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Through the Work Based and Integrative Studies (WBIS) framework, people from FTSE100 companies to the armed forces; statutory agencies to unions; and the voluntary sector to the University itself, benefit from professional recognition, which may not otherwise be available. WBIS celebrated its 20th anniversary this year.

The list was compiled by Universities UK, the umbrella group for UK universities, as part of the MadeAtUni campaign to change public perceptions of universities and bring to life the difference they make to people, lives and communities across the UK.

It follows independent research undertaken by Britain Thinks which found that the public has little understanding of the benefits of universities beyond undergraduate teaching. The findings show that research is one of the key triggers to change opinion about universities but for many people, it is an abstract concept.

Pioneered at Chester, WBIS currently has around 1,100 students across all academic levels – to doctorates - and, as the only one of its kind, its distinctive curriculum has received acclaim from the Quality Assurance Agency and other national higher education regulatory bodies.

Twenty years ago, the University built on the work based learning provision it pioneered in the 1980s and 1990s for full-time undergraduates and decided to create a framework that was aimed at professionals already in employment, who could use their work for the purposes of learning.

WBIS is a highly flexible method of learning. Over the last two decades it has allowed individual learners to negotiate their own bespoke learning programme related to their professional role; it has helped configure corporate programmes for organisations with particular professional development needs, and assessed and accredited vocational learning fostered by others. These have included human resources departments and specialist training organisations, who have worked in partnership with Chester, using WBIS to enhance workplace learning and offer academic reward for it.

WBIS is an example of ‘blended learning’, offering a wide range of learning methods including group workshops, experiential learning, where people learn from doing and reflecting on what they did, through online delivery and virtual learning environments. There is also the opportunity to accredit prior learning, including experiential learning in the workplace.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester, Professor Tim Wheeler, said: “It is a fantastic achievement for the University to be featured in the UK’s Best Breakthrough list. We’re extremely proud of the work of our academics and difference they are making to people, lives and communities.

“The MadeAtUni campaign is an incredibly important initiative for the University of Chester as it allows students, alumni, the local community and the wider population to understand the work that we do and the impact it has.”

Dr David Perrin, Head of the Centre for Work Related Studies (CWRS) and Associate Professor at the University of Chester, said: “We are extremely proud of the success of WBIS and that it has been recognised in this way.

“It illustrates how Chester has led the way in recognising that much of the important knowledge capital society exists in the workplace. It also shows how the University has been able to help capture, develop and reward this learning for thousands of part-time learners seeking professional development.”

Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK, said: “Universities really do transform lives. The technology we use every day, the medicines that save lives, the teachers who inspire – all come from UK universities and the important work being done by academics.

“The UK’s Best Breakthroughs list is a testament to the difference that universities make to people’s lives and we want everyone to join us in celebrating the work they do.”

The UK’s Best Breakthroughs list: 100+ Ways Universities Have Improved Everyday Life was put together in partnership with universities across the UK. As part of the MadeAtUni campaign, every university in the country was invited to nominate the one thing from their institution which they believe has had the biggest impact on people, lives and communities. Over 100 universities submitted a nomination. The entries cover health, technology, environment, family, community and culture and sport.

You can find out more about the UK’s Best Breakthroughs on the MadeAtUni campaign website.

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