Health Professions Education, Occupational Therapy, Studying in the UK

2017 Occupational Therapy Education Reforms in the UK

It is an interesting time to be in the United Kingdom as their higher education system is going through some significant reform, resulting in changes to the student intake which then subsequently affects how programmes are run. I have a special interest in this because of my work as an occupational therapy educator.

A little bit of background to occupational therapy education in the United Kingdom, prior to 1 August 2017, students enrolled in the courses would receive NHS bursaries which would help support their tuition fees and living expenses. Below is a screen capture of NHS bursaries available to people whose courses began on or after 1 September 2007, but before 1 September 2012.  For people whose courses began on or after 1 September 2012, all of the bursary elements listed below were available, as well as an additional “Non Means Tested (NMT) Grant” which is a grant to help with living expenses not subject to an income assessment. This is a set annual amount of £1,000 for full-time students and pro-rata for part-time students (i.e. scaled down payment proportionate to the time spent studying).

Screen capture from https://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/nhs-bursary - what types of NHS bursary are there?
Screen capture from https://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/nhs-bursary

So what happened after 1 August 2017? Well for England in particular (and not Scotland or Wales where I am studying), students will no longer be able to access bursaries and as a result, the intakes of local students in many occupational therapy programmes in universities across England has drastically reduced. In a nutshell, what this means is that occupational therapy students across England who signed up for their courses prior to 1 August 2017 could study for free, but from this year onwards they have to pay fees. The rules in Scotland and Wales are a little bit different but we aren’t going to explore them in detail as it can get rather complex, link provided if you are keen to find out more. Tuition fees for home students in England and Northern Ireland (if I am not mistaken) are now capped at 9250 GBP per year and this is across the board, meaning that a medical degree from a top-tier university like Oxford might cost the same as a non-medical programme in a lower ranked university elsewhere.

I will seek to explore how these educational reforms have changed occupational therapy education in the United Kingdom starting from 2017, and also how the various institutions are adapting to them. My first port of call is Brunel University in October, followed by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists and Worchester University in November. Some upcoming locations include Cardiff University and Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh.

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