The Bachelor of Medicine at ETH goes into normal operation

ETH Zurich has been offering 100 places to study human medicine, each year, since autumn 2017. The Bachelor’s degree course, made possible by the federal government’s special programme for human medicine, was developed from scratch in close collaboration with university and clinical partners. It was initially launched as a pilot project for the five annual cohorts from 2017 to 2021. The first medical students graduated with a Bachelor’s degree this summer.

And the results are now in: almost all the new graduates will continue their medical training as expected at one of the three partner universities in Lugano, Basel and Zurich. “ETH Zurich has established itself in a short time as a competent partner for medical training, both nationally and internationally,” says Rector Sarah Springman, who is responsible for teaching at ETH.

The university has taken this into account and ended the pilot project more than a year earlier than planned and will continue the degree course as a normal programme from January 2021. Springman is pleased: “This guarantees that ETH will continue to make a real contribution to remedying the shortage of doctors in Switzerland.”

A plus in the sciences and technology

In fact, the majority of the graduates, who in principle are eligible for a Master’s at ETH, have chosen to become doctors. A look at the first cohort shows that of the 100 students starting the course in 2017, 87 are currently still part of the group. Of this number, 77 have already completed their Bachelor’s degree – in the minimum time permitted. Just two are still at ETH, having changed to different subjects. The remaining 75 are studying for a Master’s in human medicine: 20 in Zurich, 20 in Basel and 35 at the Università della Svizzera Italiana (USI) in Lugano.

On average, about ten percent of the current three cohorts failed their first-year examinations at the first attempt. “Overall, based on our experience, we expect that about 85 to 90 percent of new students will go on to complete their Bachelor’s degree,” says ETH professor Christian Wolfrum, who has been director of the new course for three years.

He is particularly delighted by the fact that “our partner universities and other institutions are very interested in this degree course at ETH.” Experience suggests that the new curriculum is working well. “We train medical professionals with a unique profile: doctors with special knowledge of the natural sciences and technology, who thanks to their expertise can put developments in digital medicine into practice in a clinical setting,” he says.

Ultra-motivated “test pilots”

The students in the first cohort acted as “test pilots”. “Our pioneers forged a bold path, even though it was hectic at times,” says Professor Jörg Goldhahn, project leader of the Bachelor’s degree programme in human medicine. He is not the only person impressed by the sizeable interest shown by the medical students. “Lecturers at other universities have also reported how analytical and engaged the ETH Bachelor’s students are during class,” Goldhahn explains.

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