Interview: Membership in Prestigious Organisation ORPHEUS - What Does it Mean for FM MU?

This autumn, Faculty of Medicine received an international certificate ORPHEUS, which confirms the quality of doctoral studies. The faculty ranks among over 100 prestigious institutions such as Aarhus University, Karolinska Institute, University of Oslo, University of Bern, University of Basel.

7 Jan 2022

The international organisation ORPHEUS (Organisation for PhD Education in Biomedicine and Health Science in the European System) brings together leading doctoral educators in the field of Biomedicine, Medicine, and Health Sciences. For FM MU, obtaining the certificate confirms the fact that it provides high-quality and globally competitive doctoral studies according to internationally valid standards. Membership in the organisation opens up opportunities for students and their supervisors to participate in international conferences and workshops and the faculty has the opportunity to obtain information about the latest trends in PhD studies and share good practice, leading to maintaining high quality studies. We asked the Vice-Dean for Research, Ph.D. Studies and Institutional Development, prof. MUDr. Tomáš Kašpárek, Ph.D.

How did the certification process go and what were the evaluation criteria?

The ORPHEUS organisation appointed two external evaluators, who performed a relatively detailed analysis of the whole process of Ph.D. studies. They were interested in both the legislative securing and the practical course of studies, conditions for students, the involvement of supervisors and guarantors of individual doctoral “schools”, the results of doctoral studies in the form of publications, and the form and content of the doctoral thesis. The evaluators compared this information with parameters of good practice, which were set and published by the network. The evaluation took place in several rounds, first, we created a self-evaluation questionnaire assessing compliance in 68 areas, then a discussion took place with the evaluators and their assessment of a sample of doctoral theses and first-author publications of our students. It definitely was not a formal administrative process, the evaluators’ questions were very specific, it was clear that they had extensive experience with managing doctoral studies in Biomedicine. The evaluators were anonymous, and it was only after the evaluation that we learned senior colleagues from Aix-Marseille University and the Otto Loewi Research Centre in Graz, in collaboration with prof. Mulvanym from Aarhus University, who played the role of Labelling board chair, took part in it.

How do you perceive receiving the certificate and the fact that FM MU has joined this prestigious organisation from the position of Vice-Dean?

I see the whole process as an independent audit of how our doctoral studies are set up and the level of results achieved by students. Doctoral studies are currently under scrutiny, success rate and its quality are being discussed. That’s why the outside point of view is so important for me. I think this gives us very strong information that we have processes set up correctly, that they correspond to what is common in European universities. That our students and graduates receive the quality standard. Both evaluators appreciated the quality of our students’ results, especially those involved in established research groups. This is also a piece of important information for me, that this way of research organisation at FM makes sense.

What are the obligations and benefits for FM MU? Does it have to undergo regular evaluations in the future, for example?

I think that this “certificate of quality” is important mainly for the promotion of our doctoral studies among foreign applicants. We want to internationalise our doctoral studies and this information about the quality standard of doctoral studies can attract quality students for us. Of course, the biggest magnet here is the quality of the supervisor and their research, however, for some students, this information can allay some concerns. We must always keep in mind that we are not an internationally well-known university and we must constantly prove our quality. It is certainly good information for our students, who do not have to feel inferior abroad. This might be just my topic and my experience though, it is possible that the current generation of students is no longer bothered by comparing the quality of Western schools with ours. I have already talked about the importance of the evaluation of our doctoral programmes at the level of the university and our accreditation authority RVH MU, where we will soon defend the re-accreditation of doctoral programmes.

What recommendations arose from the certification process? What can we expect in the near future?

In principle, the only fundamental objection to our doctoral study system is our rule, resulting from the MU Study and Examination Regulations (SER), that the supervisor is part of the doctoral thesis defence board and has the right to vote. This is perceived as very non-standard. We have already communicated this information within the university and we will discuss it within the SER amendment, which is planned in the near future. In the near future, we will also have a large internal evaluation of science and doctoral studies at individual MU workplaces. I am very pleased that both ORPHEUS evaluators, who already have detailed information about our doctoral programmes, have accepted the invitation to the evaluation committee, so we can have a discussion with them about specific problems and their possible solutions.

More about ORPHEUS.

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