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Study plan - Bachelor in Occupational therapy

Autumn 2023

Occupational therapists promote health and enhance quality of life through activity and participation by helping individuals master their daily tasks. This requires a person-centred, resource-focused and occupational-focused approach as well as competence in methodological use of activity, training, guidance and adaptation of the environment. Occupational therapists are competent in the use of activities and understand activity as a meaningful task that people are engaged in.

Occupational therapists divide activities of daily living (ADL) in two main categories. Personal ADL constitutes activities such as morning routines, dressing, and cooking. Instrumental ADL is connected to the persons development, socialisation and engagement in activities in society. Also included are activities connected to productivity (work), education and leisure.

Injury, illnesses and other challenges can lead to difficulties in mastering daily activities and participation socially and in society. The undergraduate degree programme in Occupational Therapy (OT) will ensure that the candidate acquires the necessary skills and knowledge to assess, adapt and use meaningful activities in any interventions required to help people of all age groups, in all phases of life and in various arenas. Candidates will acquire the knowledge and skills to be able to simplify, grade and adapt activities for individuals or groups, and contribute to the patients’ development or maintenance of their skills, habits and roles.

Surroundings, consisting of physical, material, social, cultural and digital environment, can be stimulating or restrictive carrying out activities and when participating in society. The OT programme will also ensure that the candidate understands the impact the environment may have on the ability to perform an activity and that the candidate has the knowledge needed to change or adapt that environment. This includes universal design, which can help make an activity more accessible and enable everyone’s participation, as well as ensuring individual adaptation of the physical environment, such as housing, the workplace or school.

The OT programme will ensure that the candidate acquires knowledge of the challenges people may face in performing activities and that the candidate will be able to carry out functional assessments and activity analyses. Candidates will therefore have knowledge and skills relating to anatomy, physiology, psychology, pathology, communication and relationship building.

A knowledge of the dynamic interactions between people, activities and environment also contributes to occupational therapists’ ability to assess whether and when a person, activity or environment is impeding someone’s inclusion and participation. Developments in society have led to the increased use of welfare technology, digitalisation and innovative services. The programme will therefore enable candidates to acquire knowledge and skills about important interventions and different types of treatment and rehabilitation skills.

In the OT programme candidates receive training in practical skills through the use of the simulation centre SimArena and clinical placements where they utilise their skills in various contexts. The OT programme pays particularly close attention to the integration of theoretical and practical knowledge and to training candidates to critically reflect on their own profession, professional practice and inter-professional interactions, in order to ensure development of the candidate’s professional identity.

Upon completion of the programme, the candidate will be in a strong position to work at the individual, group and societal levels, in various sectors and service levels, in their effort to promote public health and contribute to a sustainable society. Examples of the fields of work available to candidates include general health, vocational health, public health/health promotion, somatic health and mental health, which includes working with children, adolescents, adults and the elderly. The programme will also ensure that candidates have a broad professional foundation and the competence to practise evidence-based occupational therapy. Upon completion of the programme, the candidate will be able to further contribute to the development of occupational therapy as a field of practice, through the utilisation of their knowledge, skills, interaction competence and innovative perspective. The programme will ensure that the candidates are conscious of their responsibilities, reflective and professionally competent and that they have the mindset and tools to equip them in their provision of healthcare services for all members of society, on equal terms. The programme will be evidence-based, professionally oriented and practice-focused and will follow societal, scientific and technological developments.

Suitability Assessment
There are suitability requirements in this profession. Ongoing suitability assessments are carried out throughout the duration of the course and include a comprehensive assessment of the student’s professional and personal qualities in regard to working in the role of occupational therapist (cf. § 4 Regulations relating to suitability assessments in higher education). For more information, see the Suitability Assessment page on HVL’s website.

Upon completion of the programme and once the candidates have received their certificates, those who participated in the authorisation scheme will be granted authorisation (cf. § 48 in the Act relating to health personnel etc. (Health Personnel Act)).

The curriculum for the bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy is based on the Regulation relating to the common framework plan for health and social studies courses and the Regulation relating to the national guidelines for occupational therapy training.

The undergraduate programme at HVL is a full-time course totalling 180 credits taught over three years.

Learning outcomes

A candidate who has completed the qualifications should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:

The graduate...

  • has broad knowledge of activity analysis, core activity theories and models of occupational therapy, and of the significance of activity, participation, health and quality of life
  • has broad knowledge of occupational therapy intervention processes and methods that can promote activity and participation, including knowledge of relevant legislation, user participation, communication, ethics and relationship building
  • has knowledge of how transitory phases of life can affect one’s ability to achieve mastery, perform activities and participate, and also has broad knowledge of their own approach as an occupational therapist regarding rehabilitation, habilitation and palliation
  • has broad knowledge of housing environment, universal design, ergonomics and environmental adaptation, and how adaptation, technology and other resources can promote activity, participation and health
  • has knowledge of rights, health policies, public health, health promotion and prevention work, and how societal and health-related difficulties may have consequences for active participation, so as to ensure equality for all members of society in the provision of the service
  • has knowledge of the research process, research ethics, philosophy of science and evidence-based practice as methodology, and how such knowledge, innovation and project work can affect the development of knowledge in the field of occupational therapy

The graduate...

  • master activity analysis and occupational therapy intervention processes, and can use professional knowledge and activities methodically in order to ensure maintenance or promotion of activity performance, skills, habits and roles
  • can identify, reflect and use their therapeutic and ethical competences, and can work with the applicable legislation in their interactions with patients, next of kin and relevant personnel in order to promote activity and participation
  • can apply their professional knowledge of meaningful activities in their therapeutic interactions with patients, in any phase of life, who are involved in habilitation, rehabilitation, and palliation, including experience-based knowledge pertained from patients and their next of kin
  • can apply their professional knowledge regarding environmental design, housing environment, ergonomics and adaptation of work environment and apply their digital and technological competence in order to promote independence, improved health and quality of life on patient and societal level.
  • can reflect on the impact of socioeconomic status on health and can use their professional knowledge about the relationships between physical, psychosocial, structural, digital, cultural and attitudinal conditions in order to promote inclusion and participation and contribute to the development of better public health and inclusion in the workforce
  • can find scientific literature and assess whether it is relevant to their professional practice, use new knowledge and utilise professional assessments, measures and actions in line with evidence-based practice

General competence:
The graduate...

  • can plan and facilitate for people with special needs to participate in meaningful activities
  • can reflect on professional, health and social policy-related issues, follow the guidelines for occupational therapy professional ethics, and disseminate and document their professional occupational therapy-related practices
  • can plan and implement services that ensure user participation and rights and collaborate in an inter-professional manner, across professions, sectors, institutions and levels
  • can reflect on the consequences of digitalisation and cooperate with others in order to develop and use welfare technology
  • can plan and carry out collaborative work with relevant (health) professionals, including volunteers and organisations, and contribute to the development of good practice in order to ensure equality in the services they offer to promote inclusion, participation and a sense of belonging
  • can plan and perform professional occupational therapy-related development projects and contribute to service innovation and systematic and quality-improving work processes


In line with the national guidelines for the occupational therapist training, the programme is based on six competence areas. The programme will ensure that the candidate acquires competence in the following competence areas:

1. Activity and participation in everyday life

2. Professional occupational therapy practice

3. Rehabilitation, habilitation and treatment

4. Accessibility, technology and adaptation

5. Inclusion, participation and belonging

6. Innovation, professional development and leadership

The competence areas are integrated into the programme’s 14 courses, which are spread across six semesters. The Building and Academic Craft course is common to all bachelor’s degree programmes at HVL and is taught during the first semester. Undergraduate students in the Department of Health and Functioning will receive joint teaching on this course.

All of the courses reinforce each other and progressively place greater demands on the student’s competence, independence and ability to reflect on their own professional knowledge.

The course including a mobility window is scheduled in the fourth semester. For this, the university will facilitate opportunities for students to travel for student exchange programmes and for incoming exchange students to carry out their clinical placements and/or theoretical courses through the OT programme at HVL.

Each year of study consists of both theoretical courses and clinical placement. The clinical placement consists of in total 31 weeks spread over three years.

First year of study
The focus of the first year of study is on occupational therapy theory, relevant concepts within occupational therapy, intervention processes and activity analysis. Another focus is on the understanding of the term activity and of the interplay between people, activities and their surroundings, and the impact of this interplay on how people conduct their activities. The impact of activity on health, the environment’s impact on activity, and the history and development of the discipline of occupational therapy will also be covered. The focus here is first and foremost on the level of the individual and what is considered normal development. This is followed up by a specific focus on children and adolescents and on adults with developmental disabilities. Knowledge of anatomy and physiology is integrated into occupational therapy knowledge. The first clinical placement is carried out, and students will work under the supervision of practising occupational therapists (applicable to all three practice periods). Communication skills regarding mapping and assessing patients are included in both theoretical courses and clinical placement.

Second year of study
The second year further develops the student’s knowledge and practical skills as these are related to patient assessments and the implementation of interventions for people with various activity challenges, at both individual and group levels. Habilitation, rehabilitation, treatment and palliative measures are central to this work, as are knowledge of and skills relating to group dynamics, group leadership in occupational therapy, and communication and supervision. Practical skills relating to housing and workplace assessments and interventions - including welfare technology - will also be a core focus, as well as the assessment of hand function and interventions pertaining to hand injuries. The second clinical placement is carried out in this year.

The third year of study
In the third year, knowledge of occupational therapy is put into a societal perspective, with a focus on health promotion, knowledge development in the field and innovation. This includes further reinforcing the ability to justify professional decisions, in addition to the student’s knowledge of research ethics, the philosophy of science and scientific research methods. The students work methodically and systematically in the planning and implementation of an innovation project. Knowledge of universal design and digitalisation is also emphasised. The third clinical placement takes place in this year, and the student will work independently under the guidance of an occupational therapist. Inter-professional cooperation through TVEPS is a part of this clinical placement. In the third year, the student acquires more in-depth knowledge and skills relating to communication and relationship-building with patients, next of kin and other health professionals. Furthermore, students will develop a supervised project plan and carry out a bachelor’s project that is relevant to the field of occupational therapy.

A more detailed description of the learning outcomes, content, work requirements and forms of assessment used in the OT programme can be found in the course plans.

The electronic learning support system and pedagogical tool used in this programme is Canvas.


The clinical placement functions as the course component that takes place in authentic professional situations. The clinical placements constitute 46.5 course credits and are spread over 31 weeks over the course of the programme.

During the clinical placements, the students work under the continuous supervision of an occupational therapist with relevant professional knowledge. It is preferable for the clinical placement supervisor to have formal supervisor training.

The clinical placements usually take place in Western Norway and in parts of Agder County. Students must be prepared to participate in clinical placements outside of the Bergen region. Clinical placements are organised by the university. Students can apply for facilitation for the clinical placement in line with the Regulations relating to studies and examinations at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (see § 7-6 Facilitation for supervised professional training placements).

Students must obtain their own housing and pay for their own travel expenses during the clinical placement. Some expenses are covered in line with the applicable regulations.

Clinical placements are compulsory and require 90% attendance. The attendance requirement cannot be waived due to illness (cf. Regulations relating to studies and examinations at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL)).


This course strives to offer teaching based on the best research, specialist development work and experienced knowledge. Work on developing student-active learning methods and digital learning resources is carried out continuously on every course in this programme. Technology is also used in individual courses. The teaching and working methods used on the programme include lectures, seminars, group work, workshops, simulations, supervision, presentations and more. The clinical placement is included as a work method. The work and teaching methods to be used on the course will motivate the students to carry out their own activities and group work and to contribute to the integration of theory and practice.

Supervised skills training is carried out at the university itself, in the SimArena – a modern and well-equipped simulation centre for skills training, supervision, reflection, simulation and research. The SimArena occupies a central role in all three years of study in that it ensures that students gain clinical treatment competence and personal and practical skills.

Throughout the course, learning situations (LSs) are used in the skills training, simulations and clinical placements. This is a pedagogical method according to which specific learning objectives are developed through a step-by-step description of how a situation/task should be completed. The description serves as a guide for both the students and the clinical placement supervisor. This structured method helps prepare students for a given situation, allowing them to implement measures and reflecting on their own approach, in order to achieve the learning objectives. The LSs are prepared to facilitate learning and set the pace for developing practical skills, clinical reasoning and professional behaviours.

The course promotes student learning processes through participation, individual activities, cooperation, problem solving, preparation for clinical placements and the clinical placement themselves. The course requires students to work independently with regard to both the theoretical and the practical work. The choice of work method is adapted to the objectives of the different parts of the programme and prepares students for what will be required of them in the field of practice. 

The students will learn to write various types of texts. Through the written assignments, they will be trained in the use of techniques related to finding knowledge, processing literature, and structuring and disseminating knowledge. The teaching and learning methods will vary across courses; more detailed descriptions of these can be found in the individual course plans.

Written assignments are delivered via Canvas. Assignments are screened for plagiarism.


Assessment refers to all formal testing required for the programme, which is listed in the individual course plans. The forms of assessment used ensure that the student has acquired the necessary qualifications to carry out the work required in the profession and to demonstrate that, through their studies, they have achieved a satisfactory level of expertise. All compulsory learning activities must be approved before the student can sit the course exam or attend their clinical placement (cf. Regulations relating to studies and examinations at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL)).

The forms of assessment used in this programme include written examinations (individual and group), assignments, oral examinations (individual and group) and clinical placements.

Assessments are graded either as pass/fail or on a scale from A to F, where A to E are passing grades and F is a failing grade. Clinical placements are assessed as pass/fail.

Required progression

In order to achieve the learning outcomes for each level of the degree programme, there are certain requirements in place for the student’s study progression.

The student must pass a clinical placement in order to attend the next clinical placement. All first semester courses must be passed for the student to begin the second year of study. All second semester courses must be passed for the student to begin the fourth semester. All third and fourth semester courses must be passed for the student to begin the third year of study. 

Previously acquired knowledge and its use are required in subsequent courses.

Students who do not fulfil the requirements for progression will be moved down a cohort to repeat the year and will receive an adjusted individual education plan in order to satisfy the unfulfilled requirements. When moved to a new cohort, the curriculum for that year will apply.


Students will be provided with the opportunity to participate in a student exchange programme in the fourth semester, as well as for the clinical placement in the fifth semester. Students who wish to participate in the exchange programme in Tanzania can do so only through the clinical placement scheduled for the fifth semester.

Below, you can find a short description of the exchange programme opportunities. Students can carry out the second- or third-year clinical placement through the following agreements:

Belgium | VIVES University College 
Belgium | Arteveldehogeschool 
Denmark | University College Copenhagen 
Denmark | VIA University College 
Finland | ARCADA Polytechnic 
Lithuania | Lithuanian University of Health Sciences 
Sweden | Linköping University 
Tanzania | Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre

Pre-approval of the course and content of the clinical placement will ensure that these can be integrated into the programme the student is enrolled in.