Why medical students decide to study abroad?

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Ms Dagmar-Elisabeth Messner, a 4th year medical student at the Comenius University in Bratislava. She is also affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). However, the opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Many people are leaving their country of origin to pursue their career goals, students as well as (young) professionals. An increased demand for flexibility, willingness to work abroad and facilitated mobility within the European Union are contributing factors to this development. Approximately 137.000 German students were studying at a foreign university in 2014, many of them registered at a medical school. This phenomenon is not limited to Germany, many other countries all over the world show increasing rates of young people studying abroad. In Europe, one only needs to look at countries like Greece, with more students abroad than any other country.

But what are the determinants of young people choosing to study medicine abroad? Many different factors are influencing the students. Higher competition, difficult access and decreasing numbers of places in medical schools are making it harder to fulfil the dream of a medical career within most countries.

In most regions of Germany high school graduates need a leaving average of approximately 1,0 to be accepted to medical school, though not guaranteed in the region they’ve applied for. As a result, they need to find alternatives or wait for their place. But there are also other obstacles potential medical students have to face like specific entrance examinations that are either determining whether one is accepted or not (e.g. EMS in Austria) or improving the high school average (e.g. TMS in Germany). Some even try to take legal measures to get a place at a medical university in Germany.

Because of the increased demand, many medical schools, especially in Central and Eastern European countries introduced English speaking programs. 66% of German students in Hungary and 55,5% in Czech Republic were studying medicine in 2014. The number of these programs in non-native English speaking countries is increasing. Usually there is a tuition fee that can range up to 15.000 € and a mandatory entrance examination testing the knowledge in natural sciences. The advantage is that also with a lower average there is a realistic chance for the desired study place.

In a world that is very focused on highly skilled people, at best in their twenties, waiting often isn’t an option. German students not fulfilling the requirements need to wait for several semesters or possibly a maximum of 7 years. In these circumstances emigrating very often seems to be the best solution.

In 2016 over 1.300 British students were studying in Bulgaria as they were denied a study place in the UK. Rejection as well as lower costs are making studying abroad more attractive. A total of 47.400 US students were studying abroad in 2015, with an increasing tendency, very often due to none or affordable fees (e.g. Belgium, Finland, Austria with less than 1.000€/year) compared to expensive universities in the USA.

Socio-economic factors are also influencing young people to go abroad. The knowledge of foreign cultures as well as languages is highly appreciated in an increasingly connected world, especially in the medical field.

References

1) Statistisches Bundesamt, 2016, http://www.destatis.de

2) The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com

3) OECD, https://stats.oecd.org/

About the author

Dagmar-Elisabeth Messner is a 4th year medical student at the Comenius University in Bratislava. Dagmar is an Austrian native, finished her studies of economics in Vienna in 2011 and has been working in the field of finance and controlling within the medical sector for several years. Fulfilling her dream of becoming a medical doctor, she chose to leave Austria to study in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.

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  1. […] To be honest, Switzerland might not be the most obvious choice when it comes to studying and yet there is lots of potential there. Swiss schools are amazing and you have such an amazing choice of universities and colleges to choose from. What’s more, they speak several languages such as French, German, Italian, and English, so if you’re worried about not knowing the language you don’t really have to panic. That is one of the biggest reasons as to why more and more people are choosing Switzerland and it truly is a beautiful country in which to study and live. check it from https://europeansting.com/2017/06/09/why-medical-students-decide-to-study-medicine-abroad/ […]

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