Intended for healthcare professionals


Plans to restructure higher education come under scrutiny

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 24 February 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1022

A report on how plans to restructure higher education institutes across Europe could impact medical and bioscience degrees in the United Kingdom has just been published by the Academy of Medical Sciences.

The report is the result of a symposium held on 31 March 2009 to discuss the potential effects of the so called Bologna Process on UK biomedical and clinical science courses. The Bologna Process aims to make it easier for staff to move among academic institutions in Europe and to make courses more comparable.

One of the proposals of the Bologna Process is that some degrees that currently take five years in other European countries are reduced to three years, similar to in the UK.

But for medical degrees, one suggestion is that the UK’s current five year course is reclassified as a masters degree, giving students the option of leaving with a BMedSci after three years.

The General Medical Council and the Medical Schools Council, however, want to retain the current five year syllabus. Reducing the course to three years might reinstate the previous divide between pre-clinical and clinical training, they argue. They intend to monitor the standing of the UK medical degree in Europe and ensure its status is maintained.

The importance of MB PhD courses, which allow promising medical students to undertake research for a PhD alongside studying for their medical degree, should be recognised, says the report, despite such programmes currently falling outside of the parameters of the Bologna Process.

Imperial College London already offers courses that are comparable to those in other European universities, including in bioscience. But concerns remain that students studying biomedicine elsewhere in the UK might still be at a disadvantage in the eyes of non-UK European employers, who are accustomed to a five year degree system. This possibility could have implications for the international mobility of individuals with a UK bachelor’s degree, says the report

Attendees at the symposium also voiced concern that masters courses may be seen as a requirement for entry onto PhD courses, both in the UK and throughout Europe. Flexible entry onto PhD courses is essential to increase student mobility between universities in the UK and other European institutions, it argues.

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