Students need education fit for professional and public life

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.331.7522.966-a (Published 20 October 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:966
  1. William S James, university lecturer in experimental pathology (william.james{at}path.ox.ac.uk)
  1. Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, Oxford OX1 3RE

    EDITOR—No one could reasonably argue with Wass that medical schools need to convince the public that they are producing doctors with the correct competencies at an appropriate standard.1 A national body could even usefully generate a common standard for professional competencies for use at all UK institutions. However, the implication that this needs to dominate the medical curriculum from year 1, at the expense of what is referred to as “liberal education” (with, one senses, a tone of disapproval) ought to be resisted.

    The parallels with the US system are entirely inappropriate as national licensing exams there apply to students in their mid-20s who have previously benefited from a general undergraduate education of usually four years' duration. It is a national scandal that many UK medical students enter their profession without the benefit of a conventional undergraduate education, as opposed to a narrow vocational training.

    This is an issue not just because we think medical students need cramming with “scientific knowledge” before they engage in medical training. It's because we believe that a necessary feature of free societies is that those who enter public and professional life must first have developed the intellectual skills and habits of mind that will enable them to continue to contribute reflectively, fearlessly, and creatively to their society for the whole of their careers. The relentless march of quality controllers into the earliest stages of the undergraduate curriculum promises to rob what's left of UK medical education of its transformative value, and should be resisted at all costs. Roll on a UK wide, graduate entry medical system—we need a British Flexner.2


    • Competing interests None declared.


    View Abstract

    Log in

    Log in through your institution


    * For online subscription