Swiss Catalogue of Learning Objectives for Undergraduate Medical Training

Under a mandate of the Joint Commission of the Swiss Medical Schools


In the year 1997, the Federal Counselor Ruth Dreifuss appointed Prof Thomas Fleiner to head a Committee in charge of elaborating a new Federal Act on University Medical Professions (medicine, dental medicine, pharmacy and veterinary medicine), replacing that of 1877. Several members of the Joint Commission of the Swiss Medical Schools (SMIFK/CIMS), a body reuniting representatives of all Swiss Faculties of medicine and of the federal authorities involved in medical teaching and training, participated in this federal committee, in particular Prof Ralph Bloch, Prof Vinzenz Im Hof, Prof Jean-Pierre Wauters, Dr René Salzberg, Dr Ueli Grüninger and myself. As the old law and its ordinances, which prescribed in details the examinations and their contents, had hindered new pedagogical developments, we strongly pleaded for a new law that would give the autonomy to each medical school in the organization of its medical curriculum and in the continuous adaptation of it by taking advantage of the progress in the field of medical education. To counterbalance this autonomy, the committee proposed that the law and its ordinance should provide the federal administration in charge of public health with three powerful tools for controlling the quality of undergraduate medical education, namely:

  1. Compulsory accreditation of the medical schools
  2. Control of the final product by a comprehensive federal examination which would examine whether the candidates master the knowledge, skills and attitudes as well as the social competencies and behaviors required for practicing the chosen medical profession, thereby enabling them to enter any of the postgraduate medical training programs.
  3. Enforcement of a common Swiss catalogue of learning objectives listing knowledge, professional attitudes and clinical skills for each of the five medical professions, thereby contributing to the harmonization of the curricula of the five medical schools.

This was taken into account by the federal committee and eventually resulted in the Federal Act of 23 June 2006 on University Medical Professions (including also chiropractic). The law was enacted in September 2007, giving the medical schools the desired autonomy at the undergraduate level.

Made aware of what was going on by its representatives in the federal Committee, the SMIFK/CIMS decided in 2000 to establish a Swiss Catalogue of Learning Objectives for Undergraduate Medical Training (SCLO), which was adapted from the Dutch Blueprint and published in 2001. In addition, in 2003, the SMIFK/CIMS, in collaboration with the Center of Accreditation and Quality Assurance of the Swiss Universities (OAQ) set up the criteria for accreditation of the Swiss medical schools on the basis of the criteria of the World Federation for Medical Education. Also, in 2004, it was decided to proceed with a complete revision of the SCLO, which led to the present version, approved by the SMIFK/CIMS in 2008 and which will be used as a basis for the preparation of the first new federal examination in the summer of 2011.

I would like to express my profound gratitude to all the members of the working group of the SCLO for their dedication to the task during all these years. My special thanks go to Prof Hans Bürgi, the chairman of the working group, for his very efficient leadership of the group and for his diplomatic skills and patience when he had to discuss the modifications of the new version of the SCLO with the various panels of experts of the medical specialties. Special thanks also to Dr Bernhard Rindlisbacher, the executive secretary, for his crucial work in the preparation of the working sessions of the group and the reformulation of the general objectives of the catalogue. I thank also Dr Jean-Paul Humair, who accepted to replace me in the working group as of September 2007, despite his many clinical and teaching responsibilities in Geneva.

I would like to conclude with a special thought for Prof Vinzenz Im Hof, a member of the group, who died unexpectedly on the 13th of September 2006. In addition to his influence in the federal Committee on the new law, he has been a constant inspiration to those of us who participated in the major changes in the medical curriculum that have taken place in all Swiss medical schools since 1995, including the implementation of the Bologna process.

Professor Charles Bader, MD, chairman of the Joint Commission of the Swiss Medical Schools.

Geneva, June 2008.