Letter to the Editor regarding the Article, "A History of Physical Therapist Education around the World"

By Haugland, Mildrid; Vågstøl, Unni et al. | Journal of Physical Therapy Education, Spring 2013 | Go to article overview

Letter to the Editor regarding the Article, "A History of Physical Therapist Education around the World"


Haugland, Mildrid, Vågstøl, Unni, Wilhelmsen, Kjersti, Moffat, Marilyn, Journal of Physical Therapy Education


(Vol 26, No 1, Winter 2012)

As faculty in the Physical Therapy program at Bergen University College in Norway, it was with great interest we read the article by Marilyn Moffat, PT, DPT, PhD, DSc, FAPTA, CSCS, ? History of Physical Therapist Education Around the World."1 With this article, Moffat goes back to the roots of the physical therapy profession, giving deserved credits to P.H. Ling. Dr. Moffat further gives a history of physical therapy education within some European countries represented by Sweden, the United Kingdom, Norway and Finland, before she proceeds to give an overview of the development of education in the United States. She also gives information regarding the educational systems in these countries today, and she aims to give an overview of physical therapy education across the world.

Dr. Moffat has undertaken a difficult task. Translated information always has some shortcomings, more information is available to native speakers and understanding other countries' higher educational system can be very challenging.

We want to comment on some of the presented facts pertaining to Norway and our higher educational system. We will clarify our understanding of the concept "physical therapist (PT) entry-level professional education" as relating to the transition from "being a PT student" to "becoming a professional PT." We understand Dr. Moffat's concern that before entering into the physical therapy profession, a minimum level of quality in the physical therapy educational program must be required. We share Dr. Moffat's concern on this matter.

Important Historical Event in Europe

The Bologna process, which is an ongoing process, has had an influence on higher education systems in most of Europe. The Bologna Declaration of 19 June 1999 was signed by 29 European Ministers of Education. The signing and the process leading up to this event, has changed the education system in Europe.2 As of now, 47 countries have signed the declaration, among them Norway.

The Bologna process made way, among other things, for a common system of undergraduate (bachelor degree: 3 years BSc) and graduate (master degree: 2 years MSc; doctoral degree: 3 years PhD) levels in higher education across Europe.1 Norway introduced the degree system in 2001.2

The Current Educational System in Norway

Dr. Moffat states that the PT education in Norway today is a 3-year diploma course offered at physical therapist colleges.1 Later she states that Norway has a 4-year Baccalaureate program; neither is correct.1 To comment on the latter first; Baccalaureate is a term that has been used in a variety of ways, in Europe as well as worldwide. In Norway, this is a term used to denote groups of students from specific Upper Secondary Schools. It has nothing to do with our higher educational system.

All the physical therapy programs in Norway today are given by Universities or University Colleges. Students are eligible candidates for these programs around 19 years of age after qualifying from Upper Secondary School. Norwegian Universities and University Colleges are governed by the same legislative Acts and Regulations. Both types of institutions offer programs leading to BSc, MSc and PhD degrees, and both types of institutions are research institutions.

It is important to note that PTs in our country obtain a "double" qualification: an academic degree (BSc) which is obtained after 3 years education, and professional authorization that is allocated following completion of the degree and the compulsory internship (1 year). Authorization is granted by a national authority, the Norwegian Registration Authority for Health Personnel. The same structure has existed in physical therapy education since 1985, but the term "bachelor degree" was not used before 2001.

There are currently 5 BSc PT programs and 6 MSc PT programs at Universities and University Colleges spread throughout Norway. Beginning in 1991 PTs had the opportunity to start on a PT program equivalent to MSc program (Hovedfag), and a few years later it was possible to gain a PhD in physical therapy. …

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