National recognition for university's diverse workplace qualifications.
THE University of Chester's system for devising bespoke qualifications for diverse work environments has been listed as one of the UK's 100 best breakthroughs for its significant impact on people's everyday lives.
Through the Work Based and Integrative Studies (WBIS) framework, people from FTSE100 companies to the armed forces, statutory agencies to unions, and the voluntary sector to the university itself benefit from professional recognition, which may not otherwise be available. WBIS celebrated its 20th anniversary this year.
The list was compiled by Universities UK, the umbrella group for UK universities, as part of the MADEATUNI campaign to change public perceptions of universities and bring to life the difference they make to people and communities across the UK. It follows independent research undertaken by Britain Thinks which found that the public has little understanding of the benefits of universities beyond undergraduate teaching.
The findings show that research is one of the key triggers to change opinion about universities but for many people, it is an abstract concept.
Pioneered at Chester, WBIS currently has around 1,100 students across all academic levels - to doctorates - and, as the only one of its kind, its distinctive curriculum has received acclaim from the Quality Assurance Agency and other national higher education regulatory bodies. Twenty years ago, the university built on the work-based learning provision it pioneered in the 1980s and 1990s for fulltime undergraduates and decided to create a framework that was aimed at professionals already in employment, who could use their work for the purposes of learning. WBIS is a highly flexible method of learning. Over the last two decades it has allowed individual learners to negotiate their own bespoke learning programme related to their professional role; it has helped configure corporate programmes for organisations with particular professional development needs, and assessed and accredited vocational learning fostered by others.
These have included human resources departments and specialist training organisations, who have worked in partnership with Chester, using WBIS to enhance workplace learning and offer academic reward for it.
WBIS is an example of 'blended learning', offering a wide range of learning methods including group workshops, experiential learning, where people learn from doing and reflecting on what they did, through online delivery and virtual learning environments. There is also the chance to accredit prior learning, including experiential learning in the workplace.
Vice-chancellor of the University of Chester, Professor Tim Wheeler, said: "It is a fantastic achievement for the university to be featured in the UK's Best Breakthrough list.
"We're extremely proud of the work of our academics and difference they are making to people, lives and communities.
"The MADEATUNI campaign is an incredibly important initiative for the University of Chester as it allows students, alumni, the local community and the wider population to understand the work that we do and the impact it has."