The New Doctoral Studies at the Medical University of Vienna

The New Doctoral Studies at the Medical University of Vienna: PhD and Professional Doctorate in Applied Medical Science

Hannes Stockinger, Director of the Doctoral School of the Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

The history and traditions of the Medical University of Vienna (MUV) date back as far as 640 years. As a medical faculty, the medical school of Vienna was chartered together with the University of Vienna in 1365. Due to a new legal regulation (University Act 2002), the new Medical University of Vienna (MUV) gained autonomy in 2004 and since then has been acting as a self-governed science and research institution. On a research lab space of more than 50,000 m? the MUV has a staff of approximately 5,000 individuals, 1,800 of which are engaged in research and 1,600 are physicians, who staff the Vienna General Hospital treating approximately 95,000 inpatients and 500,000 outpatients per year in 31 clinical departments in 350,000 m2.

As Austriaís largest medical training centre with over 1,000 instructors, the MUV currently trains 9,000 students in the fields of human and dental medicine. Furthermore it offers two attractive doctoral studies, a PhD Program and a Professional Doctorate in Applied Medical Science. Both doctorates are equivalent, however, the PhD program aims to educate early stage researchers who are more interested in doing science as a profession, whereas the professional doctorate is for those who want to link science to biomedical and clinical application according to the motto science in the profession. Moreover, the professional doctorate is providing scientific qualifications for students to work in certain specialties of medicine. Both studies are organized in thematic programs such as immunology, vascular biology, malignant diseases, cell communication in health and disease, endocrinology, mental health and behavioural sciences, physics, signal transduction, neuroscience, biomedical technology, endocrinology and metabolism, psychoanalysis, organ replacement, drug development, bone and joint regeneration, and public health.

The basic requirements of the doctoral studies are: Minimum duration of 3 years, language English, defence of the thesis plan within the first three months after start, survey by thesis committee, 450 and 570 academic hours (PhD and professional doctorate, respectively) accompanying courses to provide advanced education and skills in the field of the respective thematic program, to transfer soft skills in presentation techniques, ethics, project management, patent affairs, and critical reading of scientific publications. Furthermore, the PhD-project must be part of an internationally peer-reviewed project (the professional doctorate project shall be part of an internationally peer-reviewed project), first authorship of at least one peer-reviewed publication in a well-recognized scientific journal is compulsory, and the PhD candidate must be fully employed according to the regulations of the Austrian Science Fund.

Currently, 362 doctoral candidates are registered in our doctoral studies. Of the candidates, 230 are working within internationally peer-reviewed projects, mostly funded by the Austrian Science Fund or the EU. To cover the costs for these 230 doctoral positions, principal investigators of the MUV have raised 30 million grant Euros.

The MUV considers doctoral candidates as early scientific professionals. Therefore, as outlined above, each PhD must be employed by a grant project. To underline this understanding further, the MUV promoted and supported the foundation of the Young Scientist Association (YSA) of the MUV. A council headed by a president represents the members, doctoral candidates and postdocs, and transports information, ideas and problems between the members and the representatives of the MUV. A major part of the networking activities of YSA is the organization of meetings, in particular the annual PhD symposium, which is substantially sponsored by the MUV. This year the doctoral candidates submitted 147 abstracts and YSA compiled them for an exciting 2-days PhD symposium including distinguished speakers from abroad.

The new doctoral studies are an integral part of the new career model, which was established during the last 1 ? years to provide early stage researcher and young staff members both perspectives for the future individual development and the possibility to choose different directions. The key issues of this novel career model are the following: The MUV will generate and publicly announce positions for young scientists that can be applied for by the heads of the ìorganization unitsî. Applications will be reviewed by an advisory board, and the rector will select the best candidates. The positions are granted on the provision of signing an individual ìqualification agreementî specifying ìqualification criteriaî such as completion of a medical specialty, completion of a doctoral study, publications in high ranking journals, training in foreign research institutions and acquirement of teaching experience. The appointed young scientist will receive substantial support to fulfill the agreed criteria within the time frame of this first contract. Upon successful completion, the young scientist will obtain a position for an unlimited period to perform independent research.

In conclusion, with the new doctoral studies, the MUV has installed instruments to foster each doctoral candidate according to his/her interests. Based on those, career plans can be constructed that satisfy not only the doctoral candidate but also the needs for intramural researchers and professionals and the common labour market.




Prof. Dr. Hannes Stockinger
Chairman Department of Molecular
Center for Physiology, Pathophysiology & Immunology
Director of
Medical University of Vienna
Lazarettgasse 19