INTRODUCTION: This paper outlines a collaborative, cross-national educational initiative, commenced in 2001, in which an Australian university provided clinical and research education assistance to a Filipino University. The aim was to establish the first Filipino Master of Science in Physical Therapy program that would train physiotherapists in their home country using best available content and teaching expertise.
PROCESS: Principles of quality transnational education underpinned the program design and contractual agreements. Australian educational input was tailored to local constraints to ensure efficient and effective delivery of high quality, relevant material. Approximately 60% of the inaugural program was delivered by Australian educators in one-week intensive courses on-shore in the Philippines, using local facilities and case-scenarios. Follow-up support and evaluation were provided by video, email, written workbooks and assignments once these educators returned to Australia. Filipino graduates, who were competent with course content, taught the remaining subjects. In line with an aim of empowering Filipino graduates to assume responsibility for teaching all aspects of the program by 2006, the Australian educators are now teaching less than 25% of the course content to subsequent student cohorts. After 2006, they will provide mentorship only to the program.
RESULTS: In 2003, 12 students in the first cohort graduated with Master of Science in Physical Therapy from the University of Santo Tomas (UST). Twenty-four students subsequently enrolled in the second cohort (commenced 2003) and 21 students into the third cohort (commenced 2004). Six of the inaugural graduate cohort are currently acting as tutors for the Australian educators and will assume full teaching roles in 2006. Comparison of feedback from student evaluations at UST indicates significant improvements in teaching quality for the graduates from the inaugural program. Research activity and publications have also increased as a result of completion of the program.
DISCUSSION: Such a cross-institutional, cross-national program has not been described previously for physiotherapy, and no other similar health program (for nursing) evaluated the educational processes in the manner used in this program. The program met its aims and has produced sustainable educational outcomes and outputs.
CONCLUSION: Future scholarly activities between the two institutions include extension of postgraduate training to other health disciplines, cross-institutional PhD student enrollments and collaborative research.