The Slovenia Times

Slovenia to get third medical school

Health & MedicineScience & Education
PM Robert Golob and University of Primorska rector Klavdija Kutnar sign a letter of intent on a new medical school (pictured in the background). Photo: Katja Kodba/STA

Faced with doctor shortages, long wait times in healthcare and an ongoing doctors' strike, the Slovenian government has decided to back the creation of a third medical school in the country. Joining those in Ljubljana and Maribor, the new school will be part of the University of Primorska.

Prime Minister Robert Golob signed a letter of intent to develop medical studies at Slovenia's youngest university with rector Klavdija Kutnar on 22 May, having unveiled the plan during questions time in parliament two days earlier to the surprise of the medical community.

The first 100 medical students are to get enrolled in the new programme in the academic year 2027/28. They will attend courses in a planned new building of the existing Faculty of Health Studies adjacent to the Izola General Hospital.

The investment in the building is valued at around €18 million, with the funds to be provided by two ministries and the university, according to Higher Education Minister Igor Papič.

The letter of intent binds the university to apply for accreditation of the new study programme by April 2025. If the National Agency for Quality in Higher Education approves its application, the Health Ministry will also provide funds for lab equipment to make the new building fit for medical studies, and for the study programme.

The Faculty of Health Sciences now offers courses such as kinesiology, nursing, physiotherapy and physical education.

Rector Kutnar said the idea of a new medical school was not new and had been talked about in the coastal region for a while. The university started preparations for it in 2020, and now the time has come for them to "dare ask the ministry" for funding.

Concerns about standards, teaching staff shortages

In response to concerns raised by the existing medical schools in Ljubljana and Maribor, Golob promised investments to expand the capacities there would continue, and Minister Papič said the planned projects in Ljubljana and Maribor would not lose a single euro as a result of the Izola project.

The government promised to continue to support a gradual increase in enrolment at the two existing schools.

Government and university officials also sought to allay fears that the new programme in Izola might not meet the standards provided by the other two medical schools.

The Medical Chamber and other organisations and professionals have raised teaching staff shortages and the fact that unlike Ljubljana and Maribor, the Primorska region has no university medical hospital to provide clinical training for future doctors.

But Papič said the accreditation agency would be overseeing quality, hiring experts for this very difficult accreditation procedure.

The rector added that the university would get help from its many partners in the Transform4Europe Alliance in developing the medical programme. Health providers in the region are well aware they will have step up activities to provide an adequate clinical environment for future students, she said.

Existing medical schools sceptical

Slovenia's oldest medical school was established in 1919 as one of the five founding members of the University of Ljubljana, while a second one was at the University of Maribor in 2003 with the first students enrolled in the academic year 2004/05.

Igor Švab, dean of the Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine, wondered whether establishing another medical school made sense, given a shortage of teaching staff, suggesting the schools would be "stealing" staff from each other.

Iztok Takač, dean of the Maribor Faculty of Medicine, said the two existing medical schools "could easily accept another 100 students, if their premises were expanded, but the government is not even willing to provide the funds to the Maribor faculty for a plot of land".

The Ljubljana school has 205 enrolment places for first-year students in the current academic year, and 106 are available in Maribor. However, the number of secondary school students who want to study medicine is much larger, and there is bitter competition to earn a place.

An EU-subsidised €60 million medical school campus under construction close to the UKC Ljubljana university medical centre is expected to make it possible to increase the number of enrolment places. One of three such planned, it is expected to be completed by June 2026.

OECD data for 2021 shows that Slovenia had 3.3 doctors per 1,000 residents, which compares to the EU average of four doctors. According to the Slovenian Medical Chamber, there were 7,127 doctors in the country in August 2023, up 95 in a year.


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