Placement and Practice Policy

1. Introduction

1.1 Staffordshire University has a broad range of awards which utilise placement and practice learning.  This policy is intended to ensure oversight and consistency of these arrangements by the university, and to guide schools in how to design and manage placement and practice learning in a manner which is robust and appropriate. 

1.2 This policy is about establishing minimum requirements.  Some awards, and especially those with PSRB requirements will need significantly more.

1.3 The Placement and Practice Learning Policy has been informed by the following external reference points:
ASET ‘Good Practice Guide for Work based and Placement Learning in Higher Education’;  
QAA UK Quality Code Chapter B10 ‘Working with Others’.

1.4 Where a collaborative agreement with a partner  of the university devolves to that partner the responsibility for the arrangement and /or management of a placement, the partner should adhere to this policy.  

 NOTE this policy is also available as a pdf (PDF, file size: 107.9KB)

2. Scope

2.1 This policy is applicable to placement and practice learning from Level 0 to Level 8 where it is a planned part of a programme of study contributing to a programme’s learning outcomes.

2.2 The following taxonomy  lists the types of placement and practice learning which should be covered by this policy:

2.2.1 Internships/vacation placements
Short term placements usually offered and advertised by employers and taken by students at any level of study in vacation time or part-time during an academic year.

2.2.2 Practice placements
Usually undertaken on programmes where the qualification leads to a licence to practice such as health or education.  Students will often do multiple practice placements as part of their programme of study and employers may be involved in the assessment of students.

2.2.3 Sandwich placements
A placement which is equivalent to a year’s academic study (26-52 weeks).  An undergraduate one is typically taken between levels 5 and 6 with students registered as level P.  A postgraduate one is typically taken prior to the dissertation (masters) stage.

2.2.4 Semester placements
A full-time placement would be equivalent to a full semester (9-15 weeks depending on the calendar).  A part-time placement could be 1 or 2 days a week on placement (integrated with usual academic study).

2.2.5 Semester or year abroad
A placement taken overseas, usually as part of a reciprocal agreement between the University and an overseas HEI.  This could be a period of work or a period of study and could be part of the ERASMUS exchange programme.

2.2.6 Work based awards (eg foundation degrees, higher apprenticeships)
Programmes where the employer/industrial setting is used as a contextual focus for the learning regularly throughout the course of study. 

2.2.7 Graduate traineeships
Placements undertaken after graduation under the ERASMUS plus programme.

3. Overall principles

3.1 Placement and practice learning may take a number of different forms, and the practices and procedures contained in this policy should be applied in a proportional manner.

3.2 The university should ensure that it maintains “proper control of the academic standards of awards where learning opportunities are delivered with others”.  The inclusion of placement and practice learning as a planned part of a programme of study must therefore be approved as part of the overall programme approval process, and must be monitored and reviewed as part of the usual monitoring and review processes.
3.3 The school should seek to ensure that the proposed placement provider is a sound organisation for the university to work with. This should be a separate process to the check on placement setting and support arrangements noted in 3.4.   (See 4.2).

3.4 The school should ensure that the placement setting, the working environment and the arrangements for support are approved prior to students undertaking their placement.   (See 4.3).

3.5  The university/school should approve any publicity relating to placement opportunities on its programmes.   This should be done in conjunction with Marketing and Public Relations.

3.6 Appropriate levels of staffing should be committed to the management and support of placement and practice learning.  All staff should be prepared and supported to undertake their duties.

3.7 Students undertaking placement and practice learning should be prepared and supported in their placement and practice learning activities.  There should be documentary evidence to record that students have been given this preparation (eg email, attendance sheet).

3.8 Placement providers should be prepared and supported in their provision of placement opportunities.

3.9 Written agreements should be signed by all three parties (students, university and placement provider) to ensure that each party is clear about the division of responsibilities and authority.  

3.10 Mechanisms should be in place to enable students (through a virtual learning environment or a learning journal) to reflect on their experience and their learning journey. 

3.11 Mechanisms should be in place to secure feedback from students, university staff and placement providers.  This should then feed into annual monitoring of the programme.

3.12 Schools should ensure that all relevant university policies and procedures to deal with complaints and fitness to practice issues arising on/or as a result of placement, are available to placement providers, students, service users and university staff.

4. Governance

4.1 The university is responsible for checking the provider organisation and the setting.  In some cases students may be asked to source their own placement(s) but the university is still obliged to check i) the organisation and ii) the placement setting. 
4.2 Organisation check 

A member of the school (or other relevant department or collaborative partner) should complete an organisation checklist (appendix one) prior to any students embarking on a placement.

Further questions/information may be added to the checklist in appendix one as required, in order that the exercise can be scaled accordingly, as indicator 6 in Chapter B10 of the UK Quality Code advises that such enquiries should be “proportionate to the complexity and volume of the provision involved and the risks it may present”.   

The checklist should be signed for approval by a senior member of staff in the school (or whichever department/partner is carrying out the check). The checklist should be held on record centrally in the university, and should be reviewed every five years (or sooner if there are significant changes with the provider organisation).

Organisations who are deemed to be high risk may still be used, but the school/department should mitigate against this risk (eg by the use of additional interactions) and record this action on the form.

4.3 Placement setting check 

An assessment of the placement setting should be carried out by the school prior to any students embarking on a placement.  This is to ensure that the setting is appropriate for the students’ learning needs and is in a suitable environment.  This assessment could be done by correspondence, and the school/department/programme should devise a form to capture the necessary information. The form should be signed for approval by the award leader/placement manager (or nominee) and it may include: 

  • Hours of work.
  • Type of work.
  • Amount and type of responsibility to be given to the student.  
  • Environment (including whether this would be on single or multiple sites).
  • Provision of a supervisor. 

4.4 Health and safety risk assessment check 

Once the placement has been approved the student should complete a health and safety risk assessment of their situation.  This should be completed within the first week of the placement commencing and submitted to the school.  A template for this should be provided in the placement handbook/module handbook.  This may include the following type of questions:

  • Has the student received a health and safety briefing from the organisation?
  • Does the student require any health and safety training (eg machinery, working at height)?
  • Will the student be subjected to any potential work based hazards (chemicals, animals, machinery etc)?
  • Is the placement work office-based or elsewhere?
  • Is any travel involved and by what means?
  • Is any lone work involved?
  • Does the student have any relevant personal factors to be taken into account (health, pregnancy etc)?
  • Is any shift work involved?

5. Management and support

5.1 Preparation of students (see section 6 also)

Students should be provided with the necessary information via a placement or module handbook.  The information contained in the handbook should be scaled according to the placement, but should as a minimum include the following:

  • Introduction. 
  • Responsibilities of the student.
  • Responsibilities of university placement tutor.
  • Responsibilities of the placement provider.
  • Contact details at the university.
  • What to do if there are problems with the placement.
  • Assessment details.
  • Schedule of placement visits (where applicable).
  • Any forms to be completed such as the Health and Safety form (see section 4.4) and the Learning Agreement (see section 7). 
5.2 Placement providers should be provided with a copy of the placement/module handbook which should include contact details at the university. 

5.3 Clarification of roles and responsibilities
The roles and responsibilities of the student, the placement provider and the university should be clearly designated in a written agreement (see section 7).

5.4 Placement visits
It is not mandatory for students to be visited by an academic whilst they are on placement but if students are visited, the number of visits and the expectation for these visits will be as per the course requirements as defined in the programme specification and course handbook.  Both the student and the placement provider should be notified in advance of the date of these visits. Visits and their outcomes should be recorded on a visit record sheet, and the school should devise an appropriate form for this.  This form should be included in the placement/module handbook.

5.5 Supervision.
The written agreement(s) between the three parties should clarify how the student will be supervised on placement (see section 7) and the final copy should be shared with all parties.

5.6 Tier 4 Visas   
For students studying in the UK on a tier 4 visa, additional requirements may be needed to ensure that the students’ placement arrangements can be monitored in accordance with visa requirements.

6. Design of programme

6.1 The contribution of the placement to the overall aims and learning outcomes of the award should be articulated in the programme specification, along with the details of how it will be managed.

6.2 The award design must ensure that the requirements of the relevant professional body, where appropriate, are reflected in the placement and practice learning.

6.3 Consideration should be given to the implications of students not securing a placement or not completing the placement or needing to change their placement.  This should be made clear in the course handbook and the placement handbook, as appropriate.

7. Written agreements

7.1 A written agreement should be drawn up by the school setting out the responsibilities of the three parties involved (student, placement provider, school) and this should include expectations for supervisor/mentor support and amount of contact, hours of work, and the nature of work.

7.2 The agreement should be either a tripartite one signed by all three parties or separate two-way agreements signed between the student and the provider, and the university and the provider. The length and level of detail of these agreements should be proportionate to the size and risk of the placement, and the placement’s contribution to the learning. 

7.3 Each party should keep a copy of the agreement they have signed.

8. Assessment

8.1 Placement and practice learning which is a planned part of the programme of study must be assessed by an appropriate means as defined at the point of course approval.

8.2 The assessment criteria for passing the placement must be clear to all involved and must be included in the course handbook and /or the placement/module handbook.

8.3 Where staff at the placement provider are involved in supporting or assessing students, the school should work with the provider to identify and provide relevant staff development and/or information to enable them to undertake this role.

8.4 The design of the assessment should ensure that it can be done in a timely fashion, so that results can be confirmed in time for the assessment /award boards to make decisions about progression to the next level/stage.

9. Evaluation

9.1 Schools should enable providers to evaluate their experience as a placement provider.  This could be through a feedback sheet or annual audit. 

9.2 Schools should enable students to evaluate their experience on placement.  This could be through a group reflection or a written evaluation or as part of their personal reflective journal or as part of formal assessment.

9.3 Schools should undertake their own evaluation of placements through the standard annual monitoring process.

10. Complaints

10.1 Schools should ensure that all parties are informed of the procedures for making formal complaints.

10.2 Any complaint received by the university should be investigated using the university’s standard complaints procedure.  

Summary of process for approving placements and practice learning

Step One
Organisation Check (section 4.2)
School approves the organisation using form in appendix one.

Step Two
Setting Check (section 4.3)
School/Department/Programme approves the placement setting using their own bespoke form. 

Step Three
Written Agreement (section 7)
School/Department/Programme draws up written (learning) agreement(s) between the student, provider organisation and the school. 

Step Four
Student Health and Safety Risk Assessment check (section 4.4)
Student completes a risk assessment of their working situation.  Template should be included in the Placement and Practice Learning/Module Handbook.

Step Five (where relevant)
Visit and Record (5.4)
Where students are visited on placement the visiting tutor should undertake the visit and complete a visit record. 

Appendix One

Placement / Practice Learning Provider Organisation Checklist (PDF, file size: 46.43KB)