This study investigated factors associated with student completion of the Medical Student Research Programme at the University of Bergen, as well as the students' degree of satisfaction with the supervision they received. We found a lower probability of completion among students who were dissatisfied with the supervision, compared to those who were partly or completely satisfied. Almost half of those who withdrew from the programme said that part of the reason for doing so was a problematic relationship with their supervisor or research group. The national evaluation of medical student research programmes undertaken in 2006 showed that 75 % of students were satisfied with their supervision while 19 % wanted more supervision (3). We also identified a trend suggesting that regular supervision led to a higher programme completion rate. Many medical faculties have written guidelines that stipulate regular contact between supervisors and students on the research programme (4–6). Furthermore, there was a higher rate of satisfaction among students who had received regular supervision and had access to their supervisor throughout the research period. These findings support the argument that medical students on a research programme need regular follow-up. They also demonstrate the importance of a good relationship between student and supervisor.
The most commonly cited reason for not completing the research programme was that the project was not suitable for a research programme student. This was also one of the most frequently cited reasons for considering whether to withdraw from the programme among students who completed the programme. Properly planned projects that are suitable for medical students with limited knowledge and experience of research are therefore important for keeping students on the programme.
The principal weakness of this study is the reduced statistical robustness caused by the low number of students who withdrew from the programme (2). This may have caused type II errors with true correlations missed. We cannot exclude selection bias despite the high response rate as we had no opportunity to describe the former research programme students who did not respond to the survey.
The assessment of whether projects are suitable for medical students on a research programme, and the students' relationship with their supervisors, have only been described from the students' point of view. Nevertheless, the students' assessment of their time in the research programme is an important perspective which has never previously been systematically investigated and may help to ensure that more students complete the research programme.
The Medical Student Research Programme at the University of Bergen has introduced annual follow-up meetings as an initiative to ensure that students are well supported and that problems are solved as early as possible. Further initiatives to raise the quality of the research programmes offered by Norwegian medical schools may include supervisor training and the introduction of further requirements relating to the supervision and follow-up of students who attend the programmes.