Teaching Matters

Developing future leaders in Biomedical Sciences

A unique BSc Honours degree in Biomedical Sciences is the result of a partnership with Zhejiang University

In September 2016, learning started for students enrolled on a unique 4-year joint award BSc Honours degree in Biomedical Sciences that is the result of a partnership between Zhejiang University and the University of Edinburgh.   The programme is being delivered, entirely in English, at Zhejiang University’s International Campus in Haining.  The teaching is currently shared equally between staff from both Zhejiang University and the University of Edinburgh.  Eventually staff from an international research-oriented institute will also contribute to the teaching.  The institute is still in development.

The primary aim of the programme is to produce future leaders in the field of Biomedical Sciences.  The first cohort of 22 students, mostly recruited from the province of Zhejiang, have now completed their first semester.  Although English is not their first language, all the students have risen to the challenge of learning in English and all are making good progress in their learning. 

In the first semester they studied academic English, mathematics, chemistry and biomedical sciences.  In the biomedical sciences course, the teaching and learning has been focussed on a student centred approach: the autonomy which this approach involves is unusual in China.  Three lectures per week are complemented by three hours of tutorials and a three hour practical session.  In all sessions students have been encouraged to develop their critical thinking and to regularly share their thoughts in the context of their learning of the basic concepts in biomedical sciences. 

Several students have articulated their joy at participating in open discussions with both the staff and their peers even though they are often pressed to explain in more detail the reasoning underlying their contributions to these discussions.  From the start the students have been encouraged to question what they are learning and staff have been rewarded with questions that clearly demonstrate the application of new knowledge to extend their understanding of more complex concepts.  As part of the course, the students are conducting a year-long experiment which involves taking measures of cardiovascular and respiratory function in their peers every two weeks.  The students are divided into four groups and each group is responsible for managing their own data collection. 

The students are learning invaluable lessons in the importance of data integrity as well as being effective team members.  Through this experiment, the practical classes and the tutorials, the development of the skills required by a biomedical scientist are being instilled.