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Placement Practice and Work-Related Learning Policy

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Students studying from September 2022

At Staffordshire University we help our students to have some hands-on experience in a workplace setting relating to their course. Many of our students also take up an opportunity to study part of their course overseas, with another University.

This policy helps us to ensure that you understand the University’s commitment to you while you’re on a placement or undertaking a work-related learning activity. We also want you to know what commitments the placement or practice provider has to you.

Placements are a great opportunity for you to learn in a new environment, and show what you know, but they are also a great responsibility. When you are on a placement, you will be a representative of Staffordshire University, our staff and all of our students, as well as for the field you are working in. This policy also sets out our expectations of you while you’re on your placement.

This policy applies to all of our students, including if you are studying at a partner institution.

Why does the University have this policy?

 

Placements are an important part of many of our courses.

There are lots of benefits for your future employability. Working on a placement gives you context about how your course relates to the workplace. It gives you the opportunity to experience how your course and learning can be applied in practice. When you’re undertaking academic study afterwards, you’ll be able to apply that context to your learning and be more attractive to graduate employers.

This real-world application in the workplace is a safer way of learning and deciding if it’s the right route or area for you after you graduate.

A placement is a unique learning experience that is difficult to replicate with just academic study alone. You’ll be learning new skills and gaining knowledge that you can’t from the classroom. On some professionally regulated courses, it is a requirement that you successfully demonstrate the real-world application of your academic learning and skills. This helps us to ensure that you are practising safely and in line with the standards of the workplace that you want to move into.

 

What courses have a placement?

Placements are an essential element for some professional courses and for others where there is a strong link to the industry or workplace related to the course. This will be made clear in your course handbook and other course materials.

There may be other short-term placement and work-related learning opportunities available to you too. If you would like more information, you can ask your course leader or academic mentor what is available as part of your studies. You can also contact the Career Connect service.

What is practice learning/ placement?

Practice learning, or placements, allow you to get experience in the industry associated with your course, and even try a different one to expand your skills. They can also be an opportunity to have an assessment in a practice or employment setting, which might be formally assessed. Both of these types of placement allow you to apply your learning in practice. If we are assessing you formally, we will make sure that the person assessing you has been trained regularly on how to do so.

There are two main ways that placements can be part of your course:

  • Those that are assessed through work to support your learning. These are an integrated part of the course Learning Outcomes, which will be outlined in your course and module handbooks. For example a placement where you work in industry or do some volunteering in the community.
  • Those that are designed to give you the opportunity to learn elsewhere, and also benefit from that learning being directly considered as part of your course. For example, using one of the available schemes to study part of your course at a University in another country.

What are the types of placement?

There are many different types of practice and work related learning.

Type of practice learningDefinition

Practice Placements

Practice placements are formed by a formal agreement between the University and a partner organisation. These are usually part of courses that are professionally registered, such as in health, education and social care. There are usually multiple practice placements as part of the course, and the organisation you are working with are usually involved in the assessment of your learning.

Work-related learning

Any work experience is beneficial. This is understood as  a short term, informal learning activity where students spend time on employer premises or work virtually, but there is no formal contract. You might need to write a journal or reflective piece about your experiences, which might be formally assessed by your course team.

Placement years

Placement years are usually the equivalent of a year’s academic study  they normally last for around 30-52 weeks, and for a minimum of 24 weeks. Although you won’t be in academic study in your placement year, you will be registered as a student and so will have access to the University’s support services. Placement years are usually undertaken by undergraduate students when they have completed level 5 but before they start level 6. If you work part time as part of your Placement Year, the minimum required duration is 16 hours/week.

Semester placements

Full-time semester placements normally last for one full semester. Students on a part-time placement might spend 1 or 2 days a week on placement, alongside normal academic study.

Internships

Internships are a short-term placement opportunity that are sometimes offered by employers or can be gained by contacting someone in the organisation. These can be taken by students at any level of study and need to be organised around a student’s studies.

Sometimes opportunities for new graduates are described as internships.

Semester or year abroad

This is when a student chooses to study at an education provider overseas. This is usually where there is a collaborative agreement with Staffordshire University. It could be a period of work or may be study only. This type of placement might be part of a student’s course, or it might be an addition to the course.

Work based awards

These are courses where the employment setting is used as context for learning regularly throughout.

Graduate traineeship

This is a work placement undertaken by a student abroad as part of their degree, and usually funded by a third party. These will usually last between four weeks and 12 months.

More information on the specifics of these can be found in the handbook that relates to it.

In addition to this, the University also has higher and degree apprenticeship programmes. These are jobs including training to industry standards. Although these incorporate an element of practice, they are very different from placements.

What can I expect of the University?

Before the placement - Your academic School and the central Careers team will support you to be placement ready and to search for a suitable placement. The central Careers team works closely with business and employers to provide suitable opportunities which are available to you.

During a placement - your relationship with the University won’t change. You will stay registered as a student with us while you are on placement, but you will be in a placement environment, or academic study environment elsewhere. This means that you have access to the same help from our academic and student support services. We all experience problems and difficulties that affect our mental wellbeing and as a student, you may well find yourself experiencing some of these. Whatever the circumstances, the University’s wellbeing, support and inclusion teams can help and support you.

If your practice or placement is being formally assessed, the organisation where you are studying or working may be responsible for the assessment. In all cases we will check the suitability of the placement provider before you start. Before approving your placement, we will ensure that they meet our standards, as well as the standards and guidelines of appropriate bodies such as the Office for Students (OfS) and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA).

Your School will also make sure that you have appropriate support available. Where appropriate, they will make sure that someone is allocated on site or in the placement to support you too. More details on this support will be outlined in the relevant handbook.

There may also be an academic member of staff who will undertake monitoring visits of the placement while you are there. They will gain feedback from you about how the placement is going. They will also gain feedback from the placement on how you are doing, to help them to understand if you’ve met the expectations or Learning Outcomes.

Your placement provider, employer or work experience organisation will have a process in place to ensure you can raise concerns and are supported if you have any issues at work. This will usually be the Human Resources team, your manager or your company mentor. This will be detailed in your placement agreement or contract of employment.  You should also contact your academic mentor or placement mentor to make them aware of your situation to that they can make sure you are fully supported.

What does the University expect from me?

While you are on a placement you are acting as a representative of Staffordshire University. If you are in a practice setting, you are also representing your future profession. We are Proud to be Staffs, and we want you to be too. We also want the employer to be proud that they have someone from Staffordshire University working with them.

Making the most of your opportunity and acting in a professional way gives you the maximum benefit from your studies. Creating great connections with organisations will give you an advantage when you graduate and want to move into the workplace. The organisation will be more likely to want to work with Staffordshire University students in the future.

Although you might be studying or working away from the University, you are still expected to demonstrate good conduct. This applies both to our expectations of you, and the employer’s or organisation’s expectations. If there are any concerns, we will look into these and we might need to follow the Fitness to Study or Fitness to Practice Procedure, or the Student Conduct Procedure. Depending on the nature of the situation, the organisation may follow their own processes.

At the end of your placement or practice, you may be required to provide a portfolio of evidence to demonstrate your understanding and learning. If this is the case, more details will be provided in the relevant module or course handbook and relevant placement guidance.

What can I expect from the placement provider?

The placement provider should provide you with a safe environment to learn in. They should also treat you fairly, with respect and without bias. Where appropriate this may be through their own policies and procedures. The provider will also be clear on what they require from you while you are working with them.

If you are studying with an overseas institution, you will need to work within their normal structures and expectations of engagement. If there are any issues in supporting you, they will communicate these to us.

In some cases, the provider will sign up to a learning agreement. This sets out what they will do to support you, and what is expected of you.

What is something is wrong in my placement?

If there’s an issue it’s important to speak up, and your placement handbook will tell you how to raise a concern or issue. You should always speak to the academic member of staff who is supervising your placement to raise a concern. You can also contact your module tutor or course leader.

If you would like independent support and advice, you can contact the Students’ Union Student Advice Centre.

Sometimes there might be a placement specific issue that is outside of your control which is stopping you from being able to complete your assessment for the placement. If so, speak to your module tutor as soon as you can and they will help you to resolve this.