Letter: Placement pay-off

May 4, 2001

Our department runs one of the biggest life science placement operations in the country. Each year we arrange up to 150 placements, including many in the United States (Letters, THES , April 20).

This cannot be done for nothing. Funding for half of a full-time equivalent student and the half tuition fee pays for staff to organise and administer the placements. There are also visits by academics, assessment of written reports (which includes a viva), work to establish new placements and continued contact between tutor and student.

From this year, we are launching programmes that involve two courses of distance learning during the placement year. We also run a thin sandwich course that involves teaching over most of the two semesters, followed by a six-month placement after Easter of years two and three. Despite the high quantity of teaching, each student in year three still counts as only 0.5FTE and pays 0.5 fee.

I have no doubt about the need for the 0.5FTE funding, including the fee. Employers rate placements as the most desirable form of practical experience. Nothing should be done to make it less financially attractive for universities to run.

Jonathan Slack
Head of biology and biochemistry
University of Bath

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