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Identification of multicultural learning experiences following an international cross campus medical student exchange programme between the UK and Malaysia: a qualitative study

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Charlotte RothwellORCiD, Professor Clare GuildingORCiD, Bhavani Veasuvalingam, Dr Kenneth McKeegan, Emerita Professor Jan Illing



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2023. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ. OBJECTIVES: In an increasingly global society, there is a need to develop culturally competent doctors who can work effectively across diverse populations. International learning opportunities in undergraduate healthcare programmes show various benefits. In medical education, these occur predominantly towards the end of degree programmes as electives, with scant examples of programmes for preclinical students. This study set out to identify the multicultural learning experiences following an early year international medical student exchange programme between the UK and Malaysian campuses of one UK medical school. SETTING: Two cohorts of international exchange programme for second year medical students in the UK and Malaysia. DESIGN: Interpretivist qualitative design using semistructured interviews/focus groups with students and faculty. METHODS: Participants were asked about their learning experiences during and after the exchange. Data were recorded with consent and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. RESULTS: Four themes were identified: (1) overall benefits of the exchange programme, (2) personal growth and development, (3) understanding and observing a different educational environment and (4) experiencing different healthcare systems. CONCLUSION: The international exchange programme highlighted differences in learning approaches, students from both campuses gained valuable learning experiences which increased their personal growth, confidence, cultural competence, giving them an appreciation of a better work-life balance and effective time management skills. It is often a challenge to prepare healthcare professionals for work in a global multicultural workplace and we would suggest that exchange programmes early on in a medical curriculum would go some way to addressing this challenge.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rothwell C, Guilding C, Veasuvalingam B, McKeegan K, Illing J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BMJ Open

Year: 2023

Volume: 13

Issue: 10

Online publication date: 05/10/2023

Acceptance date: 23/08/2023

Date deposited: 24/10/2023

ISSN (print): 2044-6055

ISSN (electronic): 2044-6055

Publisher: BMJ Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2023-072808

PubMed id: 37798022


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