A comparison of doctoral training in biomedicine and medicine for some UK and Scandinavian graduate programmes: learning from each other

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  • Anwen Williams, Cardiff University, United Kingdom
  • Meriel Jones, Liverpool University, United Kingdom
  • Roland Jonsson, Bergen Universitet, Norway
  • Robert Harris, Karolinska Instituttet, Sweden
  • Michael J. Mulvany
Although the historical bases for graduate training in the United Kingdom
(UK) and Scandinavia both stem from the original concept developed by
von Humboldt, and both award a ‘PhD degree’, their paths have diverged.
There are thus significant differences in the manner in which graduate training
is organised. To analyse these differences, two UK graduate programmes
(School of Medicine, Cardiff University; Institute of Integrative Biology,
University of Liverpool) and two Scandinavian graduate schools (Faculty of
Medicine and Dentistry, University of Bergen; Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm)
completed a Self-evaluation questionnaire developed by Organisation
of PhD Education in Biomedicine and Health Sciences in the European System
(ORPHEUS)). Analysis of the completed questionnaires shows differences
concerning requirements for admission, the training content of PhD
programmes, the format of the PhD thesis, how the thesis is assessed and the
financial model. All programmes recognise that PhD training should prepare
for employment both inside and outside of academia, with emphasis on
transferable skills training. However, the analysis reveals some fundamental
differences in the direction of graduate programmes in the UK and Scandinavia.
In the UK, graduate programmes are directed primarily towards
teaching PhD students to do research, with considerable focus on practical
techniques. In Scandinavia, the focus is on managing projects and publishing
papers. To some extent, the differences lead to a lack of full recognition of
each other’s theses as a basis for doing a postdoc. This paper describes the
basis for these differences and compares the two approaches and points to
areas in which there is, or might be, convergence.
Original languageEnglish
JournalF E B S Open Bio
Pages (from-to)830-839
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • PhD admission, PhD outcomes, PhD supervision, PhD thesis, PhD training

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