Is here (scroll down), based on a prior post on this blog. In it I make the somewhat radical suggestion that medial and legal degrees should be removed from universities also. One of the commentators there took issue:
I worry about Wilkins’ views about medicine and law. As he rightly observes, these subjects have long been part of universities, precisely because they were “theoretical and needed research”. That remains the case today. Does anybody want a doctor without the research competency to engage with contemporary papers about the efficacy of particular treatments, or a lawyer who cannot engage in research about new issues relevant to their client? If that is the situation in Australia I am very glad that my healthcare is provided elsewhere!
Wilkins does not seem to understand that in some professions (what used to be called the “learned professions”), research and practice are inextricably intertwined. Without engagement with research and researchers, “professionals” cease to be that and become mere technicians, incapable of responding to a changing world. Good undergraduate degrees in “professional” subjects provide just that exposure and skills, even if the students do not engage in much research themselves.
I have three things to say about this:
1. The “research skills” that undergraduate medical and legal students require are little more than those taught around year 10, and these days involve little more than the ability to use website and library search facilities. A student who completes a basic medical degree has information provided to them in books and by popular journals. A specialist might need greater skills, but they are not what I suggested should be removed from universities. The same thing goes for legal research (which is usually even simpler). I do not think the commenter knows what “research” actually means.
2. Medicine and law do not involve research in practice. I worked ten years at a leading medical research institute and the scientists would tell me that they had to spend around three years teaching medical graduates how to do research, especially in the area of experimental design and inference. I saw this myself in a number of cases. When people are doing medical and legal research, they are usually not at the same moment practising medicine or law. Bedside and courtroom practice do not involve research, or else you aren’t doing it right.
3. Most of the time, and for most law and medicine, it is just technical work. Medical doctors are no better than any other profession at critical thinking or investigation. In some countries, where the blowout of medical qualification has been resisted from necessity (like China or Cuba), basic medical training is similar to basic military medical training. Surgeons and specialists need extensive further training in every country (and in most cases they still aren’t doing research even so), but the “union ticket”, the basic degree, is not something that has to be in universities. Law and Medical schools can be independent without damage for those degrees.
And I think the commenter should take a hard look at the relative deliverables of Australian health versus the United Kingdom’s or United States‘. We have one of the most efficient and effective such systems in the world, despite many government and special interest attempts to prevent it. Australian life expectancy is beaten only by Japan and Switzerland, our infant mortality is much lower than both the US and UK, and we do it with fewer doctors. We spend less than half the US per capita and only a little more than the UK. Basically I’d much rather live here than in the UK.