From education to employment

Press release: University College Birmingham commits to vital health careers with new programmes

University College Birmingham has further solidified its commitment to a careers-focussed education with the unveiling of a new Health and Care Professions Council validated MSc Dietetics programme and a recently validated and approved MSc Public Health programme.

The MSc Dietetics programme has already begun with its first cohort of students who have started this month, while MSc Public Health is now taking applications for students to commence in September 2024.

This follows the first cohort of Physiotherapy and Adult Nursing students who graduated from University College Birmingham in September 2023 after studying and undertaking placements during the pandemic years.

The new courses will add to a strong offering of undergraduate and postgraduate health courses as the University continues to diversify their offer for health disciplines. By building the programmes for these skills, the academic team at University College Birmingham acknowledge the need not just for Nursing courses, but for Allied and Public Health provision.  

The courses will look to support the NHS’s workforce ecosystem, with close attention to the NHS Long Term Workforce plan (LTWP) announced in July 2023. In particular, the LWTP aims to increase training places for Allied Health Professionals by 17,000 places by 2028/29. The University is addressing the skills gap for these health professions and creating pathways that meet the needs of the students who embark on those programmes of study, whilst supporting the needs of the healthcare workforce, including the NHS, independent and private sectors, both for the skills and public health agenda.

With higher-than-average rates of deprivation and food inequality in the city, Birmingham faces a huge challenge right on its doorstep. The Public Health curriculum has been informed from knowledge exchange with partners in the Food System Team (Public Health) at Birmingham City Council; addressing the challenges that are pertinent to the city, so that practitioners will have a grounding in the unique issues in their area alongside the academic rigour of a qualification to put theory into practice.

The lived experience of service users and carers has been considered in the planning of the course curriculum, and how students will approach their studies within that context. Student placements will be with partner and local community organisations, further embedding a hyper-local focus for their grounding and practice. With many of the University’s graduates staying in Birmingham, these health graduates will feed into the local workforce, ready to work alongside partners with whom they have fostered relationships within their studies.

The title ‘dietitian’ is the only food and nutrition title that is protected by law and dietitians are well placed to address many of the diet-related diseases facing both the UK and global population, including obesity, diabetes and malnutrition. They also lead on cutting-edge developments in food and nutrition such as diet and sustainability, personalised nutrition and digital dietetics. Dietetics is a natural partner to Public Health and provides career opportunities within hospitals, community, industry and private practice.

The University is part of the Birmingham Food System Strategy and students will be able to see how theory is put into practice as part of a city-wide movement to ensure citizens are able to access nutritious food, and other food and health inequalities acknowledged and addressed.

Kathleen Hennessey-Priest, Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader for the MSc Dietetics (pre-registration) said:

“This week our very first cohort of MSc Dietetics students will start their exciting journey to becoming a dietitian with us and we are proud that many of the students are our own graduates, demonstrating University College Birmingham’s commitment to clear progression pathways from undergraduate to postgraduate study.”

Dr Anne Coufopoulos Executive Dean of the School of Health, Sport and Food at University College Birmingham said:

“We are responding to the needs of the sector and the needs of our region with programmes of study which give students a quality qualification, strong career prospects and a thorough grounding in the complexities of working in Birmingham. Our longer-term vision includes more training programmes for Allied Health professions, both at degree and degree apprenticeship level, and as part of a further education and post graduate education offer.”

Dr Coufopoulos was also recently announced as the Vice Dean Convenor for the Council of Deans of Health for England, a role which will see her share operational and workforce policy and planning experiences from the region and provide advice to the Council. The role supports the Council’s work in leading policy at national and UK level, promoting the essential contribution of its member university faculties in nursing, midwifery and the allied health professions.

University College Birmingham’s vision of a skills accelerator pathway in education for health professionals continues to evolve with these two new postgraduate programmes, and in future years there will be further steps to evolve the course offer. With a new Sixth Form Centre opening in 2024, students taking Biology A-level have options to continue their study through to an undergraduate and postgraduate course. This is alongside further education options to progress and wider degree apprenticeships. Students entering the workforce with a quality qualification, built on a curriculum designed to support their entry into the NHS and wider community, both for the short and long term.

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