Ulster University’s Nursing Competence Test Centre awarded new contract

19 October 2021

Ulster University’s Nursing Competence Test Centre awarded new contract
(L-R) Professor Sonja McIlfatrick, Head of School of Nursing; Jack Bland, Nursing and Midwifery Council; Neal Cook, Associate Head of School of Nursing; celebrate the new contract with Competence Test Centre staff and candidates.

The centre on the Magee campus plays a vital role in increasing nursing capacity and alleviating pressures on the health service.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Competence Test Centre at Ulster University has been awarded a new 3 year contract from February 2022, with the option of extension for a further two years, to meet growing demands for overseas nurses and midwives who wish to work in the UK.

The test centre at Ulster University’s Magee campus is one of only five in the United Kingdom and the only centre in Northern Ireland. In addition to renewing contracts with current OSCE test sites – Oxford Brookes University, the University of Northampton and Ulster University – the NMC has awarded contracts to Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Northumbria University. This follows a competitive and open bidding process across all four countries of the UK. 

Ulster University has an international reputation for nursing excellence and is rated 1st on the island of Ireland, 6th in the UK and top 50 in the world for nursing. 

First established in 2017, the test centre has not only helped to alleviate pressures on the health sector, but it has also become an economic driver for the North West with businesses across the city reaping the many benefits of increased visitor numbers. 

Nurses and midwives educated outside of the UK are required to undergo comprehensive assessment in order to confirm their competency before they can practice in the UK. The purpose-built, designated test centre at the Magee campus delivers the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), which tests candidates’ skills, knowledge and behaviours in a simulated practice environment. This is the final test that candidates must pass in order to gain registration as a nurse or midwife in the UK. 

With a responsive approach to meeting the needs of individuals and organisations, the School of Nursing at Ulster University facilitates much needed registered nurses, who have been recruited from overseas, in their journey to registration. This enables them to move forward in establishing their career in the UK whilst making a valued and essential contribution to the health of the public through their knowledge, expertise and experience. 

Since opening in 2017, over 16,300 nurses from countries including Canada, Japan, Philippines, India, Africa, and Barbados have undertaken the OSCE at the Ulster University Competence Test Centre (CTC) and are now working in healthcare settings across Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland. The CTC facility at Magee Campus also serves the Independent Sector in enabling overseas nurses recruited to work in the Nursing Home sector, to undertake the OSCE ‎in Northern Ireland. 

Professor Sonja McIlfatrick, Head of School of Nursing at Ulster University said:

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vital role nursing plays in patient care. We are delighted to use our experience and expertise within the School of Nursing to continue to provide this much needed service to help alleviate the current pressures on the health service both here in Northern Ireland and across the UK.  

“Across our own skilled and committed nursing graduates and the nurses who gain their registration through this centre, our Magee campus is making a valuable and rewarding contribution to nursing care.”

Commenting on today’s announcement, Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar of the Nursing and Midwifery Council said:

“I’m delighted that we’ve been able to significantly increase our OSCE test centre provision. This additional capacity will mean professionals with the right skills and knowledge will have more choice in where to take their test, enabling them to join our register quickly and safely.  “The NMC will be able to work with its test centre partners to explore innovative ways of offering the test of competence to extend accessibility and availability across the UK.”

Chief Nursing Officer for Northern Ireland, Professor Charlotte McArdle commented:

“The award by the NMC of a new contract for the Competence Test Centre at Ulster University is great news for Northern Ireland. I am delighted that that the contribution of Magee Campus in supporting overseas nurses to gain registration and practice in the UK has been recognised. The Department of Health welcomes this announcement and we look forward to continuing to work with Ulster University in providing this essential service for overseas nurses joining our workforce.”

Visit the Ulster University’s NMC Competence Test Centre website for more information.


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