Employer – university ‘partnerships’: a key problem for work-based learning programmes?

Reeve, Fiona and Gallacher, Jim (2005). Employer – university ‘partnerships’: a key problem for work-based learning programmes? Journal of Education and Work, 18(2) pp. 219–233.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13639080500085992


This paper focuses on the development of work-based learning programmes within higher education in the UK. It explores how 'partnership' with employers came to be seen as a central aspect of this new form of provision. However, we suggest that this emphasis on partnership has been problematic. We focus, in particular, on three areas of concern. Firstly, the limited evidence that employers wish to engage in these sorts of relationships with universities. Secondly, the problems arising from the different cultures of the potential partners and, in particular, different understandings of 'learning' and 'knowledge'. Thirdly, the emergence of the quality assurance agenda within higher education, which is reducing the influence of employers in these programmes. We conclude that the emphasis placed on partnership in the policy and practice literature may well be hindering the more widespread development of work-based learning in higher education.

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