International students raise alarm over exam allegations

A Polish professor at the Medical University of Gdansk (MUG) is facing claims that he was caught boasting to two lecturers while visiting the Collegium Medicum at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Bydgoszcz, Poland, that the high number of students repeating anatomy had been providing a cash injection for the university.

Professor Janusz Morys – former rector of MUG (2008-16) – was reportedly heard telling colleagues that the exam raises so much money that people call it the ‘Morys fund’.

Under regulations unique among medical departments, students can repeat the first-year examination once, and the following years’ examinations twice at a cost which has risen to PLN10,600 (US$2,800) each time.

The allegation emerged after the three academics forgot to turn off the microphone on the platform for online learning before starting their conversation, according to a report on Polish news portal Interia.

“Each item is scored. Anatomy in the first year is worth 20 ECTS credits. Each point, in the case of repeating a subject, ‘costs’ PLN530 in Gdansk. It’s easy to count that repeating an anatomy year costs PLN10,600,” Aleksandra, an MUG student, told Interia.

It was alleged that on the recording Morys admitted that some of those who take the test online “have no chance” of being admitted.

International students who heard the conversation interpreted it as meaning that Morys was deliberately failing students in order to generate more funds, which Morys strongly denies.

However, after students at the Collegium Medicum sent a copy of the recording of the conversation to fellow students in Gdansk, the matter was taken up by the student council of MUG.

The allegation has caused controversy in Norway, which has 132 students registered at MUG, according to Norwegian newspaper VG. The Association of Norwegian Students Abroad has called on the Polish government to look into the matter.

The university on 3 March published an official statement distancing itself from what Morys had said.

It said the views presented by Morys during the meeting at Collegium Medicum of Nicolaus Copernicus University were “his private opinions and cannot be in any way identified as the official stance of the university”.

“We would like to emphasise that Professor Janusz Morys participated in the meeting not as MUG’s representative but as the president of the University Commission for the Quality of Medical Education – an autonomous academic body that is independent from national authority,” the statement said.

The rector of the medical faculty of Gdansk, writing on the university’s Facebook page on 5 March, said that Professor Morys had resigned from the “subject manager position of gross anatomy with neuroscience until the disciplinary proceedings are resolved”.

Morys has hit back at the allegations, telling the Urix programme put out by NRK, the Norwegian broadcaster, that he only flunked students who were incompetent.

But Henriette N Thommessen, who graduated from the Gdansk medical faculty in 2014 and now practises as a doctor in Norway, told Urix that some multiple-choice questions did not have any correct solution so that they were impossible to answer.

However, Morys told Urix that “if the students do not read all year through, they do not learn sufficiently and hence they cannot expect to pass”. He said that 90% of the Polish students pass the anatomy exam and when so many of the Norwegian students flunk it, it is because they are poorly prepared and have less skills.

Morgan Alangeh, president of the Association of Norwegian Students Abroad (ANSA), told University World News that MUG offers the right quality of medical education that the Norwegian government needs to educate enough doctors for its healthcare system. He urged the Polish government and MUG to look into the matter and to find a good solution for the international student body who otherwise enjoy studying in Poland.

“We hope and expect that the Medical University of Gdansk will deal with the matter in the spirit of full transparency, and make sure that students from all over the world will feel safe applying to the university also in the future.”

Norway’s Research and Higher Education Minister Henrik Asheim said that the ministry only knows about this case from VG. “We are working on clarifying the situation. But if this is correct, it is very bad and not acceptable,” Asheim said.