Czech course helps medics to work worldwide

March 22, 2002

Globalisation has increased the need for better communication. THES reporters look at universities that are promoting English as the common language.

Ottomar Kittnar delves into ancient European history when asked to explain why the faculty of medicine at Charles University, Prague, offers courses in general medicine and dentistry in English.

"In the 14th century Latin was the language of study and a young doctor could transfer his medical studies from Prague to Padua without any difficulty.

"Universities should be about unifying and, as English is the Latin of the modern age, teaching through English allows our university to be more open."

As romantic as the sentiments sound, the business of attracting fee-paying foreign students to study medicine in Prague does not suffer. The university's faculty of medicine offers basic six-year courses for annual tuition fees of 345,000 koruna (£6,800) and has 212 students on its English-language taught courses. British students make up half those on the English-taught programmes.

Hundreds more foreign students study alongside Czechs in the Czech-taught courses.

Tuition fees were not cheaper than in Britain, Dr Kittnar, vice-dean for development in the medical faculty, conceded, but the lower cost of living and opportunity to gain postgraduate experience working in Czech hospitals offered added benefits.

British students are required to pass language and clinical medicine tests on returning home to work; the requirements are similar to those in America, Greece, Sweden and Cyprus, which make up the other large English-language taught contingents.

But students from the courses can gain valuable practical experience in the Czech Republic in the year after graduating if they choose.

The practical experience, six months in surgery and six months in internal medicine, is facilitated by three years of basic Czech courses taught along with the English courses and designed to ease communication with patients.

Grounding in the Czech national health system could be a real boost to careers, Dr Kittnar said.

Teaching medicine in English made sense in a world where medical textbooks and drug information were overwhelmingly in English, he added.

Jan Hanousek, director of Prague's Charles University Centre for Economic Research and Graduate Education (CERGE-EI), is proud of his institution's reputation for excellence in economics and English teaching.

Accredited by the New York State Education Department two years ago, after passing an inspection by US economics academics, the PhD programme taught in English was described as "on par with very good US programmes".

Most of its students are from Eastern Europe and many return home to begin or resume careers in government or public service.

The CERGE-EI's courses are taught in English with intensive English as a second language tutoring focused on clear communicative writing.

Screening and introductory courses allowed students with a wide range of academic backgrounds to achieve more than if they simply joined established doctorate programmes in a university in the United Kingdom or the United States, Dr Hanousek said.

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