Physiotherapy teaching exchange with Melbourne Michael Miller

Text & Foto: Michael Miller

To facilitate global mobility in order to gain international teaching experience, Lund University has provided the financing for university lecturers to actively participate in undergraduate and graduate level programs at partner universities worldwide. In Lund we are in the process of developing a new undergraduate curriculum for physiotherapy. Melbourne University has recently launched a new program which they call Doctoral Program in Physiotherapy and as Melbourne and Lund are partners within the global academic network Universitas 21I applied for and was awarded a mobility grant to spend three weeks there as a guest lecturer in Physiotherapy.
Physiotherapy as a profession is attractive in Australia with many opportunities for careers both in the public and private sectors. This popularity has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of universities offering physiotherapy, from 8 to 20 in recent years.

Partly due to their system for financing higher education Australian universities compete with each other not only to attract student numbers but they strive to recruit students with high academic potential in order to position themselves globally.
Physiotherapy at the well-established University of Melbourne is organized within the Faculty of Medicine which has a strong research profile. To promote an attractive recruitment policy Physiotherapy has created their new doctoral program and are phasing out the previous bachelor and master’s courses.
In their own words: The Doctor of Physiotherapy is Australia’s first three-year entry to practice graduate masters level program. With its first intake in 2011, the Doctor of Physiotherapy creates a new benchmark in 21st century education.
The entry requirements are now set to at least a previous bachelor’s degree which should ensure well motivated students already accustomed to a higher academic pace. The intake is 80 students per year and many of the students I came in contact with had previously studied preclinical subjects such as anatomy, biochemistry and physiology, although some had degrees in accountancy or management. Ten of these students had applied from the USA.

The demands on these students were that they shall come well prepared to every practical session and lecture where they are groomed to be inquisitive and challenging on the basis of evidence. The learning-teaching atmosphere was as in Lund with a flat hierarchy, shared responsibility and a healthy balance between academic correctness and humour. (Although Aussie humour is slightly more bold.)
Although these students are enrolled in a program called Doctor of Physiotherapy they of course cannot title themselves with a PhD. To obtain a PhD one must finish a further 4 years of research studies and write a PhD thesis. Melbourne University postulates that these students on qualification will embark upon an accelerated career development. Future alumni surveys are surely required to verify these aspirations.
Melbourne is a vibrant, highly modern and attractive city. There is a sense of entrepreneurship coupled with a welcoming hospitality as well as a competitive spirit. If in the Melbourne area one should take a scenic trip along the Great Ocean Road and experience the state of Victoria’s magnificent coastline.