Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

Interface between university and medical school: the way ahead?

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 04 March 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:633
  1. Graeme R D Catto (, vice principal
  1. University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD

    Editorial by Goldbeck-Wood Education and debate pp 630, 636

    In the midst of the very public debate on health, the interface between university and medical school remains largely hidden. It is, however, an important influence not only on academic activity and resources but increasingly on commercial interests. The changing roles and responsibilities of medical schools affect many aspects of health, education, and regional development. The ways in which medical schools respond to different challenges should be understood if there is to be agreement on the opportunities and threats facing modern medical education.

    Summary points

    Medical education comprises a decreasing proportion of the workload of medical schools

    Medical schools have close links with the health departments, but links with the funding councils and departments of education may be less robust, and funding streams are complex and poorly understood

    Research interests of medical schools and their parent university may take precedence over teaching commitments and clinical duties

    Curricular reform has been stimulated by the General Medical Council since graduation is linked to provisional GMC registration, and the public and profession must agree on standards expected at graduation

    Medical schools

    We all know what they are, but a succinct definition is now elusive. Of course, a medical school educates undergraduate medical students, but that role is decreasing as medical education moves with patients to the community and primary care. Indeed, colleagues in the NHS now undertake at least 70% of the clinical teaching and increasingly participate in planning the curriculum and assessment. Given the considerable diversity of arrangements adopted by different universities, the only other features medical schools have in common are a robust research base, clinical academic staff, and public interest. Many have substantial numbers of undergraduate and postgraduate students in disciplines other than medicine.

    A medical school is an integral part of its parent …

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