The face behind the mask - surprise Royal visitor drops into UCLan
One group of students got more than they bargained for when they turned up for classes in Preston yesterday - a surprise visit from HRH Princess Anne.
The Princess Royal was special guest the the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, where she officially opened the Occupational Therapy Practice Skills area and met the first graduates from the programme.
The low-key visit saw the Patron of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists treated to a tour of the facilities including practical skills environments and heard about the bespoke technology and authentic (patient) case studies used to support student learning.
Complete with face mask and gloves, the royal visitor had chance for a socially-distance talk with undergraduate and postgraduate occupational therapy students and staff from the Faculty of Allied Health and Wellbeing as well local practitioners who played a key role in the development of the programme .and The Princess Royal unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion.
During the visit The Princess Royal unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion.
She said: "A big thank you to the university here for their support of occupational therapy.
"The Royal College is delighted that you have taken it on to this level and are evolving it so rapidly. The response to your opening up of this course locally has been enormously encouraging."
UCLan’s Dr Anne Milston, deputy head, of the School of Community Health and Midwifery, led the visit and added: "This visit has been a wonderful boost for our students, staff and everyone connected with our occupational therapy programmes.
"The Princess Royal is a leading advocate for our profession and we hope her visit will highlight the vital work our first cohort of talented graduates will be doing in the future to support people of all ages, whose health may prevent them from getting on with their everyday lives."
UCLan vice-chancellor Professor Graham Baldwin added : "We were delighted and honoured to welcome The Princess Royal to the university and share with her examples of our work and educational partnerships, as well as our vision for the future of occupational therapy.
"It was certainly a day that our students will never forget."
Among those at the event was Samuel Esiategiwa, 50, from Blackpool, who worked as a sales representative for Coca-Cola in Africa for many years before moving to the UK.
He was one of UCLan's first graduates from the MSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy and met HRH during the tour.
Samuel said: "You could tell that Her Royal Highness really cared about the development of occupational therapy. “She was very knowledgeable and personable in equal measure."
Fellow graduate Bridget Draisey, 47, from Leyland was a careers adviser before deciding on a career change.
She now works as an occupational therapist in a physical and mental health setting and said: "The Princess was really engaged in conversations and asked a wide range of relevant questions."
Occupational Therapy was added to the University’s long history of health and social care teaching provision in 2018.
The first intake of the two-year Master of Science (Pre-Registration) Occupational Therapy programme in 2018 was followed a year later by a Bachelor of Science (Hon) Occupational Therapy.
The students on the two-year MSc programme completed their studies in September and will graduate this December.