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The University of Southampton

New centre of excellence sets its sights on improving public services

Published: 27 January 2005

The University of Southampton has today (27 January 2005) been awarded funding by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to establish a Centre of Excellence for Teaching and Learning (CETL).

The new Centre will offer health, social care and education students and practitioners in the public sector increased opportunities to 'learn with, from and about each other' in order to improve services delivered to local communities.

A national network of 74 Centres of Excellence has been set up to promote excellence in teaching and learning in higher education across a range of subjects, supported by funding of around £315 million until 2009.

The Southampton CETL, worth £1.8 million over the next five years, focuses on 'Promoting Interprofessional Learning across the Public Sector'. An early focus for the Centre will be services for children and families, bringing together a range of staff and agencies. Future areas of work are likely to include services for older people and chronic disease management.

It aims to reflect the changing reality of the world of work in the public sector, providing a teaching and learning experience to help people in health, social care and education roles work together and deliver effective services to communities. The Centre will work closely with local partners and employers including social services, the NHS and local education authorities. A key part of the project will be a 'Learning Hub' as part of the library services, which will also make resources available to other institutions.

Professor Debra Humphris, Director of the Health Care Innovation Unit, explains: "Our successful bid to create a CETL here in Southampton demonstrates the University's commitment both to the public sector workforce and to interprofessional learning and working. It also recognises the value of the partners we work with across the sectors. Our aim is to ensure that our programmes offer relevant and practical learning opportunities that will make a real difference to local communities on the ground."

Professor Bill Wakeham, Vice-Chancellor of the University, comments: "The award of the Centre for the promotion of interprofessional learning across the public sector represents another major step forward for the University of Southampton and its partners. It allows us to pursue an agenda that will change the operation of public services in a wide range of sectors. The enhancement of our existing activity will have a direct impact locally and regionally, with an influence far beyond that."

The University already has extensive experience of developing and supporting the public sector workforce through integrated interprofessional learning. Through the work of the New Generation Project (NGP) it is recognised nationally for integrating interprofessional learning into student learning. The NGP partnership between the Universities of Southampton and Portsmouth and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Workforce Development Confederation has focused on undergraduate teaching in health and social care programmes. The Southampton CETL will now extend this approach to include the University's School of Education and the education workforce.

Professor Nick Foskett, Head of the School of Education, says: "Interprofessional working - involving teachers, health professionals and social work colleagues - is a key part of the future of all our schools and all work with children and young people. This Centre will enable the University to provide a national centre of expertise to support that future development."

Professor Caroline Thomas, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, adds: "I would like to highlight the hard work of the team of colleagues who have made this bid successful and would like to thank them on behalf of the University. I know they will continue to contribute to the undoubted success of the Centre in the future."

Although the Centre will be based at Southampton, it will be sharing its good practice at a national level.

Notes for editors

  1. Digital images of Debra Humphris and the CETL team are available from Media Relations on request.
  2. The New Generation Project is an innovative collaboration between the Universities of Southampton and Portsmouth, and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Workforce Confederation. It is one of four leading-edge programmes across the country to take forward common learning in health and social care professional education.
  3. The Centres for Excellence initiative was announced in the Higher Education White Paper in 2003. A total of 105 applications were short-listed for final consideration by a peer-based panel chaired by Professor Madeleine Atkins, Vice-Chancellor, University of Coventry.
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