The burgeoning interest in life coaching is spurring more institutions to appoint lecturers with expertise in the area and with experience of course development. Chris Johnston reports.
Life coaching is one of those vaguely New Age pursuits often viewed with the same suspicion as yoga and vegetarianism. But it is now being embraced by the higher education sector.
Proponents claim that any aspect of people's lives - be it relationships, career, finance or health - can be improved by a life coach.
One life-coaching programme has been used to help National Health Service workers in large British cities deal with work-life balance issues and even enabled residents on the Shetland island of Unst make changes in their lives.
While most life-coaching courses are offered by private colleges or schools, more mainstream publicly funded academic institutions are beginning to offer them too.
Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College advertised in The Times Higher last week for a lecturer/senior lecturer in life coaching on a one-third fractional appointment. The position is located in the faculty of applied social sciences and humanities at the High Wycombe campus.
George Fieldman, principal lecturer in psychology, says that life coaching is a $1 billion a year industry in the US and is growing quickly in Britain. It is a new area for academe and he wants to bring to it as much academic rigour as possible. "It's all about trying to inject some science into the field," he says.
A doctoral student will be attached to the post to aid this process, he added. The successful candidate, who is expected to hold a recognised qualification in life coaching or an equivalent field, will be involved in developing the postgraduate diploma course that will have its first intake in January. Experience of teaching and course development in higher education will be an advantage.
Buckinghamshire Chilterns will be eligible to become a fully fledged university next month following the Government decision to allow teaching-only institutions to apply for such status.
The faculty of applied social sciences and humanities is also developing a masters programme in cognitive behavioural therapy and is seeking a part-time lecturer with experience and qualifications in a relevant area of psychology.
There are few cognitive behavioural psychotherapists practising in Britain, Dr Fieldman says, and demand for their services is likely to grow as more people seek help for anxiety-related conditions.
Dr Fieldman, a psychotherapist and life coach in London, says the university college has offered an undergraduate psychology programme for about ten years and has some 100 students across its three years.
In addition, the institution is recruiting a lecturer/senior lecturer in sociology/social policy for its faculty of health studies at the Chalfont St Giles campus.