Letter: Know your placement (1)

October 5, 2001

We need to encourage employers to offer more student placements as relevant work experience carries a premium in employment and sandwich placements are the crème de la crème of work experience. We don't want employers to be put off with burdensome bureaucracy, rules or strings attached (Letters, THES , September 28).

But just as employers must adhere to employment and health and safety legislation for their permanent staff, so should they with students. Universities should also help students gain the most they can from work placements.

The attention the Quality Assurance Agency has paid to learning outcomes is to the advantage of students and employers, although it may bring a burden of assessment to universities. But what are students paying universities for in their placement year?

In many disciplines, placement outcomes are clearly defined at the beginning. Students are expected to learn skills on the job and employers need to provide the means for that. But this is not so in all subject areas. Students who lack specified learning outcomes and skills development may not do the hard reflective work on what has been learnt and they will be less able to articulate or utilise this in their future employment.

Academics are supposed to encourage developments in teaching and learning. It is easy to criticise the QAA, but students need to know what the standards are.

Karen Powell-Williams
Business integration
Westminster Business School

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