Judges of the Nuclear Training Awards 2014 have praised degrees in radiation protection from the University of Cumbria for addressing a real industry need.
The University of Cumbria’s Foundation and BSc (Hons) Degrees in Radiation Protection were developed in response to a recognised skills gap in the radiological protection profession.
The syllabus has been constructed to give the students a broad-based grounding in radiation protection, and is designed to link the work-based experience of the students with the academic knowledge gained at the university.
The course is offered on a part-time basis, which allows students to learn whilst continuing to earn a salary. All the students that graduated in 2014 studied for their degrees while working full time at the Sellafield site in Cumbria.
Four modules are studied each year for the foundation degree. Each module requires one week of classroom and/or laboratory study, together with five or six weeks of study in the workplace. Modules cover a wide range of topics from the physics and biology of radiation protection, to health and safety at work, and communicating radiation risk. In addition to end of module formal examinations, assignments and projects are developed with the students and their employers to maximise the relevance of the academic study to their work experience.
The BSc (Hons) degree takes a further 18 months of study, following the same format of four modules per year to gain the necessary academic credits. The six additional modules studied for the BSc cover radioactive waste legislation, radiation protection for the general public, radioactive waste management, medical and industrial applications of ionizing radiation, nuclear reactors and nuclear security management.
Both of the degree programmes are delivered by a combination of university staff in partnership with Gen2, a large UK northwest training company and experts from the appropriate industry sectors, depending on the modules being studied.
The lectures and lecturers (both university staff and external speakers) are peer reviewed to ensure consistent standards for the material presented. The university provides an online learning environment that is used by both staff and students for communications (especially during the workplace periods) and also as a valuable resource and learning tool.
The University of Cumbria worked closely with the nuclear and nonnuclear sectors including industry, regulatory, medical and other academic partners to develop its radiation protection degree programmes.
The programmes cover the academic requirements for legal recognition by UK regulators as a radiation protection adviser (RPA) or as a radioactive waste adviser (RWA), as required by the European Basic Safety Standard for a Qualified Expert in this sector. The qualifications are also recognised by the UK Society for Radiological Protection (SRP) for Tech SRP membership status following satisfactory completion of the Foundation degree and Graduate membership status on satisfactory completion of the BSc (Hons) degree. The SRP is a key collaborator to the success of the course, with the university and SRP working closely together in the programme development to ensure industry needs and standards are met. Judges praised the course for its good engagement of the professional body.
Ulrik von Estorff, operating agent at the European Human Resources Observatory for the Nuclear Energy Sector at the Institute for Energy described the degree as: "An ambitious, well-balanced work-study course based on industry needs, with some interesting innovative features."
Extensive feedback is sought from the students to ensure their needs are met and to promote continuous improvement.
Other shortlisted courses (Training course of the year – long)
- General Expert and Advisor Program (AREVA)
- European Master in Nuclear Applications EMiNA (Aachen University of Applied Sciences)