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NET: Happy 30th anniversary!

19 Aug 2019 | Liz Clark The leading annual international conference for networking in healthcare education, returns to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Co-founder of NET, Liz Clark, explains how it all began.

The first week of September is, and always has been, ‘NET’ week when healthcare delegates with a passion for education gather for what was then the Nurse Education Tomorrow (NET) conference – a spin-off from the journal, Nurse Education Today.

This Pearl anniversary milestone provides an excuse to look back and reflect on the achievements of NET over the past three decades. The story starts at Edinburgh Zoo, but more of that later!

In 1989 around 90 UK nurse educators gathered in Durham to discuss education issues, including the shift of nurse education into higher education. At the time, we didn’t dream that this would mark the beginning of an annual event which would grow and develop over the years. We were welcomed in Durham for many years, then one year in Derby and in Cambridge until 2018.

Using the journal to promote the conference, we began to attract colleagues beyond the UK. Over the years more than 40 countries have been represented at NET, adding great richness to the shared ideas and debate.

More recently, diversification has continued with the participation of students and clinicians, and also colleagues from a range of healthcare disciplines, contributing further richness and the opportunity to listen and learn from each other. Retaining our original ethos of a networking conference that is participative, supportive and developmental has been the one and only constant throughout.

We’re incredibly proud of the collaborations that have emerged from NET – the joint projects, the national and international networks that have been established and the friendships that have been forged. Every year we welcome a great blend of familiar faces and newcomers, some of whom go on to become ‘old timers’.

As one of thousands of NET alumni, we urge you to document and share your memories and experiences of NET, what it means for you and what has made it special, so we can create a collective memory of our first 30 years – a time capsule that will enable us to track future developments over the next 10, 20 and 30 years.

So, here’s to all our wonderful delegates past and present, and to NET’s exciting future. Who knows what the world of healthcare education will look like in 2029, 2039 or 2049. But it’s undoubtedly safe in the hands of enthusiastic students, practitioners and educators who are committed to continual quality improvement and best practice in everything we do.

Finally, back to Edinburgh Zoo and its part in the history of NET.

Back in 1988 my plane was delayed, so Jean Walker (then Editor of Nurse Education Today) and I enjoyed a leisurely cup of tea in the zoo where the Editorial Board meetings used to be held for the journal. During our conversation an idea began to germinate that alongside the journal, nurse educators needed a face-to-face forum to exchange ideas and discuss shared challenges. This of course was the era before widespread availability of the internet and social media. Needless to say, neither Jean nor I could ever have foreseen that NET would still be going strong 30 years later. Nor did we anticipate the important role that the NET conference would play as a vibrant, international network for healthcare educators dedicated to innovation and excellence. Long may it continue…


NET 2019 is at Keele University from 3-5 September. Find out more and book your place now.


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