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Letters to the Editor Issue 184

by Letters(more info)

listed in letters to the editor, originally published in issue 184 - July 2011

A New Emphasis of Course Provision at the University of Westminster
Dr Brian Isbell PhD BSc DO MRN and Nicky Howard-Kemp BSc RS Hom 

The Context
An extensive review of provision at the University of Westminster has been completed to ensure courses continue to meet the needs of practitioners, CAM professions as well as adapt to the current financial constraints.  The introduction of full cost tuition fees in 2012 on top of the recent Government reductions in funding have led Universities to scrutinise viability of all their activities. With their requirement for clinical training and high levels of staffing, most university CAM courses are under severe pressure. These factors have been the context for the University of Westminster to review and refocus its CAM provision.

Three Years of Cuts
Since September 2008, a third of the undergraduate student intake has been lost due to the previous Government's introduction of Equivalent and Lower Qualification (ELQ) legislation, which means that a graduate applicant has to pay full cost fees (in the order of £9,000/year) to complete a second undergraduate degree.  ELQ legislation was introduced just before the UK went into recession, which has been another significant factor to affect recruitment onto CAM courses. The majority of applicants applying for CAM courses are mature, female students often planning to give up a career to retrain to become a CAM practitioner.  In the recession, many such students have not risked giving up financial stability to take on the challenges of the predominantly self-employed status of CAM practitioners.  

On top of the cuts described above, as with other courses categorized as 'Anatomy and Physiology', the Funding Council has reduced the financing of courses by about 20%. Therefore, in total over the past 3 years, the loss of students and reduced funding has led to a 50% decrease in income.  With the needs for clinical education and supervision requiring high staffing levels and the specialist accommodation for work-based training the income for CAM courses is now less than the expenditure. The essential recent review of the University's provision has concluded that it will be necessary, after this year's intake, to suspend its BSc Nutritional Therapy and Naturopathy courses from September 2012.  The University is of course fully committed to seeing out all students that are enrolled on its courses and will ensure all will be able to complete their studies. Due to the productive research activities and associated income, the BSc Chinese Medicine: Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine courses at the University of Westminster will continue to be offered. However, in response to students, graduates and the professions, whilst at the same time bearing in mind current financial challenges, a new portfolio of postgraduate courses has been developed at the University that builds on all the years of experience of providing the BSc Complementary Medicine Scheme.

Expansion of Provision
The four new MSc courses planned to commence in September 2011 will directly apply to the therapy of practice, integrate inter-professional learning and will be enriched by clinical experience.  The attendance and learning methods have been designed to accommodate the needs of working practitioners or those with caring responsibilities. Through the development of research and the evaluation of the evidence base for their therapy, CAM practitioners will be able to refine and enhance their practice. In addition, the MSc programmes will cultivate individual scholar practitioner growth, confidence and skills development in the therapy, supervision and peer mentoring as well as research skills. The research methods module and a dissertation will enable the student to make a contribution to the research and evidence base of their profession (see Table 1 for details of modules).

The MSc Complementary Medicine is well suited to practitioners from a wide range of therapies. There will also be opportunities for applicants with degree level qualifications such as those with a Human Nutrition qualification, to undertake a clinical practice element at postgraduate level to enable them to meet the requirements for professional registration.

The part time mode of the MSc in Acupuncture, Complementary Medicine, Herbal Medicine and Nutritional Therapy will start in September 2011, while full time courses will be available from September 2012. The short learning bursts of normally two days every four to six weeks, complemented by tutor as well as peer support and appropriate use of virtual learning environments, will enable students to maintain their practices while completing their course. The modules of the courses can also be taken as continuing professional development (CPD).

Research Degree Developments
Through the development of research skills during their studies, MSc students will be eligible to pursue higher degrees and research on graduation.  It has often proved difficult to gain entry onto MPhil and PhD programmes in the past without a suitable MSc.  Therefore the new portfolio of MSc courses will enable those who wish to pursue research degrees to widen their opportunities to access these. In addition, for those who wish to further develop their practice and profession through clinical research, the University of Westminster has a new Professional Doctorate in Health and Social Care, which consists of innovative taught modules and an extensive dissertation and is ideally suited to CAM practitioners.

Developing a stronger focus on postgraduate and CPD will enable the University of Westminster to continue to meet the demands of the rapidly developing CAM professions of the 21st century.

About the Authors
Brian Isbell PhD BSc DO MRN is Head of a Department of complementary medicine at the University of Westminster.  Brian has taught health sciences for over 30 years and complementary medicine for 20 years. Brian has practised as an Osteopath, Cranial therapist and Naturopath in the NHS for four years and has run a busy clinic within the University's Polyclinic since 1998.  

Nicky Howard-Kemp BSc RS Hom is Coordinator of the MSc Complementary Medicine Scheme and has been in teaching for over 12 years. Nicky has a private homoeopathic practice in addition to course managing, teaching and supervising students at the University's teaching clinic.

Further Information
For further information on the MSc courses, other degrees or short courses contact:  School of Life Sciences Admissions, University of Westminster, 115 New Cavendish Street, London W1W 6UW.  Tel: +44 (0)20 7911 5883; Fax +44(0)20 7911 5079;

Table 1 : Core and Course Specific Modules of the MSc Scheme
CORE Modules (for all pathways): Clinical Reasoning (40 credits)• Researching Contemporary Issues in Complementary Medicine (40 credits)• Research and Evaluation (20 credits) • Research Project (40 credits)
OPTION MODULE (suitable for non-practitioner students)
Clinical Practice (40 credits)
MSc Chinese Medicine Acupuncture - Acupuncture: A Living Tradition (40 credits)
MSc Complementary Medicine - Mindfulness Based Practice (20 credits)  • Health and Wellbeing (20 credits)  
MSc Herbal Medicine - Advanced Herbal Medicine Materia Medica and Therapeutics (40 credits)  
MSc Nutritional Therapy - Functional Medicine in Nutritional Therapy Practice (40 credits)


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