A London university is to open a private medical school in Malta, with students paying just over £25,000 a year in tuition fees.
Queen Mary University of London will begin teaching a five-year course in medicine on the Maltese island of Gozo from September – with an initial intake of 60 students.
Those accepted on to the course, which is aimed at international students and will cost €35,000 (£25,500 a year), will be expected to have achieved similar secondary school-level exam grades to those held by Queen Mary medical students in London, and will take the same course assessments as their counterparts in the UK.
The students will be taught at a new medical school built by the Maltese government, which is keen to establish the Mediterranean state as a healthcare referral centre, attracting fee-paying patients from North Africa and Europe.
“We’ve been very specific about what physical space our students need,” said Anthony Warrens, dean for education at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, the university’s medical school.
“The level of detail we’ve provided is quite amazing, going down to the amount of power sockets that each room needs for student computers,” he added.
The investment from the Maltese government also means that Queen Mary has made “no significant capital investment” in the scheme and its financial risk is “negligible”, said Professor Warrens.
That may reassure those worried that Queen Mary may face the same problems suffered by other UK universities that have branched out to the Mediterranean.
The University of East London had to wind up its campus in Cyprus because of low enrolment, while the University of Central Lancashire’s Cyprus site has recorded a £3.1 million loss over the past two years.
“There is no such thing as a risk-free international venture,” admitted Professor Warrens. “But we believe we have mitigated the vast majority of risk.”
Queen Mary had modelled for the “worst possible scenarios”, but the university was “generally quite optimistic” about the project’s financial, academic and social benefits, he said.
“We believe we are a university with a good international profile and we have something worth exporting,” he added, saying that the Malta venture would increase the university’s international brand.
As the courses in London and Malta are identical, students in the UK capital would be able to take modules at the new campus, he added.
The Malta course is cheaper than the £30,000 charged to overseas students wanting to study medicine at Queen Mary in London.
However, it may also prove a hit with UK students given the fierce competition for places at medical schools where domestic fees are capped at £9,000.
A new private medical school at the University of Buckingham, which opened in January, charges fees of £35,000 a year. It received 500 applications for the 67 first-year spaces available.