Opinion //

Médecins Sans Rémunération: Doctors without paycheques

The University has concocted an illusion of the highest order

The Doctor of Medicine program currently costs $78,000 per annum for international students and $66,000 for local applicants. For a four-year course, that comes to a total of $312,000 and $264,000 respectively. 

The costs have been justified by the University on the basis of prestige. Sydney Medical School, ranked 18th in the world according to QS, is one of the biggest jewels on USyd’s crown. 

With all this money pouring in, there should be no reason to avoid paying tutors properly. And yet, that is the reality for many involved in the the Clinical Teaching Fellowship (CTF). Now in its second year, the fellowship claims to be “a new initiative to prepare the next generation of clinicians and basic scientists to deliver high-quality medical student teaching within Sydney Medical School.” But it makes no mention of the fact that tutors are left unpaid. 

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When I applied for the fellowship, I assumed that teaching would be remunerated. The CTF requires tutors to  facilitate four two and a half hour ‘Team-Based Learning’ tutorials — a class where students are given a case study to complete. When I requested my contract, the response was  that payment would not be given for teaching within the program. I was disillusioned. Conveniently, the word ‘volunteer’ was omitted from the application pack. The promise of furthering my skills in medical education was apparently enough to counter the onus on profit-making institutions to pay their workers. 

Beyond the tutorials, tutors were required to complete  the Clinical Teaching Training module, a two and a half hour course which consisted of nothing more than common sense pasted on a USyd-bannered PowerPoint.

The worst part came when I had completed the program and I received an email probing my availability for the coming year. I requested payment again, to little avail.  After requesting my contract, I was told that the Medical School does not pay tutors, but that the CTF would look really good on my CV. In response, I asked who I should direct my feedback to. This email went unanswered.

The University has concocted an illusion of the highest order — it has given training as recompense for teaching, leaving the CTF as nothing more than  a guise to get free labour, without conferring any employment rights. 

This has not always been the case. When  the now defunct relative of Team-based Learning (TBL) — the old Problem-Based Learning’ tutorials — were being delivered, tutors could opt in to as many or as little tutorials as they wanted – all of which were on a remunerated basis. 

 The CTF program has been economically advantageous for the Medical School but utterly non-sustainable.

Academics within the Faculty have told me they are disgusted  to learn that the CTF model has become the new model for teaching. 

I’m sure most students would be displeased to find out that their fees were not going towards paying teachers properly.

After all, staff teaching conditions are student learning conditions.

Marcus Andersson is a current PhD candidate in the Faculty of Medicine

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