Prague a popular place to do medicine for students from the EU and beyond

Prague's Charles University was founded in 1348, making it one of the oldest universities in Europe. Since the fall of communism it has been welcoming ever increasing numbers of students from elsewhere on the continent, and further afield. An English-language degree course in medicine has been particularly successful, as Radio Prague's Ian Willoughby has been finding out.

Professor Otomar Kittmar is vice dean for international students at Charles University's medical faculty. He describes the history of the programme, and who what kind of students sign up.

"We started this programme in the year 1992. At the beginning of the programme we had five or six students in the first year, now we enroll about 100 students every year to the medicine study programme and around 20 to study dentistry. About one half of the students are from the United Kingdom. Then we have some students from Ireland, from Scandinavian countries - especially Sweden, and from Greek-speaking countries like Greece and Cyprus."

After the lecture, these students - two from Britain and one from Ireland - told me why they chose to study medicine in Prague, and how they were finding the experience.

English girl: "I wanted to study in English, but not in England...I don't know the competition is too much."

Irish guy: "I suppose it was the competition as well. It was very difficult to get in at home and I got the opportunity to do it here, so it's something to be thankful for."

English girl: "Here the exams are oral - in England they're not. I don't know if that's harder or not."

Irish guy: "I'd say it's probably a bit more difficult. The reputation of the university in Ireland is quite sister is planning on coming out here next year. Despite the difficulty it's good."

Irish guy: "There's somebody from everywhere on the course: Sweden, Botswana, Chechnya, Russia..."

English guy: "You come here and you learn about the outside world, it's very multicultural. It makes you independent staying so far away from home. It kind of makes you realise - there's a world out there."

Professor Kittmar says this international aspect also helps Czech doctors develop ties with colleagues around the world. And, he says, the students learn that some values are universal.

"In medicine it is also important for one reason, because they learn that medicine is really global, ill people are ill people all over the world - it doesn't depend on nationality, religion, anything like that. They need the same help, the same empathy. And I think this could be a very important experience for our students and graduates."

Professor Kittmar says the programme is thriving: since EU enlargement two years ago the number of applicants has more than doubled.