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UK universities 'struggle' to recruit midwife teachers

The majority of UK universities are in breach of NMC standards by allowing midwife student-teacher ratios to slip.

An investigation by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) found the number of Universities and Colleges currently meeting the minimum recommendation of ten students to one teacher ratio has "significantly" decreased from 2009-10 by 0.5 students on a UK-wide basis.

Average student-teacher ratios varied widely across the UK with the South-East region showing the highest - one teacher to 18 students - and Welsh Universities coming in with the lowest - one teacher to ten students.

The South West was applauded for being the only region to achieve 100% compliance with the NMC's and RCM's minimum recommended ratio.

Another cause for concern is the increasing ageing workforce, the RCM notes.

More than half of the 45 midwife teachers surveyed are now aged 50 or older and only 6% of midwife teachers are under 40 years old.

Overall, the RCM investigation showed universities and colleges are "struggling" to recruit midwifery educators with an average 0.5 full-time midwifery teaching posts being vacant at any one time.

The RCM's General Secretary Cathy Warwick has called for a "seachange" in the investment and support needed to recruit and retain the next generation of midwifery teachers.

"The future of midwifery will be shaped and determined by leadership in education and research today," said the RCM's General Secretary Cathy Warwick.

"Knowledge development and dissemination are critical components of any professional organisation, the recruitment and retention of midwifery educators is a growing challenge, especially as we face an ageing midwifery workforce and a rising birth rate, which is already stretching the workforce and impacting morale."

Royal College of Midwives

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"In Universities, teachers of midwifery, nursing, architecture and law (and maybe others) are usually those who discontinue practice to teach. This makes for a dull post (for some) and the academics may eventually get out of touch with everyday practice (and practice itself changes). The medical model is a better one. I have been professor in medicine (O&G) for 22 years and previously senior lecturer and lecturer. Throughout this time, as well as my teaching and research, I have done a full clinical consultant job. I will continue to do so beyond the age of 65!" - PMS O'Brien, Keele University School of Medicine