Semmelweis University’s 25-year-old Károly Rácz School of Ph.D. Studies has surpassed more records at this year’s Dies Academicus ceremony, where 134 PhD students graduated, 85 percent of them with summa cum laude qualifications. According to Dr. József Tímár, Chairman of the Doctoral Council, this shows the excellence of students and teachers. According to him, in order to further increase the popularity of postgraduate education, it is of great importance to have students reach the highest level of dissertation in the shortest amount of time possible.

Semmelweis University’s Károly Rácz School of Ph.D. Studies was established 25 years ago, when postgraduate training returned from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences to universities. The founders – Dr. Péter Sótonyi, Dr. Péter Rajna, Dr. András Jeney, Dr. József Mandl, Dr. Emil Monos, Dr. Miklós Réthelyi, Dr. Éva Szőke, and Dr. Zsolt Tulassay – initiated the programme in an organizational form similar to the university’s faculty training programes, thus ensuring necessary autonomy and relative financial independence, said Dr. József Tímár.

He stressed that the minimum standards of dissertations were also determined then, based on the impact factor averages of the publications cited in papers. Although science metrics have changed a lot since then, the requirements that were discussed then still stand in place today: the 2018 graduate students have more than 500 international publications in their dissertations, and the university’s 134 Ph.D.  dissertations include 135 D1 (top 10 percent) and 122 Q1 (top 25 percent) publications from various journals, said the Chairman of the Doctoral Council. In his view, this not only reflects the excellence of the students but also of their supervisors.

The 134 PhD diplomas obtained in 2018 is the best result in the last eight years, with 85 percent of the diplomas conferred summa cum laude. At the Semmelweis University School of Ph.D. Studies, the graduation rate significantly exceeds the national average. There are currently 508 students, 268 doctoral candidates participating in the 44 programs of the 7 doctoral schools, with 380 active student supervisors and almost 900 research topics being explored – the figures were presented by the Chairman of the Doctoral Council. He added that at the programme’s beginning 25 years ago, roughly one-third of the current number of students was typical.

At the School of Ph.D. Studies there are currently about 300 students studying with a state stipend. Almost 100 people enter the system every year, and the number of fee-paying students is also high, as is the number of students applying for specialized degree programmes, said Dr. Tímár József. Currently, 70 percent of students can get a degree within five years, the president added. He stressed that it is in the university’s interest that postgraduate students be able to graduate as quickly and successfully as possible, and for the top talent to remain at the university, as they make up the future supply of quality researchers and teachers. To this end, the School of Ph.D. Studies tries to support scholarships from university sources, but at present it is more involved with EFOPs and grants awarded by the National Excellence Programme, said Dr. József Tímár. 

Traditionally, the Doctoral School of Clinical Medicine confers most of the degrees each year, even though there are many who choose more financially attractive resident training. Therefore, the Chairman of the Doctoral Council believes that implementation of the so-called “MD-PhD” training could significantly shorten the training time for those who would like to take part in the residency and PhD training programmes; the introduction of scholarships could also be a possibility. Dr. József Tímár also said that in the near future, an eighth doctoral school in health sciences is expected to be launched, which is being prepared and is expected to be accredited in the next academic year.  

Eszter Keresztes
Photo: Gábor Ancsin
Translation: Faye Gillespie