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With the last term mostly out of the way, my headspace is more free to concentrate on other important issues, and programme redevelopment is definately one of my top priorities.

Last Friday I had a meeting with Robyn Hogan from the Academic Quality Unit (AQU) to talk through some important issues from an academic quality perspective, then later in the day I met with some of our key staff members to discuss programme structure.  We’ve come out of the day with the overall programme structure decided on at least, and plenty of questions to follow up.

The Diploma of Therapeutic Massage (or Clinical Massage Therapy or Advanced Massage Therapy) programme will be 2 years in length.  The first year will be made up of two consecutive 6 month certificate programmes – the Certificate in Relaxation Massage and the Certificate in Stress Management and Spa Therapies.

 My original intention was to keep the programme in-line with other Polytech qualifications (ie. 1 year certificate, 2 year diploma), however most other institutes offer a certificate of relaxation massage over a six month period.  It seems reasonable to offer students of Otago Polytechnic similar options to what they can expect in other parts of New Zealand.  I believe that over time the massage industry will move to a 1 year certificate of relaxation massage, a 2 year diploma of therapeutic massage & a 3 year degree, however after consultating with other massage education providers it has become clear that the 6 month timeframe for the certificate of relaxation massage is not likely change in the near future. 

In the expansion of the programme, some of the areas that have been identified as being of key importance are stress management, body-mind, emotional release, spa therapies, customer service & soft-skills.  Both the stress management and the spa industries are expanding dramatically at the moment in New Zealand.  We see the 6 month certificate in Stress Management and Spa Therapies fulfilling needs in the marketplace that are currently unserved.  My next step with respect to this proposed 6 month certificate is consultation with the local spa industry to determine what they would like us to cover.  Investigation of the stress management industry will also be a priority.

The second year of the programme will provide the skills that the students need to work effectively with pain and injuries.  The expanded time-frame will allow more time to cover assessment techniques, to develop clinical reasoning, to consider professional practice, and to cover and integrate more advanced hands-on techniques than are currently covered in the programme.

The academic level of the Anatomy & Physiology covered in a diploma of massage therapy is very high considering the amount of time that is typically spent covering this material in New Zealand massage courses.  We intend to keep the level of the Anatomy & Physiology the same for the 2nd year of the programme, however A&P classes in the first year will build the foundation for this later study.  Currently the students are really thrown in the deep end, and we feel strongly that this addition will really strengthen the programme. 

With respect to delivery, key staff involved have been consulted, and we all agree that the blended model of block courses for practical learning combined with online-distance theoretical study makes a lot of sense.  This model allows much flexibility.  It facilitates distance learning and part-time study options which are currently unavailable.

So that’s the planned structure of the programme as it stands.  We now need to consider the structure of units within this qualification, and begin the somewhat daunting task of consultation with key stakeholders.