The Popularity of Our Faculty Among International Students Is Steadily Increasing
The presence of international students in an English-taught programme dating back to the 1990s is an immense enrichment for the faculty. The graduates spread the good name of our school worldwide and ongoing accreditation for the USMLE based on their good performance helps attract students. We believe that sustained quality of education coupled with a practical approach and high standards will contribute to the popularity of our programmes also in future.
During the past five years, I have witnessed the number of applicants double from slightly over 800 in 2015/16 to over 1600 in 2018/19 (see graph below). With the number of admitted students almost flat over the same period – 20 for dentistry and a slight hike from 120 to current target of 150 for general medicine, this indicates increased competitiveness of our programmes, the highest among Czech medical schools, as well as excellent enrolment rate (around 75% of those who are offered a spot in general medicine actually enrol with us).
Where they came from
While the English programme has been going on for twenty-seven years, in recent years we saw some shifts in the composition of our student body, changes which probably reflect the demographics as well as improved economic situation in some countries. Over 80% of our students come through our representatives throughout the world. While the number of students coming from our traditional partner countries like Greece, Cyprus, Norway, Sweden are declining, the number of those coming from larger markets (UK, Germany, USA) is relatively stable. What is increasing is the amount of applicants from the Middle East. The largest proportion of students (about 20%) comes from Israel, where we are represented by Medical Doctor International Studies (www.medicaldoctor-studies.com), and ever more applicants also come from the United Arab Emirates, a country with a well-developed network of private English-language secondary schools. Another fast-growing market is India. We are proud of the fact that for most of those students, we are their first choice, and many more succeed after a year-long intensive preparatory course that was launched two years ago in Prague in collaboration between the Charles University (represented by the Institute of Language and Preparatory Studies, http://ujop.cuni.cz/en/) and our long-term English partner, the Abbey College in Malvern (https://emucas.com).
International interest in studying at our faculty was not
considerably dampened even during the 2020 COVID-19
pandemic, when we had over 1,250 applicants. We hope that with
the option of distance learning at the beginning of the academic
year for those who could not, by no fault of their own, obtain their
visa on time, we will maintain our target enrolment numbers even
this year. But let us not count the chickens before they hatch (or
students until we welcome them in Prague in person).
The positive experience of our graduates
So where is this increasing popularity coming from? After
speaking to prospective applicants at numerous events, such as
educational fairs or open days, I can see that it is not just the
hard work of our representatives. Increasingly often, what is
mentioned as an important factor is the positive experience of
our graduates, who often return to their home countries and
have no difficulty with finding a position in the area of medicine
they want to pursue. Many employers in the United Kingdom,
where many our graduates head for language reasons, report
full satisfaction with the quality of our doctors. Further quality
check is provided by the USMLE, where we been achieving
a consistently high pass rate at Step 1 (90%) and 2, resulting in
our continued accreditation for eligibility to take those exams,
but also by the Direct Loans programme of the US government.
And last but not least, we have a small but stable subgroup of
Czech citizens in the English programme, students who come
from international schools either in the Czech Republic or
from abroad and choose our English programmes rather than
alternatives in the countries they live in.
Positive impact on all sides
The presence of international students in an English-taught
programme dating back to the 1990s is an immense enrichment
for the faculty. The graduates spread the good name of our
school worldwide and ongoing accreditation for the USMLE
based on their good performance at those exams helps attract
future students. Moreover, the presence of an English-speaking
population forces all our teachers and doctors to be fluent
in English and increased availability of all basic and clinical
English textbooks in our library has a positive impact also on
our Czech students, who can thus compare their textbooks with
the international equivalents. The exchange goes both ways,
though, because international students – who must study Czech
to be able to effectively communicate with patients during their
clinical years – sometimes use Czech textbooks, especially where
they believe some particular issues are described there the best
(e.g. developmental dysplasia of the hip joint, which has a very
high incidence in the Czech population).
International students are also very active in seeking various
To be a modern, 21st century
International School of
Medicine and Dentistry,
with a prestigious history
of almost 700 years, able
to compete worldwide at
the highest level in creating
globally accredited and
David Sedmera, previous Vice-Dean for International Students and Social Affairs
9 červenec/září 2020 | jednička
rotations abroad, which led to an increased number of
agreements with various hospitals abroad (Israel, USA,
Germany, Japan). Some international students can thus do part
of their clinical training either in their home country or in the
country where they plan to seek a position after graduation.
Those options are available also to the Czech students, which
increases our faculty’s internationalisation (an important factor
in our international ranking) beyond exchanges that take place
within the framework of IFMSA or Erasmus programmes.
The international job fair, attended also by both Czech and
international students of other domestic medical schools, is
another example of benefits which presence of international
students brings to a wider university community.
Mixed pairs for clinical training
Naturally, all these activities require fluency in Czech for
foreign students and in English for the Czech and Slovak ones.
The Language Institute therefore some time ago launched the
TANDEM programme, which pairs Czech and international
students for language learning exchange through discussion of
relevant topics of mutual interest: this is a good way of expanding
one’s their vocabulary. In the dentistry programme, a similar
initiative works by creating mixed pairs for clinical training.
Moreover, students can attend optional courses in a language
that is different from their prevalent language of instruction: this
is another opportunity to become proficient in medical language.
Room for improvement
Despite these ongoing efforts, there is still much room for improvement with respect to interaction between the Czech and international students. Because Prague is a cosmopolitan city, our international students can quite comfortably live within their English-speaking bubble of seven hundred people, have sports matches with teams from the English programmes of other medical schools. In short, this situation does not force them to interact with locals aside from work with patients. All those who stepped out of their comfort zones, left the limits of the town and experienced the ‘real Bohemia’ on their own, report high satisfaction. Many more, though, stay in their shell for the entire duration of their studies, both physically and mentally. Increased intermingling would also help to finally dispel some urban legends, such as that the ‘English students get their exams “for free” because they pay a tuition fee’ – it is not true, as can be seen from the statistics of success at each subject – or that ‘some information is only contained in the Czech textbooks’ (it can be easily disproved with a simple Google search).
See the future
We believe that sustained quality of education coupled with
a practical approach and high standards will contribute to the
popularity of our programmes also in future. I am therefore
happy to leave the programme in the hands of Dr. Eitan Brizman
to pour in some fresh energy and further diversify our student
base, which is currently coming from over seventy countries.