Assessing specialist medical education and training


The Australian Medical Council (AMC) has assessed and accredited specialist medical education and training and professional development programs since 2002. From 2002 to July 2010, the AMC process for accreditation of specialist education and training programs was a voluntary quality improvement process in which all specialist colleges had agreed to participate. From 1 July 2010, the process is mandatory. The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009 makes the accreditation of specialist training programs an element of the process for approval of programs for the purposes of specialist registration. Similarly, the Medical Board of Australia's registration standards indicate that continuing professional development programs that meet AMC accreditation requirements also meet the Board's continuing professional development requirements.

While this is an Australian process, the Medical Council of New Zealand uses AMC accreditation reports to assist it to make decisions about recognising medical training programs in New Zealand. The AMC works with the Medical Council of New Zealand in reviewing bi-national training programs. Revised Medical Council of New Zealand criteria are available here.

The AMC's Specialist Education Accreditation Committee oversees the accreditation process. The Committee's roles are:

  • developing guidelines, policy and procedures for the accreditation of specialist medical education and training programs
  • overseeing the AMC's program of accreditation
  • encouraging improvements in postgraduate medical education that respond to evolving health needs and practices, and educational and scientific developments.

AMC accreditation is based on self and peer assessment. Assessments are conducted by AMC teams which report to the Specialist Education Accreditation Committee. Teams include a mix of clinicians, specialist trainees, scientists, allied health professionals, health administrators and wider community perspectives.

Scope of accreditation

The AMC accredits Australian and Australasian providers of specialist medical training and their specialist training programs which lead to qualifications for practice in recognised medical specialties. Recognition means that the Commonwealth Minister for Health and Ageing has made a decision to recognise a new specialty and, if necessary, approved an amendment to the Health Insurance Regulations 1975. Click here for more information on the recognition process.

AMC accreditation standards

Medical Board of Australia approved AMC-revised accreditation standards for specialist medical programs and professional development programs - September 2015

Following a period of consultation, the Australian Medical Council has completed its review of the accreditation standards for specialist medical programs and continuing professional development programs. The AMC thanks the individuals and organisations who have submitted comments on draft sets of standards, and contributed to the AMC review.

As the accreditation authority for medicine, the AMC develops accreditation standards for medical programs and their education providers. The Medical Board of Australia is responsible for approval of accreditation standards developed for the medical profession by the AMC. The Medical Board of Australia has now approved the Standards for Assessment and Accreditation of Specialist Medical Programs and Professional Development Programs by the Australian Medical Council 2015. The revised standards will come into effect from 1 January 2016.

The AMC uses accreditation standards to assess medical programs for the purposes of accreditation. Under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, the AMC may grant accreditation if it is reasonably satisfied that a program of study and the education provider meet an approved accreditation standard. It may also grant accreditation if it is reasonably satisfied that the provider and the program of study substantially meet an approved accreditation standard, and the imposition of conditions will ensure the program meets the standard within a reasonable time. Having made a decision, the AMC reports its accreditation decision to the Medical Board of Australia to enable the Board to make a decision on the approval of the program of study for registration purposes. The AMC also uses the accreditation standards for monitoring accredited programs and providers to ensure that they continue to meet the standards.

There is no change to the overall purpose of accreditation, which is to recognise specialist medical programs and education providers that produce medical specialists who can practice unsupervised in the relevant medical specialty, providing comprehensive, safe and high quality medical care that meets the needs of the Australian and New Zealand health care systems, and who are prepared to assess and maintain their competence and performance through continuing professional education, the maintenance of skills and the development of new skills.

Significant changes to the standards include:

  • Enhanced focus on trainee wellbeing
  • Enhanced focus on patient safety
  • New standards concerning Indigenous health. The AMC introduced Indigenous health standards for medical school curriculum in 2006 and in the Intern training – National standards for programs in 2013. These new Indigenous health standards build on the standards in the earlier phases of medical education.
  • Standards concerning continuing professional development have been revised in line with Medical Board of Australia and Medical Council of New Zealand guidelines.
  • The standard relating to assessment of specialist international medical graduates, has been moved from standard 5, assessment, and becomes a new standard 10. The standard has been revised to bring it into line with revised Medical Board of Australia and Medical Council of New Zealand guidelines.

There is a staged implementation of the revised standards. An implementation plan is available below. AMC resources for accredited education providers and those undergoing accreditation in 2016 will include information on addressing the standards.

Download the approved accreditation standards, Standards for Assessment and Accreditation of Specialist Medical Programs and Professional Development Programs by the Australian Medical Council 2015.

A comparison table showing the 2015 standards against the 2010 standards is here.

Information regarding implementation of the standards from 2016 is available here.

AMC accreditation procedures

The way in which the AMC manages the accreditation process, the procedures for assessing individual training programs and the accreditation decisions made by the AMC are explained in Procedures for Assessment and Accreditation of Specialist Medical Education Programs and Professional Development Programs by the Australian Medical Council 2015.

The AMC completed a review of its accreditation procedures in 2015 to ensure that they comply with the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and the revised accreditation standards. It also streamlined and clarified some processes based on its experience.

Download Procedures for Assessment and Accreditation of Specialist Medical Programs and Professional Development Programs by the Australian Medical Council 2015 (PDF 1MB).

Periodic reports by accredited training organisations

Between formal accreditations, the AMC monitors developments in education and training and professional development programs through periodic reports from the accredited training organisations. This requirement ensures that the AMC remains informed of responses to issues raised in the accreditation report, new developments, and issues that may affect the training organisation's accreditation.

Reports are normally required annually.