For the first time, a Hungarian university has been ranked in the top 250 of the Times Higher Education (THE) world rankings. The Budapest-based Semmelweis University has improved 41 places on last year's result and is now ranked in the top 250 in the latest world rankings.
Semmelweis University announced that it had moved up significantly from the range of 250-300 (in 2012) to the 200-250th position (in 2022), making it the highest-ranking Hungarian university again. Traditionally, this world ranking looks at five areas: educational environment, research, citations, industry income and international orientation. Semmelweis University has improved in most indicators, most notably in citations and research. The university is ranked 64th among the higher education institutions of EU Member States, typically outranked by German, French and Belgian universities.
According to the Times Higher Education, “Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary, has been a leading biomedical higher education institution, a center of research excellence and healthcare provider in Hungary and Central Europe for over 250 years. Its mission based on the integrity of education, research and development and patient care has made it a regional center of excellence in the field of health sciences. The university offers academic programs that provide extensive and solid theoretical knowledge as well as competitive practical skills in medicine, dentistry, pharmaceutical sciences, health sciences and conductive education. The diplomas issued at the university are officially recognized in the European Union and in many other countries around the world.”
Popularity beyond the borders
The Times Higher Education is one of the best known and most accepted world university rankings, Rector of Semmelweis University dr. Béla Merkely tells Diplomacy&Trade. “I have been rector here for four years now and over that time, we have moved up from 491st to 236th, which means we are in the top 250. Bear in mind that there are about 28-30,000 universities in the world, so we are very much in the top one percent, and that puts us on the top in East Central Europe."
The number of those enrolled is around 13,600, of which 35% are foreign students from about a hundred countries from around the world. The fact that the university has achieved such popularity beyond national borders and has such a good reputation, is, the Rector notes, due to it being a 250-year-old institution of higher education with a long tradition. "At our university, training is specialized in health science and medicine. For example, if you look at our largest faculty, the Faculty of General Medicine, the number of students enrolled there in the first year is something like 1,100. This means that it is one of the largest medical universities in the world as far as the training of general doctors is concerned. Actually, the majority of the students in the Faculty of General Medicine are already foreigners. We have 440 Hungarian students, because we have a contract with the state and we take that many every year, while of the other 700 or so, half attend courses in German (mainly from Germany, Switzerland and Austria, of course) and the other half are enrolled in English-language courses. The latter course is very diverse, with a notoriously large number of students from Norway, Israel, South Korea and Japan. The largest numbers are from Japan, South Korea and recently China."
High quality education
In addition to the training specialism, Dr. Béla Merkely says the university's popularity is also due to the high level of education, with strong theoretical training alongside a renewed patient-focused clinical training, and the value of this degree. "So, when young people choose a college, they look for one steeped in tradition. Many of them are not even from within the European Union and they have to take a national licensing exam first. In Israel or the United States, for example, the success rate for this exam is very high, well over 90%. As a result, everybody wants to go to a course where they can get a diploma that will give them access to the best places."
Semmelweis University is currently in cooperation with more than forty universities worldwide. "We have cooperation agreements with well over a hundred universities, including 40 universities worldwide we have very close working ties with. The relationships that date back the furthest are with German universities from Heidelberg to Freiburg, but I could also list other major institutions from Imperial College to Oxford, Leuven, Leiden, Karolinska Institute, the University of Vienna, the University of Zurich or even the University of Bern. The list also includes Harvard, Stanford, Mayo and Duke in the United States – all universities with which we have close links,” he adds.
The latest example of a cooperation ‘alive and kicking’ is the agreement they have just signed with Harvard University located in the state of Massachusetts in the United States. As the rector explains, “this involves a one-year postgraduate training course for medical colleagues working in universities in East Central Europe, starting here in Budapest and finishing in Boston after an online course. So, it's a kind of Semmelweis bridge to Harvard and the graduates of this course get a degree from Harvard. Of course, the lecturers are predominantly from Harvard University, but we are also in the faculty, and thus, we can really demonstrate that Semmelweis University is a leader in this training structure.”
What makes medicine hard is that you have to cope with the doubling of the amount of science in two years, the rector claims. “So, if I learn medicine now, in two years' time, I will have to start all over again, because by that time, the same amount of knowledge has been accumulated. This is why it is crucial for a doctor, if he or she wants to be on top of treatment and diagnosis, that they keep learning – it is a lifelong learning process.”
According to a cooperation agreement signed by Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Semmelweis University (SE), HMS will design and implement a postgraduate clinical research training program in medicine at the university. The program, scheduled to start in July 2023 and run until June 2026, will be accompanied by three residential workshops: the first in Budapest, the second online and the third in Boston.
The US institution will be responsible for the curriculum and delivery of the training, and SE has committed to cover 50% of the fees for 50 students per year, for which the institution has earmarked a budget of USD 250,000.
The curriculum will help participants acquire the skills needed to conduct high-quality clinical research. These include epidemiology, biostatistics, medical ethics and professional leadership.
Ajay K. Singh, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at HMS, said in a press release that clinical research is a real driver of healthcare innovation and improves patient outcomes. “By providing high-impact training opportunities for healthcare professionals around the world, we are realizing the HMS mission of supporting a diverse and accepting community whose primary goal is to alleviate suffering, improve health and well-being," he added.
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