It was with great pleasure that I chaired a student panel session at the 2018 ASET Conference at the University of Nottingham. ASET, the UK Work Based and Placement Learning association is the leading professional body regarding placement learning and therefore it was wonderful to not only represent Bournemouth University but to also take part in this way.
With students from Ulster University, Southampton, LSE, Southampton, Leicester and University of Central Lancashire, the aim of the session was to encourage discussion around what universities can do to best support the placement experience in the eyes of students. With over 175 delegates from across the UK and Ireland, combined with the variety of backgrounds on the student panel, it was the perfect opportunity to gain their insight within an open and frank forum.
Given the reality of reducing resources within UK HE, critical questions around both central service and faculty based initiatives were asked. The main theme from the student panel was to engage students more with relative activities which included more interaction with final year students, alumni, industry representatives, etc. They agreed that universities need to think about the longevity of the student journey, from Open Days and first year, to final year. There needs to be a visible and clear link between employability activities with the academic curriculum, instead of the placement experience feeling like a bolted on experience. Students want to learn from their colleagues as it was felt that they share more realistic information in comparison to university staff. The concept of Placement PALS came up as a great initiative which for me was a highlight given that we have had this at BU for many years now. There was a consensus that the placement approval process was overall a tedious process, regarding of the software package being used, therefore keeping it as simple as possible was a key point. Another primary concern amongst the students was placement assessment and the importance of it being linked to future interviews for graduate roles. Therefore e-portfolios, a strong LinkedIn profile with recommendations, personal website or blog, amongst others, were discussed as the way forward in helping the student to make the most from the placement experience with a direct impact on their future.
This session contributed greatly to the overall theme of the conference, which was on our role as institutions to future-proof placements. Full conference proceedings will be available shortly at: http://www.asetonline.org/ You can also access the Good Practice Guides, ASET Viewpoints and other ASET publications on the website which are considered to be benchmarks in the sector.