22 Feb 2008

The Open University and the Royal College of Nursing celebrate alliance

Professor Brenda Gourley and Dr Peter Carter

Professor Brenda Gourley and Dr Peter Carter

The new alliance between The Open University and the Royal College of Nursing was welcomed yesterday by MPs and senior healthcare executives at a special Westminster launch event. The partnership was created to initiate imaginative development and change in healthcare education and practice.

Professor Brenda Gourley, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, said at the event: "My ambition is to enhance patient care by helping to deliver the modern, flexible, responsive and skilled workforce that our health service requires. Since this has always been at the heart of the RCN’s mission, we know that the partnership with the RCN is the right way forward.

"This alliance enhances the potential of each organisation to reach out and draw in new learners at many different levels."

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 learning opportunities 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.

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.

He said: "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."

Student Matt Watts spoke at the event, and said: "I like to see myself as a nurse of the future; a nurse who can deliver the flexible, modern and responsive services that people want and need. And the flexible, modern and responsive Open University helped me get there."

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 BSc Honours in Nursing Practice 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 help learners into higher education; a pioneering open learning qualifying programme for nurses; and options for continuing professional development (CPD) in specialist areas.

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