Interviews with faculty members with responsibility for curriculum design from all three disciplines and ranking by further experts in the area resulted in two lists of attributes, one desirable in a graduate pursuing a professional career, the second in a graduate pursuing a research career. The definitions agreed in the study (Table 2) provide a useful focus for debate amongst curriculum designers as to whether the opportunity to develop such attributes, are available within their program. The definitions may also help the developers of teaching sessions to design elements to foster and encourage these attributes amongst their undergraduates.
Interestingly the top seven attributes in both lists were the same, although not ranked in exactly the same order of preference. This suggests that such graduate attributes are high level skills which would be applicable to both research and professional situations. This finding has implications for curricula design in Medical, Dental and Veterinary degree programs. Curricula in all three disciplines are prescribed by guidelines issued by the governing bodies, the GMC , GDC  and RCVS  which are focussed towards the production of graduates competent to pursue a professional career, although they do suggest graduates be aware of the evidence base for practice and have an understanding of research methods. This study suggests that the two career aims (professional and research) are not mutually exclusive in terms of curriculum design and opportunities for learning within the curriculum. Indeed it may be the context in which the attributes are taught/encouraged which results in the student perceiving the session as being professional or research related . This means that designing courses which cover research related skills can be accomplished without adding further pressure to already crowded curricula. This does raise further questions as to how graduates can be encouraged to consider incorporating research into their careers, especially within veterinary research where the Selbourne report noted there was a lack of such people .
A BSc program in Medical Sciences may not have precisely the same aims as the standard five year MBChB and this is one limitation of this study, as graduates may have a slightly different focus in their careers. The course at the University of St Andrews provides the basis for entrance to the third year of an MBChB course, but also attempts to deliver an understanding of the scientific basis of Medicine and therefore should be equipping its graduates with the research related attributes determined in the previous part of the study. The results show that the final year students considered that the degree program as a whole, did provide them with the opportunity to develop all of the top seven attributes identified in this project as being common to both professional and research careers. The final year project component of the course was viewed as being particularly effective at equipping students with the ability to understand the importance of having an inquiring mind and developing their critical appraisal skills. Similar outcomes for research projects were shown in a qualitative study in science undergraduates and their faculty advisors by Seymour et al . They noted that the research project increased application of knowledge and skills such as critical thinking, changed attitudes, behaviours (such as increasing curiosity and initiative) and personal/professional gains (such as increasing confidence in communicating their work to others) [9, 10]. Interestingly the final year project in the St Andrews curriculum was not thought to improve team working skills within the students as much as other attributes. This may be due to the library based nature of the project undertaken by many of our students, rather than being laboratory based, where they would be working alongside others such as post-doctoral researchers or PhD students. Overall though this project provides further evidence as to the benefits of undergraduates taking part in research projects, but extends the previous work in pure science degrees to a Medical Sciences degree which includes a vocational element. The research project therefore is an excellent example of a method that can link research and teaching in the minds of the undergraduate, a vital component of the research-teaching nexus . As the new draft version of the GMCs Tomorrow's Doctors guidelines includes the high level outcome of 'The doctor as a scholar and scientist' , this may be one way to cover such areas within the medical curriculum.
Other limitations of this study include the sample of interviewees, which included individuals from all Scottish Medical, Dental and Veterinary schools and a selected sample from English schools. The English schools were selected for participation on the basis of achieving representatives from a wide range of curriculum types although it is not an exhaustive sample. We acknowledge that this may have impacted on the views that were obtained.
Data analysis employed both qualitative and quantitative methods. The development of the list of refined attributes from the interview suggestions utilised NVivo software which may have affected coding and clustering of data and therefore the emerging themes. The process was however carried out by two authors (AL and JS) who achieved consensus.
This study is timely as the Higher education sector becomes ever more globalised. Many Veterinary schools in the UK comply with European Association of Establishments for Veterinary Education curriculum guidelines . The Tuning project  is also ongoing and has the expansive aim of tuning educational structures and courses in higher education across Europe. This includes agreeing generic graduate competencies which should be outcomes for all degree programs. The Thematic Network on Medical Education in Europe (MEDINE) is working within the Tuning project among others . One piece of research carried out by the MEDINE group was an online survey investigating how vital medical educators viewed the generic Tuning competencies. Interestingly, of the 29 generic Tuning competencies, the 15 which were ranked most vital by medical educators across Europe were similar to the top seven attributes identified in this study . The seven attributes defined in the current project are possibly higher level and therefore incorporate one or more of the Tuning project generic competencies. One of the Tuning project generic competencies is 'research skills': this study would argue that in fact all of the seven attributes identified in this project are, in fact 'research skills'. The results of this study add to the current discussions around identifying and agreeing a common range of graduate attributes in the wider context of European education in the disciplines of Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine.