The Heads of University Centres of Biomedical Sciences (HUCBMS) was established formally at a meeting and conference held at the University of Bradford in 1993. The organisation was formed originally to represent those university departments offering degree programmes in biomedical science accredited by the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS).
Degree programmes in biomedical science have existed in the UK since the mid-1970s when the University of Bradford and, the then, Portsmouth Polytechnic developed such programmes. These were followed by the end of the decade by similar developments elsewhere. By the late 1980's many polytechnics and universities were offering IBMS-accredited biomedical science degree programmes and Ulster, in 1985, had introduced the first UK Masters programme in the subject. This was followed by the development of a number of Masters programmes throughout the UK by the end of that decade.
Despite the proliferation of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in biomedical science, there was no forum for the relevant heads of department to meet and exchange ideas and discuss issues of mutual concern. This lack of interaction was exacerbated by the binary divide separating universities and polytechnics which meant that their funding, oversight, and missions were controlled by unrelated agencies. The 1992 Government White Paper, ending the binary divide and transforming the polytechnics into universities, removed this artificial barrier to communication across the higher education sector.
Also at around this time, a number of issues, largely related to funding, were exercising the heads of biomedical science departments. These included the positioning of Biomedical Science within the UK periodic Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) and in the re-classification of subjects into revised funding bands for teaching. The members of the, then, IBMS Education Advisory Committee namely, Terry Baker (Bradford), John Clarke (Cardiff), Ray Jones (Portsmouth) and Gerry McKenna (Ulster) decided in 1992 to establish a forum to inter alia: promote biomedical sciences education and research; to act as a representative body for the subject in discussions with Funding Councils, government departments, agencies and other statutory and funding bodies; to facilitate cooperation and collaboration between biomedical science departments, and to develop a strategic approach to the academic development of the subject.
A constitution was drawn up and a proto-executive committee formed to plan the Bradford meeting. The Bradford meeting was well attended, the constitution was adopted and the first HUCBMS Executive Committee was elected. The first officers were: Terry Baker (Chairman), Gerry McKenna (Vice Chairman) and John Clarke (Hon. Treasurer and Secretary).
HUCBMS has had a number of successes in its advocacy of biomedical sciences including:
1) the recognition of biomedical science as a distinct teaching area by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) for Higher Education;
(2) the recognition of biomedical science as an important and major discipline in the 1996, 2001 and 2008 Research Assessment Exercises (RAEs);
(3) the acceptance of the importance of biomedical science (and other health science subjects) being assessed separately in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF);
(4) HUCBMS-nominated individuals being appointed as chair (2001) and panel members for RAEs in 1996, 2001 and 2008 and REF 2014;
(5) negotiations with the IBMS with regard to their role with the Health Professions Council in defining professional status, qualifications, competence, and registration for biomedical scientists.
(6) advice and mentoring for the development of biomedical sciences programmes and research overseas.