UK work placements: a choice too far?

Little, Brenda and Harvey, Lee (2007). UK work placements: a choice too far? Tertiary Education and Management, 13(3) pp. 227–245.




Increasing expectations are being placed on higher education institutions to ensure the economic relevance of research and knowledge creation as well as developing the skill needs of workers in modern knowledge-based societies. In the UK, workplace learning has long been a feature of higher education in certain subject areas, and in the later 1990s the idea of work experience for all students re-emerged as a significant issue. Various studies have considered the relationship between work placement experiences during higher education and students' subsequent transition into employment after graduation, but there has been less research exploring how the placement experience translates into academic development. This article presents some of the findings of a study on the effects, as perceived by undergraduates themselves, of work experience placements on aspects of learning as well as employability. The majority of placement students indicate personal and intellectual development and report increased levels of confidence and enhanced motivation towards study. However, national data show a continuing decline in the numbers of UK students taking up placements, and the study suggests that more general moves towards flexibility within undergraduate programmes may be contributing to this decline.

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