7 myths about student placements busted

7 myths about student placements busted

Examples of this myth busting are demonstrated in the case studies within the hub. 

Placements are not all year-long ‘Sandwich’ placements

In 2011/12, 6.7% of all undergraduates (128,640) were on a sandwich course. The number of sandwich courses has increased since 2007/08 along with total number of undergrads therefore proportion is fairly static, not declining as some would believe.

However, there are also many other types of placements being undertaken across the UK that are not a traditional sandwich year, including short-term and/or part-time placements. In an NCUB survey of employers, 71% said they prefer placements to be between 1 and 5 months in length.

Placement length and timings can be, and are becoming increasingly flexible to suit all parties involved. 

Placements are not just for ‘career-entry’ undergraduates

Several institutions are introducing successful placement schemes for Masters and PhD students as well as mature students, to the benefit of the student, institution and business.

Placements are not just for engineering & business students

Although the table below shows that the concentration of sandwich placements is primarily in Business, Engineering and computer science, there are different types of placements being undertaken across the UK in other sectors and by students from every subject discipline.

Subject area

Number of undergrads on sandwich placements

Proportion of students on a sandwich placement

% of all sandwich placements

Computer science

16,075

21%

12.5%

Agriculture

3,005

16.9%

2.3%

Architecture, building & planning

7,295

16.9%

5.7%

Business & administrative studies

42,140

16.9%

32.8%

Engineering & technology

18,130

15.1%

14.1%

All Subjects

128,640

6.7%

100%

Placements have more benefits for employers than just being a recruitment tool

Placements are frequently used by employers as an ‘extended interview’ and therefore provide them with a low-risk route for recruitment. However, placements can provide many more benefits for the business by employing a highly skilled university student. This includes bringing new and innovative ideas to the company and real financial returns – for more information see ‘benefits for business’ (provide link to section in Benefits)

Placements are not just for large Established businesses

A placement student can add value to a business, and equally gain many benefits themselves, no matter the size or age of the business. Placements are happening across the UK in start-ups with two employees, right through small and medium enterprises to the largest multi-national corporates.

Placements do not have to link directly to a student’s subject

It can be beneficial to students and businesses alike for students to undertake placements that are relevant, but do not necessarily directly link to the student’s degree subject. The variety of degree backgrounds that businesses employ graduates from should be reflected in the subjects of those that undertake placements with the same. There are several examples of this interdisciplinary attitude to placements emerging across the UK.

There is no standard terminology for placements

Internships, work-based learning, placements…there is no standard terminology!

The following table demonstrates the variety of terms used for different types of placements in institutional records:

Type of university arranged work experience

Pay

Subjects

Length

Terminology (as found in approx. 25 institutions contacted for NCUB research)

A. Compulsory across UK – Condition of qualifying to practice professionally

Unpaid

Education, Medicine & dentistry and some subjects allied to medicine

Generally several placements of 2-12 weeks

  • Direct placements (terminology used by SITS1) 
  • Practice-based placements
  • Compulsory placements (for HEIs that don’t have type B)
B. Compulsory as part of course as determined by the HEI

Either – depends on length and employer or sector. Pay is increasingly becoming a university requirement for placements of a certain length

All except subjects for type A. Most common in Engineering & Business

Part & full-time. Huge variety available from one week to one year.

  • Indirect placements (terminology used by SITS)
  • Compulsory placements
  • Work placement
  • Work-based learning (for Foundation degrees)
  • Work-related learning
Specifically one year

All of the above but also:
  • Sandwich placement (Thick & thin)
  • Industry year
C. Optional to the student. E.g. one module or a whole year and open to all or only some students

Either – depends on length and employer or sector

All except subjects for type A.

Part & full-time. Huge variety available from one week to one year.

  • Indirect placements (terminology used by SITS)
  • Work placement
  • Work-related learning
  • Internship
  • Vacation placement
  • Work experience
Specifically one year

All of the above but also:
  • Sandwich placement (Thick & thin)
D. Optional to the student but NOT credit bearing. E.g. Part of employability award

Either – depends on length and employer or sector

All subjects

Needs to fit around studies: Either part time over a year or less or during vacations.

  • Voluntary work/placements
  • Work experience
  • Internship

 

[1] SITS is a student records management system used to store, administer and manage all aspects of student information from initial enquiry and application through to Degree Congregation. SITS is provided by Tribal and is used by over 60% of UK Higher Education market.

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