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AIBU to feel disheartened that my uni would rather I drop out?

(105 Posts)
Ljsj Mon 14-Oct-19 23:06:34

I'll try keep it brief.
At uni, my degree course nationwide doesn't require a sandwich placement year but my uni has a mandatory one (so, not necessary to get this degree, but at my uni they make it that way). My placement year is next year.
I have a young child, which makes life slightly more complicated as unlike the majority of my course mates I can't move back in with my parents and I can't move wherever I can get a placement.
Initially we were told there would be very few paid placements, upon further inspection it turns out no placements are local, save for a voluntary role with a charity, this is unpaid work.
The placement must be 35-40 hours a week, for 40 weeks.
There's no maintenance loan from student finance during this time and the uni doesn't offer any grants.
I cannot progress onto my final year unless I undertake a placement.

Have spoken to the uni, people in several separate departments, and they've all passed me around and the final answer is "drop out, or transfer universities if you want to finish your degree". Neither are really an option, and I'm a bit baffled that they've been so dismissive about it, they won't let me skip the placement year.

I've asked everywhere I can and I'm not getting anywhere. Is it mad for them to suggest dropping out or am I overreacting? I'm in my second year so have already completed my first year. Do not have a partner so no second salary I can live off for the year whilst I undertake an unpaid placement. Longshot, but does anyone have a clue what I can do?

RavenLG Mon 14-Oct-19 23:31:59

crossposted with you.

in fact the uni website states they only allow unpaid placements if it's under 10 weeks or a voluntary role

If this is true and it relates to your course then they could be in breech if the consumer care act. We had to be very careful with information to ensure it was correct and clear.
Read this and if any applies make an appointment with your placement team and raise concerns.

Ljsj Mon 14-Oct-19 23:33:35

@MummytoCSJH we called SFE today and they replied to my Facebook message stating this. I don't get any grants for dependants or childcare either for the year. (not my uni but has the info on it)

Ljsj Mon 14-Oct-19 23:36:53

Sorry its 12 weeks @ravenlg not that it makes any difference but here's the full statement:

1) The placement is short (less than 12 weeks)

B) The placement provider is a Charity or Non-profit organisation. [my] University recognises that charities and other non-profit organisations have limited funds to pay for placement support from undergraduates but that students can benefit from the positive experiences these charities and non-profit organisations can bring.

[my] University does not endorse unpaid placements which do not meet the above criteria. Where an organisation wishes to continue to offer an unpaid placement which does not meet these criteria, advertisement of the placement will not be refused; however, it should be noted that such placements may not attract many applications.

I'll have a read now thank you... Ironically it's a law degree placement

DoctorDoctor Mon 14-Oct-19 23:43:06

That does sound harsh. I would go to your student union and ask for help. Is there any kind of other version of your course validated where the placement is not required?
If you are currently early in your second year, I would start looking for alternative universities you could transfer to the final year - you've got time to look into this. Travelling for just one year might be manageable especially if you don't have lectures every day.

fluffedup Mon 14-Oct-19 23:45:11

How does anyone survive if it's unpaid? In the olden days (30 years ago) the work part of sandwich courses were paid - it seems ridiculous that it should be otherwise.

MummytoCSJH Mon 14-Oct-19 23:45:41

Well fuck. Guess I can't afford to do one either then. I'll have to switch to the 3 year course. Sorry OP sad

Fallingirl Mon 14-Oct-19 23:48:08

Have you considered transfer to The Open University?
Then you would be able to study from home.

Oliversmumsarmy Mon 14-Oct-19 23:52:31

the uni website states they only allow unpaid placements if it's under 10 weeks or a voluntary role

Surely then this would mean the placements had to be paid otherwise it would be false advertising.

They're not exactly expecting students to go a year unpaid, they're expecting students to go home to live with their parents who are meant to support them for the duration of the year

So another words they are expecting students to go a year without pay.

Ljsj Tue 15-Oct-19 00:14:47

@Oliversmumsarmy the only local vacancies for placements are with the CAB! My sister has just moved out I can imagine their reaction if she expected to move back for a year whilst they pay for everything... grin

A PP asked if I could find my own placement and I think I'm going to have to be ballsy and ask around local firms to see if they'd be interested in offering a placement, the worst they can do is say no.

@MummytoCSJH is your course one where your placement could be with the NHS, LA, prison service etc.?

@Fallingirl it was suggested to me at the SU advice drop in this morning (or rather yesterday morning now!) , but as 4 years ago when I decided to go to university, I began to save for a year to move to this town as hometown doesn't have a uni, going through the faff of a house swap, which in turn meant DD's father had to move too just so he could see her regularly, to then do a years access course to avoid doing the OU, and I would be beyond miffed! It's a last resort though as I'm not about to just give up on a degree I've been working towards for years, although I'd have to try and fit part time work around that too as they don't pay you a maintenance loan for an OU degree

ChazsBrilliantAttitude Tue 15-Oct-19 00:15:01

I believe women make up the majority of single parent families so a placement structure that causes undue hardship to a single parent may be indirect discrimination because it disproportionately disadvantages women.

MummytoCSJH Tue 15-Oct-19 00:20:39

I don't know really, it's possible but it's not really the placement I want.. I'm studying forensic sciences. Don't want to derail your thread!

Ljsj Tue 15-Oct-19 00:20:44

@DoctorDoctor I actually have no idea why they aren't offering an alternative pathway that excludes the placement year. It's not necessary for the degree itself, but I think they're concerned that a lot of students would opt for that thus flooding the next year with extra students (if that makes sense).

I do want to do a placement, it will be excellent work experience, creating contacts and links that will help with securing a training contract upon graduation and actually would be a welcome break from being up at 3am studying for the year. I would like to make this work and find a way to do so, but everyone I've gone to for advice including the placement coordinator has been quite dismissive. FWIW I've not gone to them whining or moaning, just wanting to ascertain the situation and find out what was available, went into it very positively and fully thinking something would come up yet I've been a bit disappointed!

RavenLG Tue 15-Oct-19 00:23:52

Does your university begin with B?
If so I think that they have advertised everything fairly, unfortunately for you.

On the my career hub page they have an “unpaid placements disclaimer” which will allow them to advertise unpaid placements. It also uses the word “generally” which allows for deviation. The university’s placements page does state that placements can be unpaid, which should also be in your course information you received when you applied.

I think the problem for you is because the pathway for the course is dependent on the placement, you won’t be able to progress without it as they are issuing the qualification. I’m not 100% as my area was arts, design and humanities but I know they university I worked for had started implementing mandatory placements too in the law and business department and have faced a few issues like this.

I can’t advise any further but on reflection (if this is your university) I think everything is correct. I’d still look to meet with your student union, they are there to advocate for you and will help you in meetings etc to see if an outcome can be reached.

You can definitely approach law firms in your town without going through the placement team, and your placement coordinators are still there to assist with cv / application advise etc. Lots of our students found their placements this way, and the placement teams will find placements this way too. Half of ours were advertised as we had found online etc.

Good luck with it!

Ljsj Tue 15-Oct-19 00:29:49

@MummytoCSJH just tried to reply so sorry if this is a copy of my last comment, not sure if it sent or not!
You're not derailing the thread, we're in similar situations so it's relevant! Hopefully we can sort this out together with the MN hive mind. Go and see your placement coordinator and push for info on the availability of paid placements to get the lay of the land. I spoke to my academic advisor toward the end of first year about it and was assured there'd be lots to choose from and to not worry... Wish I'd pushed a bit harder!

@ChazsBrilliantAttitude I hate feeling like an entitled parent causing a fuss because 'I'm a mum and I deserve special treatment' (I obviously don't think that I do deserve any special treatment but my circumstances are a bit different to other students and I'm not the only parent on my course, but don't speak to them to know what they're doing perhaps I should try to reach out), but it does feel that they're excluding me from something based on my circumstances. I have a friend who works in HR and knows a fair bit about employment law and said being a parent isn't a protected characteristic but you make a good point re:women there.

What I haven't done is email my head of department, I've gone through all the lower channels for advice so that may be my next port of call

Ljsj Tue 15-Oct-19 00:33:06

@RavenLG maybe grin

I'll be emailing my HoD and contacting local firms, I'm not shy about asking for things like that as it really doesn't hurt to enquire, especially when the alternative of having to leave the uni is not very appealing to me

H0tP00lthism0rning Tue 15-Oct-19 02:19:13

What did the students do that are in the year above you ?
Why doesn't the uni have a list of local placements ?
Just curious are you the student allowed to take a placement abroad during this time ?
How do the uni check what placement you have done & if it was a successful placement ?
What about a food bank/ homeless shelter ?
Unsure what sort of placement you are expected to complete ?

BanningTheWordNaice Tue 15-Oct-19 02:33:38

Weird, I went to Surrey and if you stayed on the 4 year course you HAD to do a placement but they had a 3 year option in case of problems like this. Really odd that there’s no choice, drop out rates aren’t great for them either I don’t think.

notmytea Tue 15-Oct-19 02:48:02

So you've just started year 2? IME with the uni you've linked to, the official line is 'find a placement' and they won't want to even hint anything else is possible because they'll get a whole cohort wanting to skip placement if word gets out, but you'll probably find later in the year that they are more flexible and are willing to discuss continuation without placement.

If they really won't budge later in the year then I would mention Athena SWAN to them and the importance of supporting parents

WhatTiggersDoBest Tue 15-Oct-19 02:56:46

Can you switch to a uni offering a distance degree, or get your credits and transfer to the OU for the third year? Can you do your "placement" remotely e.g. working for a legal advice telephone helpline or similar where they might let you do it from home? This is really awful that they've done this to you.
One of my relatives has a law degree and used it in the NHS, so it's worth trying your local Trust if it means you'll get your student loan.
I'm sorry you're going through this and I really hope there's something you can do.

soulrunner Tue 15-Oct-19 04:32:39

I actually have no idea why they aren't offering an alternative pathway that excludes the placement year

I imagine it’s to do with employability because there are a lot more law grads than training contracts so the sandwich year probably increases the training contract %

Tippety Tue 15-Oct-19 04:51:48

That sucks OP, they were all paid placements at my uni (some extremely nicely paid). There's no harm asking around locally if that is permitted, although there's a bit of extra work for them so maybe find out what that entails so when you ask you can be open about it. Good luck, it's a shame that stuff like this is still creating uneccessary barriers, the uni may have a clause on the website saying it's possible, but most of them probably do, which closes that degree off for people who can't afford it.

DoctorAllcome Tue 15-Oct-19 04:58:59

I’d transfer to another uni. You’d get the student finance so you CAN move even with a child for the next two years and then move back after graduation or not. It’s not impossible to move with children so long as you have student loans to live on.

Somewheredreamingofcheesecake Tue 15-Oct-19 05:28:13

What do you plan to do when you finish? There aren't going to be many decent training contracts in that city (assuming I have sector and city right) and nowhere you could realistically commute to that would be any better. If you're going to end up having to move after you finish, is it worth considering a transfer anyway?

If your plan is to target the type of employees in your current city then I agree your approach of trying to get in on a placement is a good one. I don't know what the market is like there but I would have thought someone would be willing to pay minimum wage at least.

Grumpymcgrumperson Tue 15-Oct-19 05:50:18

I’d keep trying to find a paid placement which I could commute to. Is there a reason you and your child can’t move in with your parents while you do the course to help save on rent? Wouldn’t your parents help you out?

Namechangeforthiscancershit Tue 15-Oct-19 05:52:28

@Somewheredreamingofcheesecake makes a good point- you could be experiencing two years early what you would have found when applying for TC anyway, if there just aren't the employers.

How close is your nearest city?

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