gms | German Medical Science

The structure of Medical Education in Europe: Implementing Bologna – On the way to a European success story?
International Conference hosted by the German Rectors' Conference (HRK)

10 - 11 October 2008, Berlin

Bologna and medical degrees - the importance of learning outcomes


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  • corresponding author presenting/speaker Allan Cumming - University of Edinburgh, College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine, Queens Medical Research Institute, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

The Structure of Medical Education in Europe: Implementing Bologna – On the way to a European success story?. International Conference hosted by the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK). Berlin, 10.-11.10.2008. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2011. Doc08hrk4

doi: 10.3205/08hrk04, urn:nbn:de:0183-08hrk046

Veröffentlicht: 13. Januar 2011

© 2011 Cumming.
Dieser Artikel ist ein Open Access-Artikel und steht unter den Creative Commons Lizenzbedingungen ( Er darf vervielfältigt, verbreitet und öffentlich zugänglich gemacht werden, vorausgesetzt dass Autor und Quelle genannt werden.



Introduction: In the UK, over the last 15 years the General Medical Council (GMC) has driven medical schools in the direction of fully integrated 5-year undergraduate curricula, with strong early exposure to clinical learning and experience, and basic science revisited later in the curriculum. This is viewed as a ‘quality standard’ for accreditation.

The GMC, and other regulatory bodies in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, have rejected the application of the 'Bachelor/Master' model to medical degrees A major objection is that it would inevitably lead to ‘disintegration’ of medical curricula, and a return to separate preclinical and clinical periods of study.

The importance of learning outcomes: An answer to these concerns lies in outcomes-based education (, Without specified learning outcomes for the Bachelor and Master qualifications, medical schools could indeed create disintegrated, ‘two-block’ medical curricula. This model is illustrated in Figure 1 [Fig. 1].

However, if appropriate learning outcomes for the first and second cycles are agreed, then the opposite is true. For example, an agreed learning outcome for the first cycle degree might be ‘ability to measure blood pressure and interpret the findings’. This would require the medical school to include teaching and assessment on blood pressure in the first three years of study. Similarly, a learning outcome for the second cycle might be ‘ability to describe the anatomy of the pelvis’. This approach could also be applied to the Bologna 3rd cycle to emphasise the specifically medical nature of the degree. These models are illustrated in Figure 2 [Fig. 2].

Conclusion: There are many difficulties with the implementation of a Bologna 3-cycle model in medicine. However, concerns about loss of integrated teaching and learning can be overcome by strategic use of learning outcomes for each cycle. Such an approach may even be beneficial in relation to curriculum development [1], [2], [3].


Christensen L. The Bologna Process and Medical Education. Med Teach. 2004;26(7):625-629. DOI: 10.1080/01421590400012190 Externer Link
WFME, AMEE. Statement on the Bologna Process and Medical Education. Copenhagen: World Federation for Medical Education and the Association for Medical Education in Europe, in consultation with the Association of Medical Schools in Europe and the World Health Organisation (Europe); 2005. Avaible under: Externer Link
Harden RM. Developments in outcome-based education. Med Teach. 2002;24(2):117-120. DOI: 10.1080/01421590220120669 Externer Link