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VIDEO: Public health's degree programmes have great potential

More elderly people, more expensive medicine, many people suffering from multimorbidity and demands for increased efficiency will increasingly challenge the healthcare sector. How graduates from public health science and its degree programmes can navigate in this future situation was the focal point for the department’s vision workshop.

How will the Danish healthcare sector look in ten years time? What profiles and competences will be needed? And how can we meet these needs and requirements with our degree programmes? These were some of the questions being asked on 5-6 December 2017 when Vice-dean for Education Charlotte Ringsted and Department Head Klavs Madsen gathered around forty representatives from among the Department of Public Health's management, researchers, teaching staff, students and employers for a vision workshop.

The participants where there to discuss visions and strategies for the department's eight degree programmes and to provide input on how these programmes might be formed so that they could – in terms of content, form and structure – match an as yet unknown future which the students must be educated to meet.

"This is about overarching visions and strategies. We need to ensure that our degree programmes have distinct profiles so that what we are offering does not just become indistinct and get lost in the crowd. What are the hallmarks of the respective degree programmes and how can each of them come into play in connection with the challenges that we expect the healthcare system to face in the coming years?" asked Department Head Klavs Madsen.

Watch the video from the workshop (in Danish only), and hear some of the participants talk about what they learned from the initial vision work.

Healthcare sector will come under a lot of pressure

Jakob Kjellberg, who is professor and head of programme for health at VIVE – The Danish Centre of Applied Social Science, gave a presentation at the workshop under the heading 'Trends for the healthcare system of the future'. One of his points was that the Danish healthcare sector and its stakeholders are and will continue to be placed under a lot of pressure.

"The healthcare system's budget is large. There will be no more money. Graduates must adapt and streamline within the framework there is. This is what they need to be prepared for. They will not be out there delivering more services or making improvements for patients and the population in general. Thinking they will demonstrates a slightly self-righteous and unrealistic approach," said Jakob Kjellberg.

His assessment is that the ability to communicate, coordinate, lead and implement initiatives across sectors and professions is alpha and omega for the graduates. Charlotte Ringsted quickly followed up on this.

"The vision process is not based on a exercise in efficiency. Jakob Kjellberg’s presentation was intended as inspiration. We must bring into play the competences that are in demand, for example communication and coordination. These are also things I can see us implementing in the degree programmes at public health. Graduates like the ones we produce are precisely the people who can make a difference in a healthcare system that is under pressure. And if we do not bring our graduates into play, then who is going to do it?" she asked rhetorically.

Shared foundation – different perspectives and approaches

Generally speaking, there was agreement that the department's degree programmes must contribute to the continuous development, growth and welfare of society. They are based on a broad perception of health that extends far beyond the section of the population who are already ill, as the perception covers e.g. prevention, treatment, care and rehabilitation.

There was also agreement that ‘academia’ must be the indisputable foundation on which graduates’ competences are built. The degree programmes must be evidence-based and research-based, and the graduates must be able to puzzle over things, be critical, reflective and to discuss based on a solid academic foundation. This is a prerequisite for being able to think in a cross-disciplinary way and to handle new technology and entrepreneurship.

A desire to increase focus on interdisciplinary cooperation was also brought up a number of times. But it is important that the degree programmes do not offer the same. They must have their own profile, while also having an eye for what they can accomplish together.

The graduates from the public health science programme stand out by being specialists in holistic and health-promoting initiatives. Among other things, the social-scientific approach separates this degree programme from the other programmes at the department. These graduates have an interdisciplinary approach to health science. That is also something that several of the other degree programmes will use as inspiration. Focus should be more holistic and cross-sectorial, as graduates are not trained exclusively for jobs at the hospitals, but also for jobs in the municipalities or in the private sector.

The degree programmes must be in sync with the outside world

There was a wish for the department's degree programmes to generally be even more business-oriented than is the case today. Strong relationships need to be built with business and industry, for example via internships and collaborative Master’s thesis, as is the case already for the sport science degree programme. Here there are special courses for students who wish to try a practice-oriented approach.

Both the presentations and discussion demonstrated that high demands will be made of tomorrow's graduates from public health science and its degree programmes. They must be able to lead, drive and implement projects. They must have organisational and political understanding. And they must be solution-oriented, quality-conscious and committed. Above all, they must match the demands that the healthcare sector of the future imposes on them – and do so within as many parameters as possible. The requirements are high, but not unrealistic, said the vice-dean.

"We can equip our graduates for this. We must have some sharp profiles for each individual degree programme, so that both the students and our employers can see exactly what we have to offer. The reconciliation of expectations is important. The degree programmes have great potential. Our students are educated and trained in precisely the competences that are increasingly in demand," said Charlotte Ringsted.

What happens next?

All input and ideas were noted and Vice-dean Charlotte Ringsted will now – together with a steering committee – prepare a draft of a vision for all the department’s degree programmes together with a strategic basis. Once the draft is ready, it will be sent to teaching staff, students and employer panels for consultation.

Once the final vision is completed in the spring of 2018, the boards of studies will assess whether there is a need to alter or adapt the degree programmes.


Vice-dean for Education Charlotte Ringsted
Aarhus University, Health
Mobile: (+45) 9350 8222
Email: charlotte.ringsted@au.dk


Which degree programmes are included?

The Department of Public Health has eight degree programmes which are represented by three boards of studies:

Board of Studies, Public Health Science

  • The Bachelor’s degree programme in public health science
  • The Master’s degree programme in public health science


Board of Studies, Sport Science

  • The Bachelor’s degree programme in sport science
  • The Master’s degree programme in sport science


Board of Studies, Health

  • The Master’s degree programme in health care

  • The Master’s degree programme in optometry and visual science

  • The Master’s degree programme in nursing

  • The Master’s degree programme in clinical nursing