Strong start for Sports Science at UNE

Published 15 March 2010

underwaterThree new degree programs at the University of New England are setting Armidale on the road to becoming a centre of excellence in sport and exercise science.

The new degree programs are a development of UNE’s long-standing expertise in human physiology and biomedical science.

“Many of the students in our Bachelor of Biomedical Science program are either athletes themselves, or have an interest in sport-related health professions,” said UNE’s Associate Professor Jim McFarlane, who led the development of the new courses. “It seemed to me we should cater for such people with more vocationally-oriented degree programs – capitalising on our existing expertise in physiology and biochemistry.”

Enrolments in the new programs have more than confirmed Dr McFarlane’s predictions, with a total of 85 students beginning their studies this semester. They will be working towards Bachelor’s degrees in Sports Science (three years full-time and up to eight years part-time), Exercise Science (three years full-time and up to eight years part-time), and Exercise Physiology (four years full-time and up to 10 years part-time).

The programs will involve an integration of staff and facilities on UNE’s academic campus with those at Sport UNE, and the construction of a new building – adjacent to Sport UNE – housing state-of-the-art biomechanics, exercise physiology, and biochemistry laboratories. The opening of the new building is scheduled for 2012. “It will probably be the best facility in the country for teaching sport and exercise science,” Dr McFarlane said.

All three programs are being coordinated by UNE’s Dr Claire Parker, an exercise and sports science educator who is a former international athlete. Dr Parker has competed for Great Britain in rowing at the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships.

Dr McFarlane and Dr Parker are planning to involve professional coaches in the teaching program. They are also hoping that the courses, which can be undertaken part-time and by distance education, will attract students from the ranks of elite athletes. Dr McFarlane said there had been “massive interest” in the three courses – including interest from sportsmen and women. “These new degree programs will benefit not only our students but the entire community,” said the Executive Director of Sport UNE, Dave Schmude. “Having additional high-quality testing facilities at UNE will assist athletes in our region – and I’m sure will also attract groups from outside the region.”

Dr McFarlane explained that the Bachelor of Sports Science program was designed for people – such as sportspeople themselves and those working as personal coaches or in community recreation and fitness centres – who were primarily concerned with sports practice and training. The Exercise Science/Physiology programs, on the other hand, were for students needing a more clinical emphasis and a more detailed knowledge of the underlying physiology and biochemistry.

All three programs require work experience in gymnasia, physiotherapy practices and other sports-related businesses – the Bachelor of Exercise Physiology program requiring 500 hours of such experience.

Clicking on the image displayed here reveals a PHOTOGRAPH of Associate Professor Jim McFarlane and Dr Claire Parker taken in an exercise physiology laboratory at UNE.