• multicentre study;
  • research, biomedical/*standards/ legislation & jurisprudence;
  • education, medical, undergraduate/*standards/ legislation & jurisprudence;
  • teaching/*standards;
  • Great Britain

Objective  To explore the impact of research governance on medical students' ability to gain an understanding of research methodology, as required by the General Medical Council.

Methods  We carried out a qualitative study based on semi-structured interviews, in 3 medical schools in the UK, with 12 interviewees including academic supervisors and administrative staff.

Results  Research governance has the potential to facilitate medical undergraduates to experience better quality research but, unfortunately, the inhibitory effects of the current framework overwhelm this. Participants highlighted the bureaucracy of the process, particularly the complexity of securing ethical approval and the length of application forms. In addition, there is widespread confusion and uncertainty about the process at a variety of levels. For medical teachers, confusion exists around the practicalities of the current process, the boundaries between core clinical experience, audit and research, and how the process may change in the future. Academic supervisors have adopted several strategies, including amending existing research projects, and in some cases have withdrawn from student supervision altogether.

Conclusions  The present research governance requirements, especially for ethical approval, are too unwieldy to facilitate medical students' assimilation of research experience as a required learning outcome. Precise and clear definitions of the types of projects that necessitate ethical approval and the development of a shortened, simplified ethical approval application form are recommended.