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Future proofing the UCO is one step back to growth

Maurice Cheng, Chief Executive Officer writes;

The University College of Osteopathy (UCO) has recently made public the intention to discuss a potential partnership working with the AECC University College in Bournemouth. We can only await further information about the nature of this relationship at this early stage of negotiation.


That a collaboration of this type is being considered is not surprising given the challenges to our education sector over the years. Student numbers have been falling – not just for us but across many other health professions – and a new regulator (the Office for Students), Brexit, and the inflation driven by the war in Ukraine and post-Covid are all taking their toll.


This drop in new osteopaths each year entering the profession is impacting osteopathic principals looking for new associates, and restricting our capacity as a profession to respond to the high post-pandemic demand by patients for hands-on care. There is a high possibility that in a few years, the number of graduates entering the profession will be fewer than the osteopaths retiring – ie zero growth.

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Don’t misunderstand me – it is not all doom and gloom! Osteopaths in private practice are thriving, many are busier than before the pandemic. New graduates are finding work easily and there is a small but growing career pathway for osteopaths in the NHS and other public sector areas for those interested in gaining experience there.


And there lies the main problem – osteopaths are in higher demand than ever, yet our profession numbers are not rising to meet this demand.


So, we await with interest further information about the UCO’s forthcoming discussions, to see how they will take the UCO back into growth. From these discussions, we will want to see how the UCO will continue to play a leading role in osteopathic education; and of course, we will want to see an ongoing commitment to osteopathic values and principles, and the identity of the profession not only preserved but strengthened.

iO strategic theme: growing to thrive

The iO Council has just considered and approved a strategy for regrowth, following a year of consultation at the iO roadshows, meetings with the regional society leads, and stakeholder meetings, which at its heart is about building choices for osteopaths in their careers. Achieving this we believe requires closely working with osteopaths, clinics, larger employers and of course our educators. We will continue consulting and communicating in more detail over the next twelve months about these plans and actions. This will be intense and vital work, and we would like to think that our members and other osteopaths will collaborate with us to make regrowth a reality.


We know that as a profession we have a resilience that has made us stronger over a global pandemic and that resilience has come from learning to adapt – and indeed adapting to learn – from new situations as we face them. Doing the same thing as we have done for the last ten years has not resulted in growth. We need to explore new options to break the cycle.


The UCO is one organisation planning for regrowth – and our call to the profession is clear: we need to come together to nurture and grow our profession so we can protect our unique holistic Health approach and thrive long into the future.


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