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Sandra Booth, Director of Policy and External Relations for the Council for Higher Education in Art & Design (CHEAD), reviews a week of higher education news in which concerns emerged over universities’ financial stability due to Covid-19 and the impact of the crisis on students.
A growing number of higher education conferences and events are being postponed or moved online in response to the Coronavirus restrictions.
Amid predictions that higher education will be changed forever by the current pandemic, Professor James Miller, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Glasgow Caledonian University, suggests the innovative ways the sector is responding to the crisis will make it even more valued in the future.
The current crisis has underlined the critical role played by the UK’s experts and researchers and the institutions supporting them, as well as the need for collaboration between them, says Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business.
As a growing number of universities move teaching and assessment online in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the University of Derby is holding a virtual conference which aims to support staff in making the transition.
The University of Leicester is launching what it describes as a unique scholarship scheme that aims to boost the number of medical school students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The University of Leicester’s Medical School will be offering scholarships worth £9,000 to students joining a new Foundation Year designed to attract more students from state schools and lower socio-economic groups.
Students who pass the Foundation course and either choose to continue studying medicine or another related course will qualify for a further £2,000 a year scholarship funding for the rest of their degree. It means those that complete the Foundation Year and a medical degree could receive scholarships worth up to a total of £19,000.
The Foundation Year and scholarships, offered for students starting in September next year, are being backed by a charitable trust, which has donated £2 million towards the cost.
Although it is encouraged by the Medical Council, very few UK Medical Schools offer a Medical Foundation Year with Widening Participation at its heart. Currently 80% of all medical students in the UK stem from just 20% of schools, and of the 11,125 students who entered medicine and dentistry in 2011 just 4.1 per cent were from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. In particular, addressing the lack of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds entering the medical profession is a key national priority.
Leicester’s medical school is offering up to 25 places on its new Foundation Year programme from September. Students will be given a direct route into the University’s innovative new medical curriculum that takes advantage of the cutting-edge new Centre for Medicine on campus.
Professor Nick London, Head of the Medical School at the University of Leicester, said: “The Medical School is of the view that although there is no doubt that an undergraduate medical course is demanding, to become the type of doctor that we want to produce requires attributes such as compassion, empathy, enthusiasm, determination, dedication, resilience and common-sense as much as a robust academic foundation.
“With this new foundation year, we have the opportunity to provide that strong academic base for those we identify with those valuable traits but who may not have considered medicine as a potential career.
“Widening access is extremely important to the Medical School and our new curriculum that started in September 2016 will be particularly well suited to this initiative.”
The University has strong relationships with schools and colleges across the East Midlands and is already working with them and within its Outreach and Widening Participation Programmes to identify the most promising applicants. They will be offered the opportunity to join the University of Leicester ‘MedReach’ e-mentoring programme, a two year programme which links A-level students with current Medical undergraduates. The University is also launching a new MedLEAP programme, designed to engage and support talented Year 12 students whose personal circumstances may have affected their ability to reach their full academic potential.
President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, Professor Paul Boyle, said: “Leicester was a university founded by philanthropy to give local people access to greater educational opportunities and it is with great appreciation that we thank our generous benefactors for supporting us to continue that tradition.
“Their donation not only allows us to identify and support talented young people who might otherwise not consider medicine as a career, but in time we also expect that it will provide a boost to local healthcare provision.”
Professor Philip Baker, Dean of Medicine and Head of the College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology, said: “Training local young people who research suggests will more likely stay and practice in the area will help support our depleting General Practitioner numbers in Leicester and Leicestershire. The associated teaching opportunities the Foundation Year Programme presents will both attract and retain GPs and high calibre academic clinicians to the city and county, many of whom will bring expertise in areas we are currently lacking.”
Leicester Medical School is based in the University’s Centre for Medicine, the largest investment in medical teaching and applied research by a UK university in the last decade.
Acting as a hub to bring together, for the first time, the University’s leading academics, researchers, clinicians and students; currently spread across multiple sites in the city, the new Centre will completely transform medical teaching and improve the lives of many patients in the region and beyond.
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