Lithuanian Medical Education Attains Global Recognition

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Significant news reaches Lithuania regarding the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences (LSMU) from the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME). Following the recognition of the Centre for Quality Assessment in Higher Education by the WFME acknowledging its competence to carry out quality assessment and ensure quality monitoring of medical studies, the LSMU medical study programme accredited according to the WFME’s standards will be globally recognised as of 2024. Thus far, only 32 quality agencies worldwide have had this right of accreditation.

This means that medical professionals who have completed a Master’s degree in health sciences and hold a medical doctor qualification from Lithuania will be eligible to practice and enrol in residency programmes in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other non-EU countries. These opportunities are available in the countries where the WFME standard-based accreditation and monitoring of quality in education is the benchmark for medical education and/or where the American medical education system is implemented.

The first recognition of medical medication by the World Federation for Medical Education is of particular importance for three institutions in our country: the Centre for Quality Assessment in Higher Education (SKVC) and two universities providing medical education. This recognition will provide more opportunities to represent Lithuanian higher education, medical studies, and healthcare system, and to draw the attention of international students contemplating careers overseas.

“This recognition signifies that Lithuanian medical education meets international standards. We have become global players, competing not only on a national or just European but also on a global scale. This is a remarkable achievement for our University and Vilnius University. We are delighted that not only our own colleagues but also our colleagues in Vilnius have received the significant recognition,” said Prof. Kęstutis Petrikonis, Vice-Rector for Studies at LSMU.

Quality Verified Twice

According to the Vice-Rector, achieving global recognition of medical education has been a challenging journey. The quest to find a reputable international quality agency recognised by the WFME that could assess and verify the accredited national medical studies started more than five years ago in Europe and even in Japan. SKVC was determined as such an agency following a comprehensive international expert assessment process.

“We take joy and pride in this accomplishment. Over the past year, the quality of the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences and medical education was verified twice by the experts convened by the SKVC,” noted the Vice-Rector for Studies of LSMU.

Last spring, an international team of external experts convened by the SKVC evaluated the performance of the entire University. The group of experts included recognised experts on the quality of medical education from different European countries.

At the end of last year, higher medical education was evaluated by the SKVC, which operates in accordance with the quality assurance model of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) and national requirements. The accreditation process was monitored and analysed by the WFME experts, who assessed the SKVC’s own evaluators as well as the experts convened by it.

 “It was a challenging task to accomplish, and we are immensely appreciative of the dedication and efforts put forth by the leadership and staff of the SKVC and the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, who recognised the significance and meaning of such global accreditation. The accreditation process also required significant funding from the Ministry. According to our knowledge, it took almost a year for our colleagues from the U.S. to issue the decision, namely, that SKVC’s activities align with the quality requirements of the WFME and that the medical study programmes accredited by it meet the quality requirements of this organisation,” said the Vice-Rector for Studies of LSMU.

The WFME recognition has been granted to the SKVC for ten years. At the end of the seven-year accreditation granted by the SKVC for medical studies, the programme will undergo a re-accreditation process to align with new and evolving requirements, ensuring that the quality standards of the program continue to meet the changing demands of the times.

Opening the Door to the Global Labour Market

Prof. K. Petrikonis highlights that the recognition of the world-class quality of education is expected to attract more motivated international students. The WFME quality endorsement will serve as a guide for them to opt for medical studies in Lithuania even with funding from their home country if the country of origin has higher requirements for the quality of studies.

“In the global world, the American benchmark of medicine is also becoming global. In recent years, numerous innovations in medical education originating from the U.S. have made their way to Europe. On the other hand, the U.S. is experiencing a significant number of retiring doctors, with a demand for hundreds of thousands of new specialists, which cannot be met through local training alone. Therefore, after acquiring globally recognised medical qualifications in Lithuania, graduates of LSMU will be eligible to take the USMLE exams without any restrictions and, if successful, pursue their careers in the U.S. For many, this represents a promising opportunity,” said Prof. K. Petrikonis.

Prof. Andrius Macas, Dean of the LSMU Faculty of Medicine, noted that the excellent outcomes of the international assessment of medical education serve as proof of the quality of the educational process at LSMU and demonstrate the University’s capacity to compete effectively in this field.

“We are among the world’s top universities. This is indeed fantastic news for all students at LSMU. For the people of Lithuania, it instils a sense of pride in the level of higher education in their country and in their Alma Mater. As for international students, it signifies not only the proof that they have made the right choice but also access to a significantly broader job market,” says the Dean of the LSMU Faculty of Medicine.

In their press release, the Centre for Quality Assessment in Higher Education highlighted another opportunity brought by this recognition for Lithuania.

“WFME recognition will enhance Lithuania’s global presence. It is particularly relevant for the two higher education institutions that provide medical training in Lithuania: Vilnius University and the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences. Hopefully, the WFME recognition will help attract students from abroad to study in Lithuania, especially given the declining number of applicants to the Lithuanian higher education institutions. The goal is to not only draw students to study in Lithuania but also encourage them to consider staying in the country after completing their education,” notes Almantas Šerpatauskas, Director of SKVC.

According to Prof. K. Petrikonis, Vice-Rector for Studies at LSMU, the WFME recognition of the quality of studies covers only medical studies, which are subject to exceptionally stringent standards worldwide.

Other LSMU study programmes have also received significant recognition in Europe. In 2022, the Veterinary Medicine study programme was accredited for the second time by the European Association of Establishments for Veterinary Education (EAEVE), a reputable association comprising European veterinary universities.

Several other LSMU study programmes, where it is crucial to set international standards and lead in the respective fields, are also working towards achieving similar international recognition of their specialties.

The WFME was founded by the World Medical Association (WMA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1972 and is represented in Europe by the AMEE (Association for Medical Education in Europe).