Examining the diversity of MRCS examiners

Ricky Ellis* (Corresponding Author), Peter A Brennan, John Hines, Amanda J Lee, Jennifer Cleland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: MRCS examiners are the face of the Royal College of Surgeons for early-career surgeons and should therefore represent the workforce they are examining as not to marginalise or negatively impact on the assessment experience of candidates from minoritised groups. This study aimed to explore the diversity of MRCS examiners and whether they represent the demographics of the MRCS candidates.

METHODS: A retrospective observational study including all active examiners and examination candidates who attempted MRCS Part A or Part B between January 2020 and July 2021. Self-declared demographic data collected by the Intercollegiate Committee for Basic Surgical Examinations (ICBSE) included gender, sexual orientation, disability status and ethnicity. Following data anonymisation, total group response frequencies were made available to the research team for statistical analysis.

RESULTS: Chi-squared analyses showed statistically significant differences in the representation of gender, disability and ethnicity between candidates and examiners (all p < 0.001). Men (83.9% (n = 1121) vs 70.9% (n = 6017) respectively), individuals without disability (98.7% (n = 917) vs 96.1% (n = 6847)) and individuals of White ethnicity (36.6% (n = 346) vs 20.4% (n = 1223)) were significantly overrepresented in the examiners compared to the examination candidates. There was no statistically significant difference in sexual orientation between examiners and candidates (p = 0.712).

CONCLUSIONS: Broadly speaking, the socio-demographic profile of MRCS examiners reflects that seen in senior and leadership positions in surgery in the UK - that is, predominantly male and White - but not that seen in early-career surgeons. Positive action is now required in examiner recruitment by the Royal Colleges to ensure that the cohort of MRCS examiners reflects the modern surgical workforce.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-277
Number of pages5
JournalThe Surgeon
Issue number5
Early online date25 Feb 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to acknowledge Gregory Ayre from the Intercollegiate Committee for Basic Surgical Examinations for his support during this project.

Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland.
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and Royal College of Surgeons of England.


  • surgery
  • medical education and training
  • medical ethics


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