Development of a New Occupational Therapy Entry-level Education Programme

WFOT provides information and advice for the establishment of new education programmes for occupational therapists. Information provided here is intended to complement the content of the WFOT Minimum Standards for the Education of Occupational Therapists (2016).

It is highly recommended that all education programmes for occupational therapists strive to meet the WFOT Minimum Standards to ensure eligibility for approval from WFOT. More information regarding the process and benefits for obtaining education programme approval from WFOT is available here in the WFOT Occupational Therapy Education Programme Approval Guidelines for Submission for the First Approval of an Education Programme document.

Information on this webpage is available to download on pdf from the WFOT Resources.

To develop an education programme for occupational therapists that meets the WFOT Minimum Standards for the Education of Occupational Therapists (2016), a needs assessment is a necessary first step to gain an understanding of local, regional and national perspectives regarding:

  • Health and societal needs and priorities
  • Target groups for occupational therapy services
  • Meaningful occupations
  • Health, social, disability and legal systems
  • Occupational therapy history

Developing collaborative relationships is critical to understand needs, gain advice and guidance, and obtain support and endorsement for the development of an occupational therapy education programme. Essential partners may include:

  • Government ministries
  • National or regional groups of people with disability
  • University / higher education institutions
  • Peer occupational therapy education programmes – all WFOT approved programmes can be found here
  • Local occupational therapists and peer professionals
  • Potential practice placement (fieldwork) settings
  • National / regional occupational therapy associations
  • Other key advocates for occupational therapy

An advisory committee selected on the basis of expertise, interest and influence can assist in the planning and establishment of an occupational therapy education programme, including representation from:

  • Local occupational therapists and representatives from the national occupational therapy association, plus the World Federation of Occupational Therapists
  • Educators, administrators and representatives from the university
  • Sociologists, anthropologists, social workers or others
  • Physicians, nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists or other health workers
  • People involved in consumer or voluntary organisations concerned with rehabilitation or disability (e.g. societies for the welfare of the physically disabled, mental health organisations, Humanity & Inclusion, Save the Children)
  • People involved in the employment of health professionals (e.g. from industry, commerce, departments of labour and health)
  • Representatives from peer education programme(s), funding organisations
  • Local representatives of the World Health Organization.

Involved from early in the planning process, an experienced occupational therapy educator is required on a full-time basis for the development of an education programme. Recommended minimum qualifications include:

  • Graduation from an occupational therapy education programme approved by WFOT
  • Possession of a higher qualification than the education programme will offer, or a commitment for obtaining the qualification.
  • Varied clinical, teaching and leadership experience.
  • Understanding of the local culture
  • Fluency in the language of the country.

The programme’s faculty should include educators from a mix of professional backgrounds, qualifications and experience. The educators should ideally possess a qualification higher to what the programme offers.

The programme length of an occupational therapy education programme is determined by the curriculum for attaining the minimum competencies outlined in the Minimum Standards for the Education of Occupational Therapists (2016) and any additional competency needs required at the local/national level. The education programme must be situated in a university / higher education institution, with graduates awarded a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or equivalent credential. The level of educational qualification gained in the education programme must enable entry to practice, as well as advanced study as graduates will be future educators, practice supervisors and researchers thereby ensuring local continuity, growth and development of the profession.

The organisation of occupational therapy curriculum is designed as a subject-based programme or series of integrated modules that is best suited to address the competencies required by graduates. Content and sequencing of professional subjects/modules is organised according to the philosophy and purpose of the programme, with the relationship between elements clearly indicated. Occupational therapy modules should only be taught by occupational therapists.

The facilities required for an occupational therapy programme include:

  • Offices for the director/head of programme and secretary with adequate space to maintain scholastic records and for student academic counselling
  • Office space for teachers and educators
  • Lecture rooms and laboratories/classrooms with adequate equipment, storage space and display boards
  • Access to rooms for teaching practical activities of daily living, work related activities, creative activities or construction of assistive devices including splints
  • Access to audio-visual equipment and technology such as video, power point, data projection etc
  • Access to library resources, including international textbooks and scientific journals in occupational therapy/occupational science
  • Access to computers, information technology, and the internet. Records should be kept for each student, and include their progress in both academic learning and on practice placement (fieldwork) Access to storage to maintain student performance records and teaching plans for all modules delivered throughout the programme.

Planning of the occupational therapy education programme must include the development of mechanisms for regular evaluation to obtain performance data and information needed to maintain and continuously improve the quality of education offered by the programme. Feedback from students, workplaces, client groups and practice (fieldwork) educators should be included as part of this evaluation.

In regions without established occupational therapy services, educators may serve an important role in guiding new graduates to employment opportunities, i.e. by linking the students to non­governmental organisations (NGOs), developing role emerging practice placement sites that convert to employment as the role matures. It is advantageous for graduates to maintain contact with the programme, and access opportunities for lifelong learning. For the programme, this is an important investment in future educators and practice (fieldwork) educators.

Establishing a culture of research and scholarly activity is a priority for occupational therapy. Educators and students should therefore be encouraged to undertake further master and doctoral studies, research or other projects. Both students and educators should have a culture that includes searching for new knowledge through journals, international partnerships and the internet.