Aspire - Recognition of Excellence in Education

Education alongside Research as the Mission of a Medical, Dental and Veterinary School


Recognition of the importance of teaching alongside research as the mission of a medical, dental or veterinary school is on today’s agenda. ASPIRE is a programme that recognises international excellence in education in a medical, dental or veterinary school.

Recognising excellence in a medical, dental and veterinary school

Over the past decade, the move to recognise excellence in universities has been reflected in increasing attention being paid to university league tables. Rankings, however, have concentrated on research and have paid lip service to education. This bias in the information base of existing excellence rankings towards research outcomes could detract from efforts to improve educational performance (1).

Excellence in education

While excellence in teaching has not featured prominently in world ranking tables, the concept of teaching excellence has attracted attention from academics, governments and the public, and is now part of the everyday language and practice of higher education.

There is currently no mechanism at a global level for a professional peer review of excellence in teaching. There is a need for a form of quality assurance that goes beyond accreditation, which recognises excellence that rightly falls outside the formal accreditation process and is the remit of professional educational bodies. The ASPIRE Programme has been established to go beyond the traditional accreditation process and to recognise that the education programme in a medical, dental or veterinary school can be subjected to peer review against a set of criteria that identifies world-class excellence in education.

ASPIRE was developed by a group of leading international authorities in medical education and educational bodies with a commitment to excellence, led by AMEE in collaboration with the University of Queensland, Australia.  ASPIRE offers a means whereby world-class excellence in education in medical, dental and veterinary schools can be recognised against an agreed set of standards or benchmarks.

The approach is based upon a ‘differential effectiveness’ that recognises that the characteristics of excellence will vary according to local contexts.

Advantages of ASPIRE recognition

The ASPIRE initiative encourages and promotes outstanding performance and excellence in education. An ASPIRE award allows schools to be recognised internationally for their excellence in education. ASPIRE recognition provides the entrepreneurial university with an enhanced capability for monitoring, demonstrating and promoting its exceptional excellence in teaching and learning.

ASPIRE Submissions

The ASPIRE initiative was launched at AMEE 2012 and following a pilot process was successfully implemented in 2013.  The annual closing date for submissions is 28th February.  The awards are presented at the AMEE annual conference in August/September, reported in the press and promoted on the ASPIRE, AMEE and MedEdWorld websites.

1 Harden R M and Wilkinson D 2011. Excellence in teaching and learning in medical schools. Medical Teacher 33:95-96