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Study plan - Bachelor in Physiotherapy

Autumn 2023

The human body, movement and function, understood through a healthcare perspective, are at the core of physiotherapy. Movement and bodily function are integral to the way people act and interact. Societal developments, specifically changes to the environment and in living standards, and a new understanding of the relationship between illness and environmental factors have placed specific demands on the work of the physiotherapist.

The platform for knowledge in physiotherapy is grounded in a combination of scientific, humanistic and social science disciplines. The programme safeguards and further develops the core traditions practised within the field of physiotherapy and thus provides students with a continually updated and future-oriented education. The programme is knowledge-based, with different forms of knowledge integrated into the teaching and adapted on the basis of context. The programme ensures that the candidate graduates with a clear professional identity and can participate in the development of physiotherapy as a field of knowledge in order to meet society’s existing and potential future needs

The bachelor’s degree programme in physiotherapy provides the candidate with a broad, professional basis and strong competence when it comes to performing a wide variety of assessments, evaluating findings in order to propose clinical diagnoses, and assessing indications that may require the implementation of various measures. The candidate will also be able to assess whether there are grounds to refer patients for further and/or other forms of treatment. Candidates educated at HVL acquire the competence and mindset required to ensure equality for all members of society in their provision of such healthcare services.

The conduct of professional physiotherapy practices for different people in different areas and sectors of society is built on strong communication and interaction skills. Treatment, habilitation, rehabilitation, prevention and health promotion are all key methods in physiotherapy work. Measures implemented at individual, group and system levels contribute to the promotion of public health and a sustainable society. The physiotherapist’s own competence is used in inter-disciplinary and goal-oriented cooperative processes within the health and care sector, as well as in a variety of other sectors.

The bachelor’s degree programme at HVL provides a qualification that equips physiotherapists with a broad range of competences and, after completion of their residency, the candidate will be able to perform confidently in the various situations that physiotherapists find themselves in when working with Norwegian society, both now and in the future. The programme lays the groundwork for lifelong learning.

The programme also focuses on practice and development in cooperation with the field of practice and its adjacent disciplines, as well as ensuring that the user perspective is at the centre.

Suitability Assessment
There are fixed suitability requirements in this profession. Ongoing suitability assessments of all students are carried out throughout the duration of the programme and include a comprehensive assessment of students’ professional and personal qualities in regard to their working in the role of a physiotherapist (cf. § 4 in the 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 receive their certificates, those who participated in the authorisation scheme are granted authorisation (cf. § 48 in the Act relating to health personnel etc. (Health Personnel Act)).

The curriculum for the bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy 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 physical 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 qualification shall have achieved the following final learning outcomes, categorised as knowledge, skills or general competence:

The graduate...

  • has a broad knowledge of the structure, functions and development of the body as a prerequisite for health, activity, participation and mastery
  • has broad knowledge of the relationship between health and illness and how education, work and living standards can affect the individual
  • is familiar with the different perspectives on health and illness, the body, movement and function
  • has broad knowledge of the conditions that can positively and negatively affect the body and the significance that meaningful activity and participation in work can have for one’s health
  • has broad knowledge of the factors that can promote and hinder the development of movement, learning and control and what impact this has on function and the change in how one functions
  • has knowledge of the organisation, tasks and laws and regulations pertaining to the health services and which guide the work of physiotherapists, as well as of political priorities and the decision-making process on different levels
  • is familiar with the resources and the dissemination of such resources, and with appropriate welfare technology for promoting function and participation, at both the individual and system levels

The graduate...

  • can examine and treat patients in different phases of their lives and facing different issues relating to function, levels of pain and challenges
  • can critically analyse, interpret and react to the findings of assessments, present clinical diagnoses as the basis for implementing measures and evaluate whether the patient needs to be referred further
  • can plan and implement measures based on the overall target of promoting health and implementing prevention work
  • can plan, implement and coordinate habilitation/rehabilitation processes and prepare and follow up on individual plans in cooperation with patients, relatives and other practitioners
  • can map out environmental factors and assess the risk of unwanted incidents that may affect the patient’s level of function and health
  • can apply their relationship, communication and guidance skills when it comes to understanding, motivating and working with users, patients and relatives who are going through learning, mastery and change processes

General competence:
The graduate...

  • can apply relevant theoretical perspectives and critical thinking in their work with professional and ethical dilemmas and can reflect on power dynamics, professionalism and their own role as practitioners in the profession
  • can utilise new knowledge, perform professional assessments and prioritisations, make decisions and act in line with knowledge-based practice
  • has insight into how one’s own and others’ skills can be best utilised in inter-professional cooperation in order to develop and provide a user-adapted service at every level of the service
  • has insight into the individual’s right to autonomy, user contribution and shared decision-making, can act professionally and responsibly and shows respect and empathy when interacting with patients/users and relatives
  • has insight into the history of the field of physiotherapy and its development, the main stages of said development in society and the profession’s societal duty
  • can apply knowledge with clinical reasoning in order to document, assure quality, evaluate and disseminate physiotherapy practices that are adapted to service different target groups
  • can plan and implement physiotherapy work in line with the applicable legislation
  • can plan and participate in service innovation and systematic and quality-improvement work processes and use these in the development of their own area of expertise


In line with the national guidelines on physiotherapy training, the programme of study is based on seven competence areas. The programme will ensure that candidates acquire skills within the following competence areas:

I. The body, movement and function II. Assessment, evaluation, diagnosis and measures III. Interaction and communication IV. Habilitation and rehabilitation V. Ethics and cultural understanding VI. Critical thinking, quality assurance and innovation VII. Society and public healthhttps://lovdata.no/dokument/SF/forskrift/2019-03-15-410

(Cf. § 4 Regulations for the national guidelines for physiotherapy training.)

The competence areas are integrated throughout the programme’s 14 courses, which are spread over 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 meet on campus for a total of three weeks of in-person instruction for this course.

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

The mobility window is usually offered during the fourth semester. 

Each year of study consists of both theoretical and practical courses.

In the first year of study, the foundation is laid for the development of knowledge, skills and general competence in the physiotherapeutic assessment of the musculoskeletal system. This includes knowledge of the anatomy, physiology, movement and functions of the body. Close attention is paid to providing students with a theoretical and practical basis for understanding general physiotherapy principles for the performance of assessments. Practical knowledge and skills are integrated into assignments. The focus is on ensuring that students are familiar with how individual characteristics and conditions in one’s environment can affect movement and function. The teaching provides students with a basic understanding and analysis of movement and function on the basis of different theories and models. The students explore their own experiences and preferences in respect of movement. The core elements of certain systems of movement are presented as a foundation for understanding the body and movement as the centre of all experiences, one’s own history, and culture. The practical elements of the first year of study are integrated into two of the courses.

The second year of study focuses on further developing knowledge, skills and general competence in physiotherapy assessment, their evaluation of such findings, in setting targets and the planning and implementation of necessary measures. Concepts such as treatment, (re)habilitation, inter-professionality, shared decision-making and autonomy are discussed and contextualised within the work of the physiotherapist. In this year of study, there is also a focus on the skills required for finding, assessing and reflecting on how different types of knowledge can be utilised in different physiotherapy-related contexts. The practical component in this year of study is carried out mainly in the primary health services. In the final part of this year of study, the focus is on health promotion and preventative work and includes work on enhancing knowledge and skills together with measures to reduce risk factors and improve personal and environmental factors that can help improve health.

In the third year of study, students are challenged to integrate the knowledge and skills developed over the previous courses, as well as being presented with new topics that will prepare them for the practice period that takes place in the specialist healthcare services. The main theme here is physiotherapy judgments based on assessments, setting targets and the evaluation processes in the central areas of knowledge. Inter-disciplinary cooperation and the treatment of patients in different treatment courses and with different functional challenges, as understood from a life-cycle perspective, are at the core of the teaching in this year. Ethics and communication when interacting with others are also focused upon. Further is carried out on topics such as health, illness and function and on concepts such as social inequality, medicalisation, discrimination, inclusion, roles and professionalisation. The students prepare a bachelor’s dissertation in which they demonstrate their understanding of the subject. This year of study is completed once the student has passed a practical oral examination.

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

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


This course strives to offer teaching based on the best of research, specialist development work and experiential knowledge. Methods of teaching and learning will vary between different courses, further details of which are outlined in the individual course plans.

40 hours of study time per week are expected of full-time students in this programme.

In order to ensure clinical treatment competence and both personal and practical skills, supervised skills training is maintained as a core focus throughout all three years of study. This skills training takes place in the SimArena – a modern and well-equipped simulation centre for all students in the department. 

Compulsory learning activities require the active participation of the student throughout the learning process. (Cf. Assessment at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences.) The central compulsory learning activities used in the teaching include skills training, group work, supervision and reflection, seminars with lecture presentations and debates, written assignments, exams, practical preparation, practical placements, and student-active teaching, such as through classroom-based and experiential learning. The compulsory learning activities are set out in the course plan and/or timetable. 80% attendance is required for compulsory teaching. Absences are dealt with in accordance with the Regulations for studies and examinations at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL).


Assessment refers to all formal testing required for the programme, which is listed in the individual course plans. All compulsory learning activities must be passed before the student can sit the exam for the course or participate in the practical placement (cf. the Regulations for studies and examinations at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL)).

The forms of assessment used in this programme include written examinations, take-home examinations, assignments, projects, oral examinations, practical oral exams and practical placements.

Marking is carried out on a pass/fail basis and graded on a scale of A–F. The practical placements are assessed on a pass/fail basis.

Required progression

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

Specific courses may require prerequisite knowledge for admission to a course. The practical courses may have a further requirement for the student to have passed all previous practical courses.

All first semester courses, as well as FYS 140 in the second semester, must be passed before the student can begin the second year of study. All first-year courses and the Part 2 Practical Examination for FYS 200 must be passed before the student can begin the fourth semester. All third semester courses must be passed before the student can begin the fifth semester. All second-year courses must be passed before the student can begin the sixth semester. 

Previously acquired knowledge and its application are required in all 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 a student is moved to a new cohort, the curriculum for that year applies.


All courses included in the physiotherapy programme of study have a clear international profile. This includes, among other things, the use of relevant English-language literature, discussion with international students of the international issues facing the profession in the various courses, and teaching conducted by international lecturers. The “Physiotherapy in Health Promotion and Preventive Work” course taught during the fourth semester is an exchange module and programme delivered in English that students on exchange from other countries participate in.

In the second or third year of study, students have the opportunity to take courses at international universities, either for three months as a practical course/on-campus taught course or as an intensive 1–2 week online course that corresponds with those offered at HVL in the applicable year of study. 

The programme has cooperation agreements with physiotherapy courses across the Nordic countries and in Europe, Africa, Australia, the US and Brazil. Any student exchange period abroad will be approved as part of the programme of study.

The list below shows the countries and universities where students may apply for an exchange programme: 

Ghent University, HAN University, Karolinska Institute, Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Polytechnic Institute of Setúbal, University of Dublin, Trinity College, University College Absalon, University of the Balearic Islands, Palma Mallorca, VIA University College, ARCADA Polytechnic, Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, Haydom Hospital Arusha, Universidad Francisco de Vitoria UFV Madrid