Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh

The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd) is an independent, charitable professional organisation committed to advancing surgical excellence through education, training, examinations and CPD, with a focus on patient care and patient outcomes. The College has seven active Faculties, covering the broad spectrum of surgical, dental and other medical practice. Its main campus is located on Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, within the William Henry Playfair designed Surgeons' Hall and adjoining buildings. The main campus includes a dedicated skills laboratory, the award-winning Surgeons' Hall Museums, a medical and surgical library and the 4-star Ten Hill Place Hotel. A second office was opened in Birmingham (UK) in 2014 and an international office opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2018.

The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
FounderKing James IV
Coordinates55°56′48″N 03°11′07″W

It is one of the oldest surgical corporations in the world[1] and traces its origins to 1505 when the Barber Surgeons of Edinburgh were formally incorporated as a craft guild of Edinburgh. The College is a global network of medical professionals, with some 26,000 members worldwide. 40% of members are based outside of the UK, living and working in more than 100 countries around the world. The majority of the College's UK members are based in England with others across Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Membership covers individuals at all stages of their careers, including students, trainees, consultants and those who have retired from practice.

Vision and Mission

The College's vision is 'To achieve the best possible outcomes for patients worldwide'. Its stated mission is, 'The pursuit of excellence and advancement in surgical and dental practice through leadership, innovation and standard setting in education, training and continuing professional development.


The College currently has seven active Faculties:

The Faculty of Surgical Trainers The Faculty of Surgical Trainers is open to all those with an active interest or involvement in surgical training in the UK and internationally. Its purpose is to help support and develop surgeons in their roles as surgical trainers. It works to increase the profile and recognition of surgical education and training and to disseminate the message that excellent surgical training means excellent and safer patient care. It champions and promotes training in non-technical skills, as well as traditional technical skills, to further enhance patient safety and provide a framework for the training and education of surgical trainers.

The Faculty of Perioperative Care The College established the Faculty of Perioperative Care in recognition of the evolving and increasingly important role that surgical care practitioners and surgical first assistants play as part of the wider surgical team in delivering safe surgical care to patients.

The Faculty of Pre-Hospital Care The Faculty is open to a broad range of practitioners, including first-aiders, paramedics, doctors, nurses, first responders, voluntary aid workers and remote medics including multi agency teams such as police, fire and armed forces. The Faculty's aim is to set and maintain clinical standards for all practitioners in this evolving specialty.

The Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine The College houses the intercollegiate Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine (FSEM) and administers examinations on its behalf. FSEM works to develop and promote the medical specialty of sport and exercise medicine.

The Faculty of Remote and Rural Healthcare This aim of this new Faculty, is to work with partners to champion equitable, economically-viable access to integrated healthcare that improves the health and medical outcomes of people living and working in remote and rural areas.

The Faculty of Dental Trainers The Faculty of Dental Trainers (FDT), launched in September 2016 is inclusive of all members of the dental team. FDT promotes the role of trainers in dentistry, recognises achievement and excellence and, by the upholding of its Standards, enhances the quality of patient care. FDT reports to the Council of RCSEd's Faculty of Dental Surgery.

The Faculty of Dental Surgery The Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS), established in 1982, is the largest of the College's faculties, with over 6,000 Fellows and Members worldwide and its own Council. The FDS portfolio includes a wide range of exams and courses held worldwide. Main exams throughout the year include the MFDS, a range of specialty membership exams in endodontics, orthodontics, periodontology, prosthodontics and advanced dental surgery, MAGDS plus a range of exams for dental care practitioners. The Faculty works with its sister Colleges in London and Glasgow in delivering the Tri-Collegiate Specialty Membership Examinations in Oral Surgery, Paediatric Dentistry and Special Care Dentistry.


The 16th century

In 1505, the Barber Surgeons of Edinburgh were formally incorporated as a Craft Guild of the city and this recognition is embodied in the Seal of Cause (or Charter of Privileges) which was granted to the Barber Surgeons by the Town Council of Edinburgh on 1 July 1505.

The Seal of Cause conferred various privileges and imposed certain crucially important duties, the most important of these that all apprentices should be literate, that every master should have full knowledge of anatomy and surgical procedures and that this knowledge should be tested at the end of apprenticeship, all clauses still relevant to surgical practice and the College today.[2]

The 17th century: the first permanent meeting place

In 1647 the Incorporation acquired a permanent meeting place for the first time in rented rooms of a tenement in Dickson's Close. At the end of the century however, work on what is now known as 'Old Surgeons' Hall', in High School Yards, was started and by 1697 was completed and occupied.

The 18th century: the growth of scientific medicine in Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh Medical School (established in 1726) and The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh were responsible for the rapid development in Edinburgh of systematic medical teaching on a sound scientific basis. Surgery however was perceived by many as still being a manual craft rather than an intellectual discipline, so members of the Incorporation of Surgeons undertook the task of education and did much to establish Edinburgh's reputation as a centre of surgical teaching. In 1778, King George III granted a new charter giving the surgeons' corporation the title "The Royal College of Surgeons of the City of Edinburgh".

The 19th century: a new meeting place, the Playfair Building

By the beginning of the 19th century, the Old Surgeons' Hall had become inadequate for the College and there was an urgent need to provide suitable accommodation for the large collection of anatomical and surgical specimens which had been presented to the College by Dr John Barclay. A site for this was acquired by the purchase of a Riding School in Nicolson Street. William Henry Playfair, 1790–1857, the foremost Scottish architect of that era, was commissioned to design a building containing a meeting hall, Museum, Lecture Room and Library as its principal apartments. Surgeons' Hall was completed in May 1832 and formally opened two months later.

The 20th century: a period of expansion

In July 1905, the College celebrated the fourth centenary of its Incorporation and as part of the celebrations conferred Honorary Fellowship upon 36 of the world's most distinguished surgeons. These included Lord Lister, the acknowledged 'Father of Modern Surgery' who had become a Fellow in 1855. In 1955, on the 450th Anniversary of the foundation of the College, the Honorary Fellowship was conferred upon His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, who had consented to become Patron of the College earlier in that year. A derelict tenement on Hill Place was made available to the college by Edinburgh District Council and this was topped out in May 1981.[3]

The 21st century: the College today

The College celebrated its Quincentenary in 2005 with the opening of a new skills laboratory and conference venue, and of its Ten Hill Place Hotel. Today the College continues to serve its original role, to continue education, assessment and the advancement of surgeons and surgery. In April 2014 the college opened a regional centre in Birmingham to cater for the 80% of its UK membership based in England and Wales.[4]


Dentistry has been an important part of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh since the Incorporation of Barber Surgeons were granted their Seal of Cause by Edinburgh Town Council in 1505, though it remained largely unregulated in Edinburgh until the middle of the 19th century. In 1879 the Diploma of Licentiate in Dental Surgery (LDS) was introduced and recognised for admission to the Dentist's Register. In 1921, the Dentists Act raised standards, and only dentists who had been trained in a dental school could be admitted to the Register and allowed to practice dentistry.

The Edinburgh Dental School became part of the University of Edinburgh in 1948 and graduates awarded the Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS). The same year, the College introduced the diploma of Fellowship in Dental Surgery (FDSRCSEd). In 1982, Dental Surgery became a distinct faculty within the College and continues to concentrate on the education, training and maintenance of standards of professional competence and conduct.


To be admitted as a member to the college, trainee surgeons are required to sit and pass FRCS Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons examinations, which usually happens after five years of surgical training. Since September 2008, the FRCS has become an Intercollegiate Examination, with a syllabus, format and content common to all three colleges in the UK (The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, The Royal College of Surgeons of England and The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow).

The College conducts a number of other examinations, including dental examinations, immediate medical care examinations and sport and exercise medicine.


The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh runs a large range of educational events and courses for medical students interested in surgery, through to surgical trainees and consultant specialists. Many of these courses are held in the Surgical Skills Laboratory on site in Edinburgh, but the College does also conduct courses abroad to address particular needs.

They offer distance learning courses through their Department of eLearning. The Post-Graduate Certificate in Remote and Offshore Medicine (CertROM) is an example of a course that consists entirely of online modules, although for the diploma (DipROM) attendance of a workshop is also required.[5]

Certain educational courses based in Manchester such as Future Surgeons: Key Skills, Basic Surgical Skills and MRCS Exam Preparatory courses are run in collaboration and conjunction with Doctors Academy.


The Museum linked to the College is open to the public and houses one of the largest collections of pathological artifacts in Britain. The museum dates from 1699 and underwent major improvements in 2015.[6]

Previous Conservators of the museum include John Goodsir, William Rutherford Sanders, James Bell Pettigrew, David Middleton Greig, and D. E. C. Mekie.[7]

See also


  1. Dingwall, Helen. A Famous And Flourishing Society. Edinburgh. Edinburgh University Press. 2005
  2. Macintyre, Iain; MacLaren, Iain (2005). Surgeons' Lives. Edinburgh: Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. p. 16. ISBN 0-9503620-9-3.
  3. "Surgeon does a neat job patching up roof". The Glasgow Herald. 21 May 1981. p. 3. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  4. "Surgeons Cut Ribbon". The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. 1 April 2014. Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  5. "Diploma in Remote and Offshore Medicine". Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 11 August 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2014.
  6. "Home - Surgeons' Hall Museums, Edinburgh".
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