Repositioning our School of Health Sciences

We have embarked on a period of change within the School, including the implementation of a new structure, as we reposition ourselves in the new contexts of healthcare and higher education. A new commissioning body for healthcare education, Health Education Wales, will be establishing its ambitions and ways of working over the coming months. This development, together with changes to bursaries for health professional education in England, will impact on the School in both predictable, and unpredictable ways.

We are also building new relationships with the NHS in north Wales to support the improvement of healthcare and health. New approaches to supporting students’ practice learning will ensure that we can deliver the best preparation for the significant growth in the numbers of nursing, midwifery and radiography student places that are being commissioned.

Although change is the defining feature of a successful organization, change can bring uncertainty.  One of the hopes that I have for this blog is that it will help to share the ideas behind some of the key developments within our School.

Over the past 23 years, I have been lucky to work in a number of civic and post-92 Universities, and have seen the strengths, and limitations of different strategies and ways of working. Although a massive oversimplification, I think there is some validity in the observation that a focus on strong academic reputation in more established Universities carries a risk of inertia around collaboration with healthcare. In contrast, focusing on creativity and ‘being new’ runs the risk of failure without a strong academic foundation.

My ambitions for us as a School over the next few years are therefore two-fold: to expand the strong academic foundation of research and scholarship that we have built over the years; and to improve our ability to be agile and responsive to new opportunities within Wales, the United Kingdom and internationally. The contexts in which we are working require innovation and creativity, and a strong foundation of research and professional scholarship.

This ambition does have some consequences for how we organize our School, and our teaching, research and other activities within it. Developing the current and future healthcare workforce through education and training, together with our research, are the bedrock of our work. Within the School, the development of clusters will provide us with a new platform to bring research, teaching and learning much closer together, and so generate a step-change in academic and professional scholarship.

Thinking external to the School, finding new ways to make the tremendous knowledge and expertise we have within the School available to policy makers, health and social care services, managers and practitioners will also be crucial. Although we have made a start with developing our e-learning portfolio, this is a huge area for growth. Similarly, work-based learning and growing our continuing professional development offer, will also provide new ways for people to engage with us. Of course, we are extending our knowledge and know-how to those who aspire to work in healthcare, but not as registered professionals, through our new undergraduate degree in health and well-being. This will provide us with an exciting opportunity to prepare the next generation of health managers, researchers, economists, public health workers, and community.

One of the aspects of University life that I have always benefitted from has been the infrastructure and space to take risks, and to try new things. Many of the developments that we are working on, from a new School structure to a workload framework, are designed to ensure everyone has the appropriate space and support for research, teaching and other innovations that are aligned with our School strategy. This space and support will be essential if we are to reposition the School as an agile, creative and credible contributor to the development of healthcare and health in Wales and beyond.