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Alumni Story: Philippa Batey, MRes Healthcare & Design, 2016–18

Philippa Batey
Philippa Batey
Philippa Batey studies MRes Healthcare & Design at the RCA, having graduated from Northumbria University with a BA in Interactive Media Design. Her research is on ways to reduce anxiety in children undergoing surgery.

When did you first hear about the RCA, and why did you decide to study here?

I knew that I wanted to go back into education, and, as I was working in healthcare at the time, it felt like the perfect subject to pursue. I found the Programme advertised online, and I wasn't very familiar with the RCA, so I found the College through the Programme, rather than the other way around. The more I learned about the RCA, the more I was taken aback by it. The reputation and resources it has, the fact that it had such a niche Programme, really appealed to me. Also, the Programme being split between the RCA and Imperial College, mixing designers with clinicians, was unique and intriguing. It was an opportunity to work on the frontlines of healthcare, rather than just learn the theory behind it.

Can you describe what it’s like studying at the RCA?

Our Programme is unique because it was one of the first part-time Programmes, and it was split between two institutions. We would have blocks of two weeks every six months where the workload was very intense. There was quite a mix of being on site in various hospitals or within Imperial, and doing more practical design workshops at the RCA.

Have you been set any particular briefs or projects that you've really enjoyed working on, or have found rewarding?

The first week we had lectures from very senior people from the NHS, contrasted with experiences from frontline staff. This week really highlighted how human the system is and how fragile it can be. It was a real eye-opener for me. There was such a diverse range of speakers that is was really overwhelming to hear the number of problems that are faced daily in the NHS. It was so inspiring, and further drove us on to do something impactful in the Programme.

Activity booklet design probe given to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) patients to gain insights
Activity booklet design probe given to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) patients to gain insights, Philippa Batey

How has your work or thinking developed while you have been at the RCA?

One of the most valuable things for me was the people I met. The conversations we had really helped develop my knowledge of the healthcare system. The Programme's given me such great insight into the industry and how the most important thing is personal relations. As a result of the Programme, I've started working with the Helix Centre at Imperial. That couldn't have happened without the Programme.

What have you found most rewarding about your time at the RCA?

The relationships, definitely. Also, having the backing of both the RCA and Imperial. With my personal project, I was able to make connections with Great Ormond Street Hospital and work with people there, based on the backing I received from the RCA and Imperial. I couldn't have had either of these things without going through the Programme.

Have you faced any particular challenges while you have been here?

The biggest challenge was the workload and dealing with it alongside full-time employment. In the final year, I managed to get one day off a week to work on my research. Without that I might have imploded! The structure of the Programme meant you'd have three months of intense work, then three months off, which is unusual and can be difficult to balance with work, but I think it was a great way to learn.

Activity booklet design probe given to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) patients to gain insights
Activity booklet design probe given to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) patients to gain insights, Philippa Batey

What are your plans for this year, and what do you intend to do after you graduate?

At the moment, I'm at the Helix Centre, working in the Design Strategy team. It's my dream job. It gives me the opportunity to work on lots of different projects across Imperial's Institute of Global Health Innovation. It covers a lot of topics that I'm interested in with healthcare: working with frontline staff, public engagement, and practical research projects. I love what I'm doing and hope to stay as long as possible.

Advice for student applying?

I would definitely recommend the Programme to anyone interested in healthcare. If I could do it again, I would go in with more of an idea of where I wanted to focus. There are so many fascinating areas that it can be a little overwhelming. So, go with your instincts.


Find out more about MRes Healthcare & Design and how to apply.