Getting into medical school is competitive. Period. Year after year, many countries have more applications submitted to their medical schools than they have slots available.
As a result, many prospective medical students apply to and attend medical schools in another country. There are many fine medical schools throughout the world, so how should an applicant make his or her decision? Begin by looking for an accredited institution.
What does accreditation mean?
Accreditation is an important quality indicator. An accredited medical school has met the criteria of an objective accrediting body within the school’s geographic region or which may have been appointed by the medical school’s host country. This means that faculty have met certain qualifications, the curriculum has been fully vetted, and medical students have resources available to help them succeed in medical school and to prepare them for practice.
However, all accrediting bodies are not created equal. The United States Department of Education’s National Committee on Foreign Medical Education Accreditation (NCFMEA) has set rigorous standards for medical school accrediting bodies to meet. The NCFMEA has determined that 20 global medical school accrediting bodies have comparable accreditation criteria to the standards met by US and Canadian institutions. For a look at the list of NCFMEA-approved accrediting bodies, visit https://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/ncfmea.html
Students attending medical schools accredited by accrediting bodies listed on the NCFMEA website can be assured that the school has met rigorous standards. Websites of the accrediting agencies frequently list the accreditation status of medical schools under its jurisdiction.
Checking a claim of accreditation
A medical school’s website generally will have accreditation information. But how do you verify its claims?
While there are other organizations that accredit medical schools, no other group that vets medical school accrediting bodies is as well-respected as NCFMEA. A prospective student should check to make sure that the medical school’s accrediting body is listed on the NCFMEA’s website.
- Some medical school websites may claim that the school is accredited by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO is not an accrediting body. It publishes the World Directory of Medical Schools which lists medical schools in each country at the request of their government. It does not grant accreditation or recognition to medical schools or its programs.
- Others may claim to be accredited by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) or the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER). Neither of these organizations is an accrediting body, though both are committed to promoting excellence in international medical education. Among other activities, FAIMER maintains the International Medical Education Directory. The ECFMG certifies international medical graduates for entry into US graduate medical education and participates in the evaluation and certification of other physicians and healthcare professionals. For more information, visit www.faimer.org and www.ecfmg.org.
Why accreditation matters
Attending an accredited medical school means that your education will meet certain accepted standards and may improve your chances of getting a better internship or residency training slot. Keep in mind that many factors come into play. Accreditation is not a panacea.
Medical licensing boards in many countries and their respective states require applicants to have attended an accredited medical school. If you are considering a new school or a school not widely known, graduating from a medical school accredited by a NCFMEA-recognized body may help state medical boards evaluate your application for a license to practice.
Oceania University of Medicine (OUM) is accredited by the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities, which is recognized by the NCFMEA. Founded in 2002, OUM was first accredited in 2010 and was reaccredited in 2020 through 2025.