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Lund University



Learning points

  1. The benefits of the physical exchange are far-reaching, including students having the confidence to engage in a role-emerging placement following MIROTS; increased awareness of the global concerns relating to Occupational Therapy development and delivery in diverse health and social care settings.

  2. Building the themes on the strengths and competencies of each participating University was essential for making each exchange contextually relevant. It resulted in slightly different perspectives on the three different physical exchanges, which made each exchange exciting and stimulating for staff and students. It also enabled each University to make use of and share their expertise, on-site resources and existing community partnerships.

  3. Project required full commitment from at least two members of staff at each institution plus the infrastructure to support administrative and technological tasks related to IT, budget, room bookings, catering and hospitality, accommodation, transport, pastoral support, travel, marketing and advertising.

  4. Building sustainable relationships with the community organisations which go beyond the learning activities is important.

  5. All universities should consider how events relate to the overall curriculum, the timing of activity and if grades/ awards are awarded to the activity to ensure equal commitment of all students.

  6. Social time is crucial to help build collegiality and develop a deeper understanding of culture. Students value informal gatherings, time to get to know one another and opportunities to spend time in the host city.

Physical exchange

Each participating Institution welcomed students from the other participating universities once throughout the three-year project. The visit took place over five days with students’ travel, accommodation and some subsistence being funded through the EU grant. Those who were unable to travel were supported by their home institution and linked to one of the groups using a digital platform (such as those used in the web-exchange) to engage in discussions, project work and the concluding conference.

Table 1 Number of students, staff and community organisations participating  



 Host: Lund University



Host: University of Southampton


Host: NUI Galway

Number of students taking part in total


(29 LU; 47 UoS; 35 NUIG)



(41 UoS; 28 LU; 24 NUIG)



(27 NUIG; 40 UoS; 28 LU)

Number of organisations







Number of stay at home students

UoS 13


LU 1


UoS 3

LU 5

Number of participating staff (number of staff at home)

LU 10

UoS 2 (2)

NUIG 3 (1)

UoS 5

LU 2 (1)



UoS 1 (2)

LU 2 (1)



















Each university partner had preparatory sessions (2-3). This was to prepare students practically as well as provide reading lists, allocate student groups and discuss the expected workload for the week. Each university followed the same structure and provided students with the same information in advance which was presented in a handbook (appendix 1). Those not travelling were encouraged to consider how to be good hosts. All students were expected to engage with preparatory work such as relevant texts and journal articles to stimulate thinking and discussion. The staff teams had worked with Professor Clare Hocking, an international expert, to produce a narrated PowerPoint to develop thinking and theory around occupational injustice. A case study (appendix 2) was produced to help in-class activities. This ensured that all students were provided with the same knowledge base on occupational Justice prior to the physical exchange.

Each hosting institution facilitated students to experience student life in a different country; interact socially with other students; access a range of University facilities; visit community settings; talk with users of services; engage academically and experientially with professional-specific assessment, implementation and evaluation tools. This enabled students to strengthen their professional skills and identity. Projects which facilitated working with community partners to address occupational issues which impact on people in different countries were identified.  These were supported and supervised by international teams of staff and / or PhD students with expertise in the areas which allowed students to gain new insights, experience, observe and challenge current practice whilst debating best and future practice from a cultural perspective.

All learning weeks commenced with a series of keynote lectures which reflected the different themes at each university (see appendix 3). Students were supported in the development of new skills which were taught by the hosting organisation and each learning week concluded with a conference where students presented their findings. Some groups were facilitated to develop abstracts based on their work for identified conferences.

Each university identified a focus for their exchange. These were designed to engage students and build on the strengths and competencies of each university. The foci and learning activities (appendix 4) were designed to disseminate information about occupational injustice and the potential role for occupational therapy for marginalised groups as widely as possible. 

  • Year 1 (Lund University)

This event focussed upon frameworks and models to support the identification of occupational issues for socially excluded individuals, groups and communities. The students visited community organisations to collect information about occupational needs and used occupationally focussed models and frameworks to interpret the information.

  • Year 2 (University of Southampton)

This event focussed on the how role emerging placements might enhance the understanding of how occupational therapists might contribute to services that support socially excluded individuals, groups and communities. Students worked with community organisations to prepare written proposals for a practice placement learning opportunity.

  • Year 3 (NUI Galway)

This event focussed on capturing the voices of marginalised groups who had experienced illness, disability, and social exclusion. The students recorded the voices of local people with a wide variety of experiences and developed skills in producing podcasts. Students produced a five-minute podcast that were returned to the community organisation to assist them in disseminating the voices of the people they represented. 

The Physical Exchange was the most challenging and time-consuming aspect of the project requiring large teams to meet and negotiate projects with community partners; engage national and international speakers and local clinicians; facilitate travel and transport arrangements once in the country; source accommodation and subsistence within tight budget constraints; manage the insurance and health and safety of students and staff; ensure inclusivity of all students; facilitate social events and demonstrate hospitality; brief students and produce published materials which offered comprehensive information on contacts, country based systems, emergency information and local knowledge.

Much of the success of the physical exchange rested with the community partners and the projects that were identified. These experiential learning opportunities offered authentic learning opportunities with service users and communities which motivated the students to engage at a higher level of analysis and critical thinking as real change was anticipated. For such learning to occur high levels of support are required for both the community partners and students.

The process of partnering with community organisations was presented at the 7th International Symposium on Service Learning, 14-16th June 2017, NUI Galway, Ireland

  • Fox, J., Hynes, S., Ekstam, L., Orban, K., Shiel, A., & Truman, J. (2017). Making internationalisation a reality for occupational therapy students – a community engagement project. Presented at the 7th International Symposium on Service Learning, 14-16th June, Galway, Ireland. Available at https://cki.nuigalway.ie/event/799/7th-issl-conference/

Course material Lund exchange 2016

Course material Southampton exchange 2017

Course material Galway exchange 2018

Photos physical exchanges