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Warning - University courses with "placements"

(15 Posts)
cartimandua51 Wed 12-Aug-09 17:36:37

Hi - Hope I'm not jumping in with something that's been done to death elsewhere - newbie, so please excuse!
I wanted to warn parents whose kids are applying to Unis where the course includes a short "placement". (Not so much a traditional Sandwich course with a full year placement - these tend to be well organised.)
I wish I had known last year when my DD applied that the Uni website & prospectus was full of weasel terms like "Placement officer" "substantial bank of employers" "extensive contacts" and completely failed to make clear that
1. The placement is compulsory
2. The student will fail the course if it isn't done (or not be allowed to progress to the next year.)
3. The responsibility for finding the placement is the students
4.The assistance amounts to a few websites and addresses on a noticeboard.

Truth is, a six-week placement is a pain in the neck for most businesses - it's not long enough for the student to do anything useful, and the staff are forever trying to find something for the student to do.

Anyway, if you are in this situation, at the open day make sure you nail the presenter selling you the course and force him/her to disclose whether or not the Uni takes ultimate responsibility for organising a placement they have made a compulsory part of the course!!

FluffyBunnyGoneBad Wed 12-Aug-09 22:45:57


MollieO Wed 12-Aug-09 22:48:39

My degree had two placements - 6 and 9 months. What sort of course does a 6 week placement? I wouldn't have thought it would be too hard to organise over the summer holidays. Lots of businesses offer summer traineeships of this sort of length.

LadyMuck Wed 12-Aug-09 22:53:14

6 weeks is more work experience than a placement though, and if, as an employer, I had to write up a report or assessment on the student at the end of it then I would probably deem it to be more hassle than it is worth, especially as I wouldn't have a problem in finding someone who was just after the experience.

llareggub Wed 12-Aug-09 22:53:29

I don't think it is such a bad thing that the student has to organise it. To be honest I'm pretty surprised at how much control parents seem to have over their adult child and their choice of university and course. We get far too many graduates coming to us for employment who show no initiative or drive, and need guidance to do simple tasks.

They are adults. They should be taking responsibility for their learning, their course and their future.

mumeeee Wed 12-Aug-09 23:27:16

I have been guilty in the past of helping my children to much. But even I would expect university students to sort out any placements they need to do themselves.

BikeRunSki Wed 12-Aug-09 23:35:34

Goodness, I am not sure my mum even knows what I studied at university! She had nothing to do with it at all (no, she didn't pay either, I was the last year of full grants)! I organised my own summer placements, long before the www, by the traditional means of writing letters and ringing people up.

truthisinthewine Wed 12-Aug-09 23:36:06

I don't really understand, surely if it says in the course there is a placement then obviously it is compulsery, you don't generally pick and choose which parts of a degree you do and don't do.

Also don't see the problem with student sorting out their own placement, presumably if you know about it from the start of the course their is plenty of time to get it sorted. The responisbilty for a whole degree is the students, no-one writes essays for you either that is the point of university.

LadyMuck Wed 12-Aug-09 23:38:36

But this isn't an issue of whether it is the student or the parent who has to organise it - this is about to what extent the university has a role to play in trying to assist students to find a placement (no self respecting uni would allow parents to get involved, but the warning here is that some courses require a placement but provide little assistance in getting one.

muddleduck Thu 13-Aug-09 14:35:51

This is a very good OP.
I know of courses with much longer compulsary placements where the students have to fend for themselves. IMO when this happens, especially if the students struggle to get those placements, it is a sign that the course is very badly run and may not be highly valued by employers.

Libra Thu 13-Aug-09 14:42:46

Can I just say that some universities (ie the one I work at) DO organise the placements for the students. If we can not find one, for whatever reason, then the student will undertake either an 'in-house' placement at the university or do a project.

We would never fail a student for our not finding them a placement, although they could be failed for poor work at the placement or simply not turning up. Then they would have to resit.

We don't ask mum or dad to organise the placement. The students are adults. It is not allowed for us to speak directly to their parents.

muddleduck Thu 13-Aug-09 14:44:37

Good point libra
IMO this attitude would be the sign of a "good" course, but sadly it doesn't work that way everywhere. sad

MrsMattie Thu 13-Aug-09 14:47:51

If the university sprang the fact that your child had to organise her own placement at the last minute, that's unfair.

But if she knew from day one she would need to arrange this, I don't see what the problem is. Plenty of businesses take work experience trainees and for all sorts of durations.

I would hope that any student seriously struggling to find a placement would be able to get a bit of help from their tutor...?

fivecandles Thu 13-Aug-09 22:44:38

What sort of course is it? And what is supposed to be the outcome of the 'placement'? i.e. a project? If so how much guidance is there for this?

This sounds bad to me.

Agree, like work experience which is notoriously awful in school.

If you've got a really go-getting student or parent with lots of contacts and very lucky can be great but more often lots of boredom and making tea and time wasting.

cartimandua51 Fri 14-Aug-09 07:27:36

Thank you - lots of good points here! I suppose I'm just asking for TRANSPARENCY - some 18 year olds are quite capable of organising things like this - my eldest certainly was. Others need more hand-holding - my youngest is quiet & shy. Had the requirement been known I would have encouraged her to apply opt for her second-choice Uni which DID take the view that if a placement was compulsory they should take ultimate responsibility for organising it.

If a Uni is upfront and says "there are two 6-week placements, which it is the students responsibility to arrange" that's absolutely fine. But this one just airily referred to all the organisations where previous students had done placements, giving the impression that there was a much stronger link than was the case. hence my warning about nailing it at open days!

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