Published: January 14, 2022 | Updated: January 15, 2022

Specialist university unveils five-year strategic plan boosting students, staff and NHS support

Professor Lesley Haig, Vice-Chancellor, AECC University College, with the strategic plan. Picture: Dorset Biz News.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

A world-leading chiropractic training institution which has diversified into new disciplines over the last 15 years has unveiled its strategic plan for the next five years.

It includes doubling the number of students and increasing staffing levels by around 40 per cent.

AECC University College, a specialist higher education provider since 1965, will also significantly boost its support for the NHS.

Its clinical services already make a major contribution to the wellbeing of people in Dorset, offering treatments and services in chiropractic, X-rays and ultrasound and MRI scans.

Pre-pandemic it had an average of 1,000 patient contacts a week through its services and approximately 45,000 annually.

The specialist university is to launch a new physiotherapy service followed by a range of other services, from sports injury to community rehabilitation and talking therapies.

They’ll be delivered from its existing main clinic building, X-ray and ultrasound suites and MRI centre  but also its new integrated rehabilitation centre.

Due to open in September, the state-of-the-art facility is set to be a national leader for community rehabilitation, bringing much-needed capacity to the region.

It aims to offer patients with multiple conditions, such as musculoskeletal problems, coordinated access to different clinical services and diagnostic tests within one facility.

The centre will be run by staff from AECC University College, in partnership with the NHS and other local healthcare providers.

Dorset LEP is contributing £2.7m to the cost with at least the same amount match funded.

The LEP funds are from an £11.8m allocation from the government’s ‘Getting Building Fund’.

Currently the university, based in Parkwood Road, Bournemouth, has around 1,000 students.

It plans to double this number to about 2,000 by 2026/7.

AECC University College has around 150 full time equivalent staff and expects to increase its staffing levels by approximately 40 per cent.

The university’s ambitions are outlined in its newly published 2021/22 to 2026/27 strategic plan ‘Fit for the future’.

Its six strategic aims are:

  • Provide an outstanding student experience and deliver excellent graduate outcomes for all
  • Support the expansion and development of the health workforce by providing demand-led high-quality education and training programmes
  • Provide affordable patient-centred care through multidisciplinary clinical, rehabilitation and diagnostic services
  • Position the university as a first-choice partner within specialisms for research and innovation in the health science community
  • Establish AECC University College as an anchor university for knowledge exchange and economic development within the local community
  • Create a diverse, inclusive and sustainable environment in which to support its people and develop its activities, spaces and facilities to be ‘fit for the future’

Professor Lesley Haig, Vice-Chancellor, pictured right, said she was “very excited” about the strategic plan which had taken about 18 months and involved input from staff, students, external stakeholders and governors.

She added: “I think it really represents the best of what we do and the best of how this will take us forward.

“Our values sit at the heart of everything we do.

“We are a really caring community.

“We care about our students, we care about our patients and we care about our partners.

“We are a world-leading chiropractic training institution and are proud of our heritage.

“Over the last 15 years we have diversified into new disciplines outside of chiropractic and have gained independence as a higher education institution with our own taught degree awarding powers.

“This is exactly what we needed to do, and in recent years we have developed new courses in clinical exercise, clinical imaging, radiotherapy, rehabilitation, psychology and physiotherapy.

“There is more to come shortly in occupational therapy, dietetics, podiatry, speech and language therapy and advanced clinical practice.

“This has enabled us to engage much more fully with our partners and to help support patients across the healthcare system.

“That’s exactly what healthcare should be – every single patient can receive the right care, delivered by the right practitioner at the right time.

“It’s all interlinked and that’s what we are also aiming to do onsite within our suite of integrated rehabilitation services.

“You could say we are now on full power.”