Compulsory attendance in lectures: Is attendance compulsory in the degree programme?

MUDr. Amandeep Grewal

MUDr. Amandeep Grewal

Doctor & Co-Founder of futuredoctor

Reading time: 6 Minuten
Last updated: 11 June 2024
Graphic how important are lectures? Landscape

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The professor in the lecture says: "Exam relevant!", and in the last row someone's cereal bowl falls out of their hand, or: "What the lecturer tells you in 2 hours in the lecture, I can easily work out at home in half the time".

There are many jokes and thoughts of this kind, but what is really true and how important is attendance at a course? Of course, this blog only represents my personal opinion as a medical student abroad, but I think that this opinion can also be generalised in relation to attendance requirements.

Attention: Sometimes check with attendance list

Basically, it depends on whether the lectures are compulsory (compulsory attendance) or "voluntary". If the lectures are compulsory, the students have no choice. Some professors and lecturers at universities check attendance with an attendance list, while others are not really interested in this. However, if the courses are voluntary, many students immediately start to think and weigh up the pros against the cons. Should I? Should I not go to the courses? Every student, regardless of the degree programme, has certainly asked themselves this question.

I'm going to list a few points for and against in the hope that this will help you get through your medical studies.

Compulsory attendance lecture: Why attendance is important for students

Courses, not just those in a medical degree programme, have several advantages. You really get to grips with the material that is being discussed and don't put it off until you get home, where it is usually not done after all or is put off until the mountain of university material has become so big that you no longer have an overview of it. If you attend lectures regularly, you will certainly have fewer gaps in your knowledge. On top of that, you'll always be up-to-date with the university material and know what it's all about. However, whether you actually take anything away from the lectures depends very much on what type of learner you are. Are you more of a visual learner or do you absorb more aurally? Of course, you can also take notes during lectures, but you will also lose the time in which you can actively pay attention. You have to find out for yourself which way you learn best.

Another point in favour of the lectures is that you don't miss any important announcements by the lecturers or any important and exciting discussions or stories. However, I also have to say that because medical students are now so well networked among themselves, all important information is shared and you usually always get it, whether first or second/third hand. Somehow the information always finds its way to you.

Now for what everyone wants to hear...

Not attending courses: what are the reasons?

Many lectures are quite nice to listen to, the students let themselves be sprinkled with the material and go home afterwards without any real added value, but appeased and with a clear conscience. Unfortunately, many lecturers today still don't know how to give a good lecture, fill their PowerPoint slides with continuous text and then torture you for two hours with PowerPoint karaoke. You can avoid such lectures with a clear conscience, but you will have to learn the material in some other way. If you realise that the lectures have no added value for you, then don't force yourself to go just to have been there and feel better, you will only waste time and not really benefit from it. The same applies if the lecturer is an absolute motivation killer. If you sit in a lecture for two hours and fall asleep five times because the monotone voice combined with the presentation has a sedating effect, then it's better to use the time differently. It makes more sense to prepare at home for the to study medicine, or in the time a Part-time job during medical studies to be executed.

One of the biggest reasons why most lectures are not attended is that the alternatives to lectures are simply far too good. YouTube now offers an absurd amount of high-quality videos on medical topics that are simply better and also shorter than most lectures. Here you can easily pause, rewind, increase the speed, take notes on the side, look up things you don't understand directly, and so on and so forth....

"NinjaNerd" is only one of the YouTube channels sent by God, but in my opinion one of the best for us medical students. But you'll see for yourself soon enough what's good for you and what's not.

Thanks to corona, it is now standard practice at many medical universities across Europe for all lectures to be held online. This is of course a huge game changer and relativises some of the points I've made so far. If the lectures are online, you can log in from the comfort of your own home, briefly check whether the lecture is potentially helpful and has added value for you and then decide whether you want to stick with it or not. In any case, the hurdle of not leaving the house and travelling to the university is no longer an issue. Many of the lectures are then also uploaded and you can watch them later or just zap through them again, and if you have any questions, you can always write to the lecturers, 90% of the lecturers are nice and will certainly answer you.

As you can see, many factors play a role and you can't really say across the board, go or don't go to the lectures. In the end, every student is on their own and has to find the best option for themselves.

But, before you get super bored and unproductive going to lectures (if they even still take place at university) just to talk to the other students or play around on your smartphone, use your time differently, as long as you are productive.

Productivity is key!