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Pioneering new degree to enhance careers in Sport for Development

A first-of-its-kind degree course is set to open up new career possibilities for practitioners in the Sport for Development sector.

The University of Gloucestershire is seeking applications for its new Professional Practice in Sport for Development degree course, starting in October this year. Masters and PhD courses are also available.

Nine employees of Active Communities Network from London, Portsmouth, Belfast and Manchester enrolled on a pilot version of the course at the start of the 2017/18 academic year, and such has been its success that it is being thrown open sector-wide.

The course has been developed by Professor Andrew Parker and colleagues in the School of Sport and Exercise at the University of Gloucestershire, alongside Kevin McPherson, Head of Operations at Active Communities Network. Justin Coleman, our very own Co-Founder and Secretariat at the Alliance of Sport, has also been heavily involved, providing input and expertise on sport and criminal justice.

“This is something that no-one else is offering within the sector,” says McPherson. “It’s about accrediting people who already have so much knowledge and ability, and putting theory into their practice, essentially doing it the other way around to a traditional degree.”

The course is not aimed at those wanting to get into the Sport for Development sector, rather at those who have already have five years’ experience and a minimum Level 2 qualification in youth work or sports coaching.

The idea is that it helps to smash what has become a glass ceiling within the sector, something that Professor Parker calls “a significant gap in our workforce”. He explains: “There are lots of highly talented on-the-ground practitioners across the sector who have a range of skills and qualifications, but their overall potential goes untapped and this is what our new degree course is designed to serve.

“Some of the young people on these projects transition into fantastic leaders and deliverers, but there is a need for further professional development pathways in order for them to progress and for the sector to flourish.

“When it comes to where they want to go with their careers and how to make that vital organisational step up into management, there are very few people making that transition.

“That’s why we’ve built this course based on the emerging needs of the sector. Our aim is to breed the next generation of organisational leaders.”

One Active Communities Network staff member who is taking part in the pilot course has over 20 years’ experience as a youth work practitioner, but has never before had access to a relevant degree course to enhance his learning and career prospects.

McPherson adds: “For many grass-roots coaches or youth workers, universities are – to put it bluntly – big places where the posh people go. We want to change that perception. Many of them have previously only been able to reach a certain threshold, but this course is designed to be a platform for them to move up the chain of command, expand their learning and earn more money from their expertise.

“We want this offer with University of Gloucestershire to become integrated within the sector and we aspire to work with sector colleagues to widen access to higher education for sport for development practioners.”

Professor Parker adds: “With the undergraduate, Masters and PhD routes now in place, we as a sector can offer a complete educational package to take people from project volunteer to expert scholar. That’s unprecedented.”

The course comprises business elements (planning, finance and marketing) with youth work, crime and sport modules, and encourages reflection and critical thinking. Part of the curriculum features the sector-wide Theory of Change, developed by the Alliance of Sport, which provides a framework for the use of sport in preventing and rehabilitating criminal behaviour.

Justin says: “Those enrolling on this course will already be experts in their field and their communities. Bringing this expertise together through a degree programme means that they will all leave not just with experience of university, but of working within a highly skilled and diverse professional network.

“This course isn’t just a one-way learning process – it’s an opportunity for the front line students and community staff to share their experiences and knowledge, and for the sector to become even more skilled, educated and aspirational.”

The course’s ‘blended learning’ format means that learners attend 2-3 days per month whilst continuing to work.

For more information and to apply for the course, contact Professor Andrew Parker at: or on +44 (0) 1242 715387

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