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FAQ combination masters PBH and Medicine

Frequently asked questions about the combination of the masters Philosophy, Bioethics and Health and Medicine

Imagine you’re studying Medicine, and you want to know more about the ethical dilemmas in health care, or about the philosophy behind Medicine. Maybe you want to reflect on the practical experience you gained during your rounds (residencies, coschappen) to answer these questions. In that case the master track Philosophy: Bioethics and Health (PBH) at the VU is the right place for you! Combining two masters can be a logistical challenge, especially when your second master is a full-time program while doing your rounds. Therefore, we hope this page helps to guide you through.

  • 1. Is PBH often combined with a master’s in Medicine?

    Yes! PBH is being combined with a diversity of master programs, but more often with Medicine than other studies. It differs however, in what phase the students are: some just finished their bachelor’s and are starting the PBH courses while waiting for their rounds, whereas others are (almost) done with their rounds, or are in doubt whether they want to continue the Medicine masters. The difference in (practical) experiences and backgrounds are interesting sources for the discussions and case studies.

  • 2. How can I combine PBH practically with my rounds?

    Some students are doing their rounds (partially) during PBH, while others are working part-time. Some are even doing their master’s in another city or country (Barcelona, Auckland, Groningen, Maastricht, etc.). A lot is possible with a proper planning!

    Because we know from students' experiences it is hard to combine PBH courses with doing rounds on a fulltime basis, we discourage doing both at the same time. It is possible to start with PBH before starting your rounds, or when you are (almost) done.

    N.B. To avoid a higher tuition fee for a second master program, it is suggested to enroll for PBH while you have not finished your first master program yet. More information can be found at here.

  • 3. What are the contact hours for the PBH courses?

    How many contact hours you have per week depends partly on how many courses you plan in each period. Usually, there are 4-6 contact hours per course per week. Besides, you need a significant amount of time to prepare the lectures (lots of readings), to complete exercises and write papers.

  • 4. How do I know when the courses are planned?

    On the website you can find the entire curriculum for the PBH program, and the suggested distribution of the courses over the first and second year. In the study guide you can find all courses and their information, like the corresponding teaching period, teachers and descriptions of their content and examination.

    It is possible to switch the order of the PBH courses around, in order to better fit your planning. This is not desirable, since the courses are designed and ordered for a reason. The periods in which the courses are being taught can never change, but you can follow a second-year course (like Philosophy of Mind, Life and Death) in the first year, or a first-year course (like Ancient and Medieval Philosophy) in the second year.

    Around four weeks before the start of a new period, the course schedules are being published via or via Canvas. Here you can also find the schedules of the previous year, so you can get an idea about the amount of contact hours for the courses when the new schedule is not yet available. Importantly: the schedule can differ each year – but in practice we have seen the variation has been limited over the past year. Here you can find the academic calendar of the VU, which shows the breakdown of the academic year in periods (8-8-4-8-8-4 weeks)

    The courses that are officially planned for the first year of PBH are often scheduled in the evenings (>5:00 PM), which makes it easier to combine them with courses of your other master’s or rounds. The second-year courses are often planned on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so you can follow most lectures in one day instead of distributed over five days per week. Consider this while planning. It is also possible to spread out the master’s over several years, which corresponds to following the program part-time.

  • 5. Is there mandatory attendance for lectures and/or tutorials?

    It differs per course whether the lectures and/or tutorials are mandatory or not. You can check this at the beginning of each course in the study guide, in the course manual on Canvas, or with the teacher. On the VU website of the course schedule you can get an idea of the amount of planned hours for each course, and the division between lectures and tutorials. If there is an overlap in the schedule with your other course(s) which means you cannot always be present, it is important reach out to the teacher before the course starts, to discuss the possibilities.

  • 6. Are the PBH lectures or tutorials available online?

    It depends on the VU policy regarding the COVID-19 measures of the new academic year whether online education will be given. The lectures for PBH are face-to-face as much as possible on campus, as this gives room for discussion. Attendance is highly recommended, since this opens up important learning possibilities for the program.

  • 7. What is the Oxford Winter School and when is this scheduled?

    The Oxford Winter School takes places in or around the third week of January. It is a second-year course where we do an excursion of 5 days to the campus of Oxford in the UK. There you will present and discuss an article of a researcher of the University of Oxford, who is present him/herself during the presentation, together with other interested people. It's exciting, very fun and informative.

    In the 1-2 weeks before the trip, there are preparation meetings and mock presentations, so the students can help each other with the presentations about the articles. Communication about the excursion will mostly executed via e-mail, and because the schedule differs per year it is not available in the VU course schedule website. Take into account while making your planning that you need to be available in January to prepare your presentation, be present during the meetings and of course the visit to Oxford (if the measures will allow this – in 2021 and 2022 the Winter School took successfully place online).