Published: 21/11/2002, Volume II2, No. 5832 Page 5

Every NHS employee without higher education qualifications will have the opportunity to study for a degree within five years of joining the service, under proposals from the NHS University.

NHSU is due to be launched in autumn 2003 and has announced a consultation exercise to inform its strategic plan, to be published in spring 2003.

NHSU is aiming to become the first fully recognised public sector corporate university in this country, with its own degree-awarding powers. It is seeking to reach more than 2 million people working in the NHS and social care and will provide learning facilities in a wide variety of locations and formats.

Its portfolio will include programmes such as communication skills, cleaning and infection control, management skills, and foundation degrees covering health and social care occupations.

It proposes a nationwide scheme of NHSU junior scholarships for pupils aged 14-16 and school leavers, allowing them work and learning experience in the NHS.

Though it is currently hosted within the Department of Health, NHSU will be constituted as a special health authority from October 2003.