True cost of doctor training

THE cost of a medical degree may be up to 65 per cent more than previously thought, a new study has shown.

Professor Kim Oates, who teaches medicine at the University of Newcastle and the University of Sydney, has found that a large proportion of clinical medical training is given by health providers not paid by universities.

“In medical courses it is customary for some student teaching to be provided by teachers who are not paid by the university, generally because they are employed by a government health provider,’’ Professor Oates said.

‘‘The costs of this teaching are not known and therefore are not factored into estimates of the overall cost of medical education,” he said.

The study examined the hidden costs of medical education in the University of Sydney’s four-year graduate program in 2010.

All face-to-face teaching provided for students in the program was listed under two headings: teaching by university-employed staff and teaching by other health providers not paid by the university.

All teaching hours in 2010 were extracted from detailed timetables and categorised under these headings.

Time spent in lecture preparation and exam marking was included and students were sampled to obtain information about additional teaching that was not timetabled.

“This analysis shows that the total cost of face-to-face teaching and assessment [university and non-university components] in the last two years of the medical course represents 79per cent of the total face-to-face teaching costs,’’ Professor Oates said.

‘‘This reflects the fact that while much teaching is given in lectures or large practical group demonstrations, the majority of teaching in the final two years is in small group tutorials as well as one-to-one teaching.’’

This is the equivalent of an additional $34,326 worth of teaching per student per year.

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