11 Oct 2007

The Open University and the Royal College of Nursing create new alliance

The Open University and the Royal College of Nursing are today (Thursday, October 11) launching a new partnership created to initiate imaginative development and change in healthcare education and practice.

The OU-RCN strategic alliance brings together the UK’s leading provider of distance learning and the country’s foremost professional organisation for nurses. It will:
- offer flexible progression for the healthcare workforce from unqualified to highly skilled and qualified professional status in the NHS and the independent sector;
- widen participation in higher education programmes throughout the healthcare workforce;
- influence healthcare education policy and debates about skills development, employer engagement and workplace education.

Professor Brenda Gourley, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, said: “Our mission is to reach learners – wherever they are and with whatever qualifications they may have or not have – and help them not only to succeed but fulfil their potential, whatever that may be. We can demonstrate to employers and their staff the power and potential of bringing flexible education and training into the workplace – in the NHS, the independent sector and in social care. Working with the RCN, we will make a lasting impact on the quality and accessibility of education to improve healthcare provision. We will also make a lasting impact on the individuals who participate, and their families.”

According to Dr Peter Carter, General Secretary of the RCN, the new alliance has the potential to set new standards of quality and accessibility in healthcare education. “Working together, the Royal College of Nursing and The Open University will be able to make a real difference to the healthcare workforce through the delivery of top-quality, flexible learning for staff who would otherwise be unable to access higher education courses to support their careers. Healthcare support workers and nurses will be able to continue to earn as they learn and apply their learning to their practice for the benefit of patients and clients.”

Students are already signing up to study for the first OU/RCN awards, including a Masters programme in Advancing Healthcare Practice, and a ‘top up’ programme which enables qualified nurses to achieve an honours degree by studying just two years part-time. The alliance will enhance and extend the current OU curriculum which offers progression routes for staff through: access courses to bridge the gap between school and higher education; a pioneering open learning qualifying programme for nurses; and options for continuing professional development (CPD) in specialist areas.

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