There are many research intensive Universities that have a long and proud tradition of providing professional education. The University of Birmingham, for example, undertakes professional education and training in fields ranging from social work and education to nursing, medicine, pharmacy and physiotherapy, to sports coaching and health management. The University was one of the first in the country to offer a social work degree programme, and has been training future practitioners since 1908. Teacher training programmes are well established and have consistently been recognised as ‘outstanding’ by OFSTED. This activity has recently taken a new turn with the successful proposal to create a University secondary school that will act as a teacher training hub.
Nurses and other allied health professionals have been trained by the University for many years. The Health Services Management Centre teaches the National Management Training Scheme for future NHS leaders. This scheme consistently features at or near the top of national graduate scheme league tables. Recently, this group has also won the contract to deliver a new suite of leadership development programmes for an estimated 9,000-10,000 senior leaders. In all these examples, however, there have been ongoing debates about the appropriate links between academic programmes, professional training and employers, and also challenges in bridging the gap between research/practice and academic/professional expertise.
The history of and commitment to professional training at Universities such as Birmingham are not in question, and it is clear that some of the provision is of very high quality. Yet, ongoing changes in higher education mean that current approaches to professional training may need to evolve, particularly in research-intensive universities such as those in the Russell Group. The issues to be confronted are not entirely new, but they have been brought into sharp relief by the recent increases in student tuition fees and the threats to professional bursaries and other educational funding streams, particularly for those in the public sector. Moreover, a growing emphasis on employability and meeting the specific needs of the workplace is raising age-old questions about the relative value of ‘academic learning’ and ‘practice application’ (albeit placing them in a false dichotomy). Finally, for academic staff working in research-intensive universities, the challenges of delivering high quality (and time-intensive) professional education while developing research of international quality is becoming increasingly challenging.
Against this background, an internal workshop of colleagues from health services management nursing, physiotherapy, education, pharmacy, social work and sport coaching met to explore two key questions:
What is the future for professional education and training in research-intensive universities?
Is there scope for greater sharing of expertise and inter-professional learning?
To build on this workshop and to explore the key issues with external academic and policy partners, this event will focus on the theme of ‘Innovation in professional education and training’, with a specific focus on three themes:
Use of technology and new forms of delivery;
Relationships with external partners;
The external participants will be invited as follows:
Each representative from an internal professional group will invite up to key stakeholders from national professional bodies, policy, local services and research;
Keynote inputs will be provided by Professor Bill Stewart and a colleague, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Jo Lenaghan, Director of Strategy for Health Education England;
The aim of the workshop will be to identify and share good practice across professional groups in the context of the three workshop themes, and to draft both a Position Statement and an Action Plan on the future of professional education/training.