Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland – Physiotherapy

RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences


The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland was founded in 1784 by Royal Charter from King George III of Great Britain and Ireland. The College was established to educate surgeons as surgeons were trained separately from physicians. In 1886, the training of physicians and surgeons merged, and the College established a Medical School.

Since then, the college has grown to become a world-renowned College with Faculties of Radiology, Dentistry, Nursing & Midwifery, Sports & Exercise Medicine, and Schools of Pharmacy, Physiotherapy (Physical Therapy) and Graduate Studies. The college also encompasses the RCSI Research Institute and the National Surgical Training Centre.  Today, RCSI has an international network of more than 20,000 Alumni working in 70 countries worldwide.

RCSI Physiotherapy Degree

The School of Physiotherapy, which opened in 1999, provides first class training for entry level Physiotherapists in state-of-the-art facilities. The three-year (Graduate Entry) BSc Physiotherapy degree qualifies graduates for membership of the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP), which is required for practice as a Chartered Physiotherapist in the Irish Health Service. The ISCP is a member of the World Confederation of Physical Therapists which is the only global organization representing Physical Therapists around the world. RCSI graduates are eligible to practice in the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, as well as in Africa and the Middle and Far East and throughout the EU.

The RCSI School of Physiotherapy is located in the main college campus on St Stephen’s Green in the centre of Dublin city. The BSc Physiotherapy degree course has two entry streams. The three-year (Graduate Entry) degree course is for students who hold a primary degree. Students with credentials below the baccalaureate level, or with strong high-school final grades, can apply for entry to the Foundation Year, of the four-year degree course.

Professional Recognition

Graduates of the Physiotherapy programme receive the award of BSc Physiotherapy from the National University of Ireland and professional recognition by the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists.

Course Details

The BSc Physiotherapy degree course is delivered in modules. Each module is interactive with an emphasis on problem based learning. Students attend lectures, tutorials and practicals, and much of the course material is also delivered via MOODLE, the college’s online virtual learning system. Teaching is provided by highly trained professional educators in spacious well equipped facilities.

Foundation Year

The Foundation Year enhances the student’s knowledge and understanding of the basic sciences (Human Biology; General & Medicinal Chemistry; and Medical Physics) in preparation for the difficult years ahead. Students are also introduced to Medical Informatics which combines information technology with the provision of health care. The first semester involves a series of lectures and structured practical and tutorial classes. The second semester covers the chemical processes involved in biological systems, in metabolism and in the behaviour of drugs. There are also ‘systems-based’ modules, delivered in a fully integrated manner, providing students with a better understanding of the underlying biochemical and biophysical processes in the human body. Compulsory courses in Basic Life Skills and Study Skills are also held during this year.

First Physiotherapy Year

The First Physiotherapy Year provides the student with a sound scientific knowledge base to underpin the practice of physiotherapy. Students will gain an understanding of the structure, function and inter-relationship of systems in the human body through studies in anatomy,
physics and physiology. Physiotherapy skills and movement studies will be studied in
parallel to the core sciences facilitating the integration of learning. Movement studies will introduce the student to the analysis of the normal musculoskeletal system and its movements. This will form the basis for development of the analytical skills required in the assessment of musculoskeletal problems. The study of musculoskeletal and orthopaedic problems and their management will be introduced utilising a problem-solving approach. Following the end-of-year examinations a three-week clinical placement is undertaken. During this placement, students will gain an understanding of the role of the physiotherapist and the environment of practice.

Second Physiotherapy Year

The Second Physiotherapy Year focuses on the application and analysis of problems and their effects in key pathological areas e.g. cardiovascular/respiratory, neurology and musculoskeletal disorders. Students will gain an understanding of the research process and develop an ability to appraise and evaluate research and literature. Clinical education modules are undertaken in the core clinical areas of orthopaedics/ rheumatology, outpatients, medical/surgical cardiorespiratory and neurology.

Final Physiotherapy Year

The Final Physiotherapy Year focuses on the integration of knowledge and understanding
into clinical practice. Optional clinical placement modules include paediatrics, women’s health, care of the elderly and advanced neurology. In addition, a significant proportion of time is spent on the completion of a research project. Throughout the programme, clinical education is a central element with more than one thousand hours being undertaken by the student on a fulltime block basis. Students gain this essential clinical experience under the supervision of physiotherapy clinical tutors and senior physiotherapy clinicians.

Clinical education is a central element of the physiotherapy course and consists of more than 1000 hours over the duration of the course.

Clinical modules are undertaken in the core clinical areas of orthopaedics / rheumatology, musculoskeletal, medical / surgical cardiorespiratory and neurology. Placements are provided in a variety of physiotherapy settings and in a number of geographical locations. Dedicated RCSI Clinical Tutors are located at each placement site. Living accommodation is provided and paid for if the placement is distant from the School of Physiotherapy. Clinical education is divided into eight placements. Placements are on a full-time block basis.

Placement sites include:

  1. Beaumont Hospital, Dublin
  2. Waterford Regional Hospital
  3. Cork University Hospital
  4. Tralee General Hospital, Kerry
  5. University College Hospital, Galway
  6. Merlin Park Hospital, Galway


Assessment takes place on a modular basis throughout the year, by written examination, practical examination, seminar presentation and coursework assignments. All modules must be successfully completed before a student may progress to the following year. Each clinical module must also be passed.

Details of all examinations may be obtained from the Examinations Office.


As well as having spacious and well-equipped teaching facilities, the school also has a modern movement laboratory containing state of the art measurement systems for use in teaching and in undergraduate and post-graduate research.

Measurement systems include:

  1. Five camera Vicon motion analysis
  2. Kistler force plate
  3. 16 Channel EMG
  4. Biodex isokinetic muscle testing equipment
  5. Cardiorespiratory testing equipment

Research Opportunities

Undergraduate students gain an understanding of the research process by completion of a research project in the Final Year. In addition, RCSI offers a number of bursaries to students wishing to undertake research during the summer vacation period. Opportunities for postgraduate research are also available by means of registration for MSc/PhD degree programmes by research.


US & Canadian Applicant RCSI Prospectus 2021

Non-EU RCSI Prospectus (All Non-EU Countries) 2021

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