Vice-Chancellor of the University of Central Lancashire Professor Graham Baldwin has urged the Labour Party to recognise the important role modern universities must play in producing the next generation of public service professionals
Speaking at a fringe event during the party’s conference in Liverpool, Professor Baldwin outlined potential steps that a future Labour government could consider to ensure the teaching and nursing professions remain appealing to the numbers of people the country needs to fill those roles.
Professor Baldwin is the current Chair of MillionPlus, an Association for Modern Universities in the UK and the voice of 21st century higher education. MillionPlus champion, promote and raise awareness of the essential role and impact of modern universities in the UK’s world-leading higher education sector.
“At the heart of MillionPlus institutions is the training and delivery of the next generation of public services workers. In 2022 modern universities trained: 63.3% of teachers; 72% of nurses; 69.8% of midwives and 69.3% of social workers,” said Professor Baldwin.
“Not only that, modern universities help to ensure a healthy pipeline of local graduates entering key public workforce professions in their regions.
“MillionPlus universities provide key pathways into higher education for local students who are then retained in the region. Looking across the whole student lifecycle, 68.7% of working graduates at MillionPlus universities are ‘regional loyals’, meaning they lived, studied and then found work in the same region 15 months after graduating."
"Action is required and soon to ensure that these courses remain attractive and to maintain a healthy pipeline of skilled trainees into these professions."— Vice-Chancellor of the University of Central Lancashire Professor Graham Baldwin
Issues with recruitment and retention in the public sector are longstanding and have been exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis, which is thought to be impacting the number of new university applications.
Professor Baldwin added: “It is of course troubling to see that the number of people applying to study nursing or teaching in particular are down significantly. The country is already short of these vital public service professionals; the fact that prospective students are turning away from these subjects for a variety of reasons should concern the Government.
“Action is required and soon to ensure that these courses remain attractive and to maintain a healthy pipeline of skilled trainees into these professions.
"A future Labour government should work with providers of teacher training to find solutions to the current crisis, including looking at the strategic planning of bursaries for future years, funding for mentoring and placements. They could also look at a fee-forgiveness scheme for those public services staff that remain in the sector for a certain period of time.
“MillionPlus’s recent report ‘Who trains the nurses? Universities and the placement shortfall’ identified that a 20% increase on forecast numbers would be needed to meet nursing targets. Working with NHS Trusts and Boards across the UK, modern universities stand ready to support a required increase in numbers, but reforming nursing clinical placements is vital. A future Labour government should invest in expanding clinical placements in the NHS and social care to enable a pipeline of skilled workers.”