The UCO is operating in difficult times, and, like all not-for-profit higher education institutions, we must embrace new opportunities to address the challenges of rising inflation, erosion of the value of the student tuition fee and, as reported in the news recently, increased government intervention. We are also challenged by a lack of growth in demand by students for osteopathic courses while the number of Osteopathic Education institutions (OEIs) has increased, creating an increasingly competitive marketplace. Like many other small OEIs, the UCO has experienced a decline in student applications from pre-Covid levels. Whilst the UCO is currently financially secure, the issue of declining student numbers and increasing overheads cannot be ignored.
Therefore, the UCO Board have been proactively considering options to future-proof the UCO so that it can continue to deliver on its Mission and Objects on behalf of the institution and the profession. Following a review of strategic options, the UCO has decided to progress early discussions with AECC University College on how we can work more closely in partnership to ensure that the UCO and osteopathy thrives as part of the inter-professional health sciences landscape, both academically and clinically. There is significant congruence between the UCO and AECC University College in our strong aligned values, commitment to and delivery of excellent MSK education, clinical care, research, and opinion leadership.
AECC University College already runs a diverse course portfolio including dietetics, speech and language therapy, podiatry, physiotherapy, radiography, sports and exercise sciences, chiropractic, and a range of specialist CPD and post-graduate courses to support the health and care workforce. The potential partnership would bring together two exemplary specialist institutions to provide a unique inter-disciplinary MSK and rehabilitation environment across osteopathic medicine, chiropractic and physiotherapy education.
AECC University College has excellent sector links, has grown its multi-disciplinary clinical base as a CQC-registered provider working in partnership with the NHS, and is on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers. In order to better represent this diversification, AECC University College has already submitted a request to the Office for Students to change its name to a full University title requesting the proposed name of the Health Sciences University (HSU).
During discussions to date, AECC University College has demonstrated its critical understanding of preserving the heritage of UCO and safeguarding its future status as the flagship osteopathic medicine training provider in the UK. The need to maintain professional identity is paramount; with osteopathy having our own statutory body, our own educational course content, and importantly our own nuances, there would be no plans to combine degrees; the M.Ost will remain recognised by the GOsC. AECC University College has a strong track record of respecting the differences in professions, evidenced by the autonomy across the 10 different professional groups supported by the institution, whilst providing students the opportunity to be immersed in inter-professional practice with exposure to and participation in multi-disciplinary teams.
As discussions progress, we will be consulting widely with staff, students, the profession and our stakeholders. It’s an exciting time for both institutions as we continue to hold discussions and we look forward to providing more information on developments when possible.
If you have any questions, please email us at: Future@uco.ac.uk