PhD program fosters cross-cultural approach to counselling

Published 08 May 2008

Hong KongThe University of New England is enabling professional people living and working in Hong Kong to undertake PhD studies in the field of counselling.

Last week, via videoconference, supervisors in both Armidale and Hong Kong welcomed a number of students to the PhD program. Adjunct Professor Catherine Sun and Dr Anne Moir-Bussy, who are the Hong Kong-based supervisors, were joined in Hong Kong for the event by Professor Victor Minichiello, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of UNE’s Faculty of The Professions.

“The four-year PhD course is specifically tailored to support international students, who hold full-time employment, to undertake postgraduate research studies in their own country with the support of supervisors from both Australia and Hong Kong,” Professor Minichiello said.

“There is a growing demand for such a course,” he continued, “and the increasing enrolments are a reflection of its attractiveness to students – particularly to employed professionals, who enjoy the collegial interaction with other research students.

“The Hong Kong-based supervisors are able to provide on-site support and guidance within a culturally appropriate context, and the collaboration between the supervisors from both countries enriches the supervision and mentorship that students receive.”

Another unique feature of this program is its cross-cultural sensitivity. Dr Sun said she was looking forward to working with her Australian colleagues, and that the collaboration could “make a substantial contribution to the body of knowledge in multi-cultural counselling”.

The students are researching a wide range of topics of relevance to Hong Kong society. These include understanding how Hong Kong seniors become addicted to gambling and the role of counselling in assisting them with their addiction, how creativity may be unleashed through counselling to enhance problem-solving, the integration of Chinese physiognomy with Western counselling methods to create a more effective approach to counselling Chinese clients, and the changing landscape of the Chinese values of filial piety and the consequent evolution of approaches to effective parenting.

The program involves a foundation year of coursework in research methods and design that allows students to review literature, develop their research question, and refine their research design. It is designed to allow the building of research knowledge and skills, and to integrate theory and practice by providing opportunities for application to the proposed research. In addition to online support and regular video-linked conferences, students will be encouraged to visit UNE to attend the residential school for the “Advanced Research Methods” course, which is taught by a multidisciplinary academic team. Hong Kong-based academics and students will also be invited to participate in the Faculty’s annual postgraduate research conference.