Another step forward for the UoL-UHS (Pakistan) partnership

The University of Liverpool (UoL) has a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Health Sciences (UHS) in Lahore, Pakistan, to enhance the provision of medical education throughout the Punjab (population 80m). UHS was recently declared by the Higher Education Commission, Pakistan to be the No 1 public sector medical university in Pakistan.

Janet Strivens and Ian Willis of CLL have just returned from running courses for UHS on practice and theory of teaching. The MoU has provided the basis for a developing partnership that is currently receiving funding from the British Council under its International Strategic Partnerships in Research and Education (INSPIRE). So far we have reached agreement for UHS to send up to 10 funded PhDs per annum to UoL as well as initiating a Knowledge Exchange project supported by Dr Milla Shah of the University’s Business Gateway team.
This visit was focussed on delivering a pilot programme “Introduction to Teaching for New Medical Educators”. Essentially, it is a learning teaching and assessment course derived from programmes offered by the Educational Development Division here at UoL. The aim is that this will become a mandatory programme for all new staff in UHS’ affiliate medical and dental colleges throughout the Punjab.

UHS acts as an examination centre for approximately 30 colleges; that’s most of the medical institutions in the province, and means that UHS has a real influence over the quality of medical education. Whilst we don’t know the exact number of staff who might take the programme it will clearly be a significant number each year.

One of our first tasks is to train experienced Pakistani medical educators to take over the running and assessment of the programme so that it becomes a sustainable and locally owned undertaking. Fortunately, we were able to involve some excellent ‘trainers’ from our connections formed during earlier visits. This latest visit involved actually delivering the first stage of the programme and ironing out its quirks, plus sharing the content and philosophy with the trainers at the same time. Even though that entailed quite a bit of organising, our Pakistani colleagues, class and trainers, are a pleasure to work with; so it’s great to be engaged with people who are keen to learn and contribute to changing their educational culture.

It looks like we are well underway on this project, with some of the trainers ready to run this first stage of the programme in their own institutions. One college has asked us to run a one day workshop for all their staff and as many students as possible; up to 600 people we believe. That will be fun if it comes off!

In parallel, we have continued discussions and market investigations regarding a proposed Masters in Medical Education to be developed as a UHS-UoL Joint Award. This is an altogether more rigorous enterprise, but so far the signs are promising.

To add a little variety, we ‘popped’ up to Islamabad for the weekend to present at the Association for Excellence in Medical Education conference. Popped is a bit of an understatement, it’s a 4½ – 5hr journey each way through the Punjab, covering some of the most productive land in the country. It’s based on an extensive canal system for irrigation put in place during the Raj and still being skilfully maintained and operated. The conference was the inaugural event for the Association for Excellence in Medial Education and attracted speakers from UK, USA, Saudi, Oman and Australia. It was really well organised and allowed us to get a sense of national developments in medical education, a key priority of the Pakistani Medical & Dental Council.

As an interesting aside, the conference was held in the Pakistan-China Friendship Centre, a superbly equipped facility and billed as a symbol of their “everlasting friendship”. Overall, we’re really pleased to have furthered our ties with colleagues at UHS and to have delivered some tangible outcomes (plus the food and hospitality are exemplary 🙂 ).

Ian Willis & Janet Strivens