The results of the gap analysis are detailed below for each section of the gap analysis
MHA alumni evaluation
The findings of the MHA evaluation have been described in full elsewhere. Briefly, the Alumni valued knowledge of project management, health services resources management, program evaluation and human resources as essential to their workplace. Skills addressing emotional strategic thinking and planning, resilience and emotional intelligence were also rated highly by all Alumni to be essential for the workplace. More than 90% of All Alumni secured a promotion within their own organisation or ended up being seconded to another organisation in a higher role. Furthermore, Alumni valued the flexible mode of delivery of the course to be essential as most of them were working in a full-time capacity and were only available to study part time due to their work and personal commitments. Recommendations to improve the course included having guest lectures from the industry and incorporated work placements as future suggestions to improve the course.
Mapping of MHA courses
A total of ten Health Administration courses taught in Australian Universities were identified and their core contents were mapped against the common areas identified by RACMA, ACHSM and CAHM. Each subject within each university curriculum was allocated one unit against the relevant theme it falls under. Most Australian Health Administration courses had subjects in the themes identified by the accreditation bodies.
Core subjects addressing systems improvement consisted of 26% of the contents. Examples of these subjects include: program development and evaluation, evidence informed decision and using health care data for decision making. Management/leadership and knowledge of the health system each represented about 19% of the curriculum. Examples of subjects that align with these themes were health leadership and workforce management and the Australian health system respectively. Furthermore, most Universities had a choice of either a capstone projector or a research project. Only one university in Australia offered a placement for 12 weeks. Figure 3 shows the breakdown of topics within each theme by university.
One of the challenges in the re-design of the MHA course is to meet the diverse needs of students. In Australia a MHA course is usually taught through 1.5 (for students with a cognate degree in health) or 2 years (for students without a cognate degree in health). We proposed seven streams of specialisations (e.g. Applied Research, Health Promotion, Health Policy, Health Administration, Community Engagement, Ageing in Society, and Ergonomics, Safety and Health) to meet the diverse need. The main objectives of the marketing brief were to understand the value of specialisations in increasing employment prospects and/or career development, to understand overall appeal, industry alignment and impact on employment prospects of and to identify gaps in our specialisations’ offer that would increase chances of employment of prospective students and to identify trends and industry skills future demand. The target groups for the market research included a total of ten participants consisting of employers in the health administration area, the university’s Alumni, international agents recruiting students for the Master of Health Administration and prospective students. The results from the marketing confirmed the importance of specialisations that were seen as an important differentiator away from a ‘generic’ masters’ degree. The results also highlighted the importance of providing information regarding why students choose one speciality over another and the differences between them. The findings from market research highlighted that there are three threads to potential specialisations including the following:
- Specialisations that push the MHA in particular into bigger picture spaces with a greater emphasis on strategic thinking within the health system
- Specialisations that could form part of any of the Masters’ degrees that reflect the likely long terms changes as a result of Covid-19
- Specialisations that suit niche interests or very specific future careers.
Current students and staff consultation
A consultation of current students and staff took place separately before finalising the content of the new course to seek their opinions about the content and the mode of delivery of the course. Both groups endorsed the overall structure of the re-designed course but highlighted the importance of maintaining the flexible delivery of the course and the need to update the course content and the resources provided to the students. In line with the demands, the development of subjects embedded in this course looked at previous feedback of subjects taught over the years. The subjects that were rated poorly by students were identified to be needed a significant amendment of course content, assessment, and delivery.
Accrediting of the MHA program
The re-designed MHA course went through the accreditation from the Australian College of Australasian College of health services managers, which not only required a comprehensive coverage of all its core competencies, but also an assurance of effective arrangements of teaching delivery. This was the stage where further refinements of the subjects’ content took place to ensure it is aligned with requirements of accreditation. The re-designed MHA course contains eight core subjects: PHE5HHS -Health Systems; PHE5SOM – Strategy and operation management; PHE5FMH – Financial Management in Health Services; PHE5MLH- Management and leadership in Health; PHE5HCQ -Health Care Quality; PHE5EPB - Epidemiology and Biostatistics; PHE5LAE- Health law and Ethics; and PHE5STL- System thinking and Leadership. These core subjects have covered all required core competencies including leadership, knowledge of health and healthcare environment, business skills, communications and relationships management and professional and social responsibilities as shown in Figure 4.