The TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION (THE) reported yesterday that the British School of Osteopathy (BSO) has won university college title, meaning that it could be on the road towards full university status. University college title, awarded by the Privy Council on the advice of the Department for Education (DfE) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, is usually seen as a step towards full university status. The London-based BSO already secured degree-awarding powers and access to Hefce public teaching and research funding in 2015. The BSO will be known, from September, as the University College of Osteopathy.

The THE quoted me saying “Osteopathy is based on implausible assumptions, and there is no good evidence for its effectiveness. Yet osteopaths regularly make all sorts of therapeutic claims. These facts make the BSO not a candidate for becoming a university; on the contrary, such a move would significantly downgrade the credibility of UK universities and make a mockery of academia and evidence-based healthcare.”

Charles Hunt, the BSO principal, responded: “We recognise that for some of the things that some osteopaths are doing, there is very limited evidence [to demonstrate their effectiveness], and we need to gain more for that. But within medicine, there’s a lot of things that also do not have evidence for them, but some medical practitioners are doing [them anyway].”


The BSO principal should offer a course on logical fallacies and enlist as the first student in it, I thought when reading his response.

Anyway, having stated that “osteopaths regularly make all sorts of therapeutic claims”, I better provide some evidence. Perhaps another occasion for a slide-show?

Here are a few images I found on Twitter that are relevant in this context.

[please click to see them full size]

10 Responses to Osteopathy making a mockery of academia and evidence-based healthcare

  • The mind boggles as to what students actually get taught on a degree programme in this pseudoscience.
    What a waste of their time and money – and public money.
    The osteopaths will be delighted though, at the apparent legitimacy from gaining ‘university college’ status. As Edzard says, this could well be the precursor to full university status.
    More generally, I suspect we could be witnessing the start of a resurgence in degrees in woo in the UK, following the dropping a few years ago by most universities of degrees in mumbo jumbo, or more specifically homeopathy, that resulted from David Colquhoun’s expose of ‘quackademia’.

  • Well, what else will we have to sell to the rest of the world in our glorious post-Brexit future? (Other than cluster bombs…)

    • How about retaining academic integrity on principle alone? Perhaps not fashionable, but inherently worthwhile.

      • Higher education has been getting it in the neck for decades, mind, being largely reduced to an extended babysitting service for middle-class swing voters. I doubt this crap is even close to its endpoint, alas.

  • Actually, the best osteopaths function in a way that’s indistinguishable from physiotherapy. It’s true that the evidence base for physio is pretty slim too, but it doesn’t involve mystical quackery (apart from those deluded physiotherapists who have adopted acupuncture). The problem is (as usual) that their regulatory body does nothing about those who make outrageous claims

    • Just as chiro has done, osteo has (mis)appropriated modes of treatment from medically allied professions to try to give themselves a veneer of respectability. I would call it unprincipled thievery.

  • So I am to assume ‘Osteopathy’ (a DO in the US) is NOT an MD-equivalent-degree in the U.K.??
    Both my GP and general surgeon are DOs and practice identically to an MD…neither do any untoward theatrics.

  • In the US an osteopathic physician D.O. is a fully licensed physician with a professioal degree (D.O.). The medical training is according to the standard of M.D. which is a professional degree too.

    Osteopathic physicians receive a training in OMM (Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine) too to treat functional disorders of the movement apparatus. Their is nearly no evidence to this OMM and only about 5% of osteopathic physicians use OMM in their practice.

    European or Commonwealth osteopaths are totally different educated and are called “osteopathic manipulators” by osteopathic physicians of the States to point out the difference.

    European osteopathic manipulators use OMM plus “visceral osteopathy” which was added to OMM in the 1980 by French osteopaths and so called “osteopathy in the cranial field” or “craniosacral osteopathy”.

    Visceral osteopathy is the old Thure Brandt Massage in the version of the old French gynecologist Henri Stapfer who suggested to lift the organs to prevent uterus prolaps. There is no evidence to this at all. Such an approach has a risk to cause inner bleedings.

    Cranial osteopathy developed out of Mesmerism (magnetic healing) plus phrenology and was used to provide symmetric skulls.

    In the 1950 there were techniques for one to 4 osteopaths working on a child’s skull. As Upledger’s Cranio-sacral therapy took over that market cranial osteopathy switched it’s techniques to soft-touch too. It’s a nice experience but why call this a therapy?

    Their is no evidence to osteopathy in the cranial field at all and the explanations used in the training are switching between esoteric and pseudo-scientific.

    Sorry to say but under such circumstances a B.Sc. or M.Sc. in osteopathy in Europe to me is equivalent with any other similar degree in religious “science”.
    But nowadays you might receive a B.Sc. or M.Sc. in anything that’s relevant for marketing.

  • If you know the details and strong effort of European / Commonwealth osteopathic manipulator’s (“osteopaths”) lobbyism in all governments to become a legalized and officially recognized profession in all national health systems all over Europe it’s really interesting obvious how much there is a need to put “evidence” into the foreground in advertisement of European/Commonwealth osteopathic manipulator’s education to camouflage the Trojan horse of pseudoscience by teaching VM or even Craniosacral.

    Because of all the titles BSc (ost) and MSc (ost) and all the overwhelming evidence in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine some regional and even national governments stopped to use the term “alternative medicine” in their internal documents and correspondece in context with European / Commonwealth Osteopathic Manipulators.

    But let’s have a closer look on how the most traditional eldest and extraordinary school of osteopathic education all over Europe and the Commonwealth is teaching right now in 2017! This school is a “luminous role model” the shining example par excellence for all the younger schools in Europe and The Commonwealth.

    It’s the honorable British School of Osteopathy now University College of Osteopathy and to be granted both University College title and the power to award their own degrees like MSc (Ost) .

    They advertise as “evidence-based” but that’s misleading because they teach VM Visceral Manipulation as a CORE SUBJECT.

    In the foreground they talk a lot about “evidence” on their web page
    … “We’re the largest osteopathic educational institution and our evidence-informed approach …”
    … “We support an evidence informed approach to our teaching..”

    But if you look behind for details in
    you can see the pseudoscientific Trojanic Horse in reality e.g. like:
    “page 10 of 18, …
    year 2 Unit CORE osteopathic capabilities for clinical practice 2 ….
    3. … You are also required to demonstrate a developing ability to apply a range of other osteopathic techniques including functional and VISCERAL” !!!

    So riding the Trojan horse of alternative quack VM under the banner of evidence and statutory title as University College that’s disenchanting obvious an unbounded cheek.

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