 1446, the Guild of St Mary Magdelene (of Barbers) was incorporated by royal decree of Henry VI, becoming the first medical corporation in Britain or Ireland.

Towards a College of Surgeons

In 1765 Sylvester O'Halloran, a surgeon from Limerick, proposed a College of Surgeons along the lines of the College de St. Cosme in Paris, which had been regulating French surgeons since it had been created by Royal Charter by Louis IX in 1255, to train and regulate surgeons.[5] The Dublin Society of Surgeons was founded in 1780 at the Elephant public house on Essex street (now Parliament street). Trinity College did not teach surgery as a subject until 1851, so Ireland was entirely without a school focused on surgery.

To have a separate organisation focused on providing standardised surgical education became one of the goals of the society and they lobbied for a Royal Charter, in 1781 presenting the Lord Lieutenant a petition to be incorporated separately from the barbers. The awaited charter was granted by King George III on 11 February 1784. The governing body, including the first president Samuel Croker-King and William Dease, first professor of surgery, met in the boardroom of the Rotunda Hospital for the first time on 2 March. Importantly, admission or employment was not discriminated against on sectarian grounds. Two of its chief founders, Sylvester O'Halloran and William Dease, as well as eleven out of its first 57 presidents, were Catholics. The college also recognised the medical qualifications given by the Catholic university from 1856, which gave legitimacy to their diplomas. The first candidate for examination was John Birch, in August 1784.

York Street

The current location, at the corner of York Street, was acquired in September 1805, with additional land at Glover's Alley bought in 1809. It was previously an abandoned Quaker burial ground. The Duke of Bedford laid the first stone of the new building on St. Patrick's Day, 1806 and building reached completion in March 1810.

A supplemental charter was granted by Queen Victoria in 1844, dividing medical graduates into Licentiates and Fellows. Initially, physicians were trained alongside surgeons. In 1886 these two disciplines were merged, and the medical school began operation. As a result of this historical legacy, graduates of medicine still receive Licentiate diplomas from the two Royal Colleges as well as now being awarded MB (Bachelor of Medicine) BCh (Bachelor of Surgery) and BAO (Bachelor of the Art of Obstetrics) degrees by the National University of Ireland.

20th century

During the 1916 Rising, the main college building on St Stephen's Green was occupied by Irish Citizen Army forces, led by Commandant Michael Mallin and Countess Markievicz. After surrendering, both were tried and sentenced to death. Mallin was executed while Markievicz's sentence was commuted due to her gender.

The RCSI was the first medical institution of learning to offer a 4-year graduate entry programme for medicine in Ireland. Now defunct subjects taught include: Logic (1852–1862), Military Surgery (1851–1860), Botany (1792–1889) and Hygiene or Political Medicine (1841–1921, then united with chair of Medical Jurisprudence).

Since the 1980s Beaumont Hospital, Dublin has been the principal centre for medical training. Other affiliated hospitals include teaching hospitals such as Connolly Hospital, Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, and St. Joseph's Hospital, Dublin, and there is now a group within the HSE hospital management structure, the RCSI Hospitals group.

21st century

In 2010, Prof. Eilis McGovern became President of the RCSI and thereby the first female President of any surgical Royal College in the world.[6][7]


The RCSI motto, "Consilio Manuque" (Scholarship and Dexterity), was adopted from the College de St. Cosme in Paris, which had been afforded the motto by Louis XIV. It was originally "Consiloque Manuque", his personal motto.

Academic structure

Undergraduate Faculties

  • School of Medicine (5 or 6-year programme, 4-year Graduate Entry Programme)
  • School of Pharmacy
  • School of Physiotherapy

Postgraduate Schools & Faculties

Values and admissions

RCSI is a culturally diverse, international organisation with alumni present in almost every country in the world. It describes its values as innovation, excellence, independence, academic freedom, diversity, tolerance and community. It champions a patient-centric approach to all its activities and endeavours.

RCSI now offers undergraduate degrees in Medicine, Pharmacy and Physiotherapy and is the largest Irish medical school. Its primary purpose is the education and training of healthcare professionals and health sciences research. More than 3,800 students representing 60 nations are currently enrolled in its Medicine (1,800), Pharmacy (200) and Physiotherapy (100) programmes. There are 17,000 RCSI alumni working as medical doctors or in allied disciplines around the world.

Student life

Students at RCSI are encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities that promote service in the community and cultural awareness. 80% of the student population is from outside the European Union, with a significant portion coming from North America, the Middle East and Asia. A complete list of current student societies and clubs can be found on the RCSI website.[8]

The Students' Union (SU) is an annually elected body, consisting of 8 officers. The SU is the college's bridge between faculty and the student body and is invited to most meetings, ensuring that student voices are heard on a variety of topics. The SU works closely with the Student Council, which consists of representatives from all classes at RCSI.

The Biological Society (BioSoc) is the official student society of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and claims to be the oldest student medical society in the world.

International aspects and operations

As a leading international medical institution, RCSI is active in all medically related sectors of education around the globe. During the South African Apartheid, for example, RCSI provided medical education to those that were discriminated against.[9] In 2005, RCSI Dubai was founded and currently offers a master's programme in Healthcare Management.

In 2007 RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons Ireland) in conjunction with Valentia Technologies, the Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB), and the Pre Hospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC) launched unique training initiative with the Emergency Medical Services Dubai Training Institute. The aim is to better patient care and improve response times within Dubai's emergency ambulance services.[10]

In Malaysia, RCSI, together with University College Dublin (UCD), owns a branch campus within George Town, the capital city of the State of Penang. Established in 1996, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and University College Dublin Malaysia Campus (RUMC), formerly known as the Penang Medical College, offers twinning programmes in which students typically spend the first half of their courses in either RCSI or UCD, before completing the courses back at RUMC.[11] Meanwhile, the Perdana University Royal College of Surgeon in Ireland (PU-RCSI) in the State of Selangor was established in 2011. The programme hosts up to 100 students per year on its 5-year undergraduate medical programme, the first cohort graduated in 2016.

RCSI-Bahrain is a fully owned constituent university of RCSI and already has nearly 450 registered students. The first cohort commenced medical studies in October 2004 and graduates are entitled to a Degree of Bachelor of Medicine, NUI, Bachelor of Surgery, Bachelor of Obstetrics MB, BCh, BAO (NUI, RCSI) degree. In 2006 the Medical University of Bahrain established a new School of Nursing which took its first cohort of students in September 2006. Since 2009 students can also obtain the degrees conferred upon RCSI graduates from the National University of Ireland.

For students at the home institution of RCSI, options may be taken abroad as a result of collaborative agreements with other medical schools around the world. In 2007, these medical schools included Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, and Tufts University. There are also informal agreements with other institutions such as the Johns Hopkins University and Mayo Clinic.

More than 60 countries from each continent are represented in the RCSI student body.

Notable alumni

See also


  1. "Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland".
  2. RCSI official website. "RCSI official report 2013". Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  4. Dublin delineated in twenty-six views, etc. Dublin: G. Tyrrell, 1937. p. 49.
  5. The Proposals for the Advancement of Surgery in Ireland.
  6. "Irish doctor becomes first female president of Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland". 3 June 2010 via
  7. "Prof Eilis McGovern". UCD School of Medicine & Medical Science.
  8. "Clubs & Societies".
  9. "Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland".
  10. "Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland".
  11. "College's largest batch of 150 medical students receive their scrolls - Metro News | The Star Online". Retrieved 20 July 2018.

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