15th October 2008, WFME Office, Copenhagen: ORPHEUS - WFME - AMSE presidents decided to start work on PhD Standards



Proposed project to set standards for the PhD degree in a biomedical context in Europe


15 October 2008, WFME Office, Copenhagen


David Gordon AMSE, T. Walters AMCH, Hans Karle WFME, L. Christensen WFME, Zdravko Lacković ORPHEUS













Hans Karle (WFME, immediate past-President)

Leif Christensen (WFME)

Zdravko Lacković (ORPHEUS, President, also AMSE)

Theanne Walters (AMC)

David Gordon (AMSE, President, also ORPHEUS)

(Abbreviations - WFME, World Federation for Medical Education, ORPHEUS - Organisation for PhD Education in Biomedicine and Health Sciences in the European System, AMSE, Association of Medical Schools in Europe, CLUCIME - Copenhagen - Lund University Centre for International Medical Education, AMC,Australian Medical Council)



This meeting had arisen out of informal conversations between Gordon, Lacković and Karle. ORPHEUS included in its objectives the setting of standards for the PhD degree in biomedical faculties and medical schools in Europe; WFME has interest and expertise in standard-setting in a medical context, and AMSE has an interest in supporting and enhancing the activities of medical schools in Europe including, inter alia, the role of medical schools in research training.


Standards of the PhD degree were weak in some countries.Also there are different structures for postgraduate research and academic qualifications in some German-influenced (or speaking) countries (with the Habilitation) and former Eastern-bloc countries and Russia with sometimes two levels of PhD (a kind of ìgrand PhDî, or PhD and DSc)

In some countries the PhD is only research with little or no ìeducationalî content.There are widely different standards for supervision and mentoring.

ORPHEUS has set out some standards in earlier declarations, and those have similarities to WFME practice and nomenclature, describing essential standards and desirable standards.

WFME is, of course, interested. CLUCIME had discussed the principle of this or a similar project in the past.MEDINE II might have included a project on PhD standards.

What was the involvement of AMSE? - AMSE is interested because of its interest in the overall roles of the medical school, and would be interested to be involved.The AMSE EC would support.

The "third cycle" action line in the Bologna process, and the statements about the third cycle from the Bologna secretariat, could be useful.

The PhD is a prerequisite for an academic position in many countries, and this project might enhance such academic development is some less developed countries, thereby (in turn) generally enhancing medical education and practice - an interest for WHO and the EU (and also national governments).This is building the human infrastructure for medical education and research at all levels.

To what extent could this be beyond Europe as well?TW said it would be of world-wide interest: when you are recruiting a postdoctoral; scientist from Europe, it will be a great help to have a clear view of the standards of the degree.A good set of standards will be accepted more widely than Europe.

Agreed Objective

For the three organisations to work together create a document setting out agreed essential and desirable standards for the PhD degree in medical faculties and schools in Europe.


It was agreed there was a call for a Task Force, which will need to meet, but how often (if more than once) will need to be decided, perhaps by the Task Force itself.

Likely membership of the Task Force? The Task Force would need members from the different existing systems, but without preventing progress: no members who would "paralyze" the process.Is it to be global or European?Even to develop "European - only" standards it would be desirable to include members from outside Europe.

If it is a project led by the three organisations, ORPHEUS - WFME - AMSE there is a possibility that the explicitly European orientation of two of them would make it less easy to make it a "world" project ab initio.

It was agreed to write this plan for setting-up of a Task Force, take the document to the three organisations: if agreement is obtained then membership could start to be identified.

The secretariat of the Task Force would probably be in Zagreb.There will need to be a Steering Group set up between the three organisations.


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