University of LiverpoolInternational Placement Project : Initial Findings Developed by Professor Anu Arora and Drs Ian Willis and Trish Lunt and supported by the Leadership Foundation
• Aims and background:• Examine some of the current practice in international placements at UOL, including: – resourcing and support needs, – benefits to departments, students and the university – suggestions for next steps
• Study draws on small number of staff interviews, documentary analysis and the authors’ experiences• Considers: the nature of placements (academic study and/or work placement), credit issues (for credit vnot for credit) and duration - role of shorter placements, even if not credit bearing, in terms of valuable life experience and contribution to the formation of global citizens.
• This study and report will be extended to gather more systematic information, include student views and make formal recommendations for action.• We asked a number of questions to participants:
• Why do departments/schools offer international placements?• There was a lot of commonality in responses covering issues such as employability development, enhancing career opportunities, and enhancing subject specific skills as appropriate to the degree programme.• All respondents also directly mentioned confidence and self- awareness - though these could be features of all ‘placements.’
• How are international placements organised/what support is given to students?• Variety of responses- some students organised their placements; others had some support from their department/central services, e.g., Careers &Employability Serviceand the Student Support Team; other placements such as teaching placements in Europe were virtually organised for the students as these were part of a much bigger organisation.
• Support during the placement included pastoral support, academic support and for those students on 12 month placements, sometimes tutor visits.• Two departments had also developed social networking links to keep in touch with the students which had proved to be very beneficial
• Post Placement activities varied a great deal - from incorporating debrief activities into final year assessments to more informal discussions with tutors.• Area for further research and greater consistency
• How are placements monitored?• Typically work placement–based sandwich years are monitored by an academic member of staff, who monitors academic progress through specified assessment requirements, plus additional informal contact.• For study based placements, monitoring is through academic feedback and also informal contact.Generally more informal
• Numbers of students who had undertaken international placements (either work or stud) over the last three years:• SOCLAS had the largest number of students - typically about 150-200 students on one year placements in any one year; other international placement numbers are much lower compared to UK based placements and students suspended studies.
• There does not appear to be one single data source at the University where it is possible to find out exactly which students are abroad during any specified period of time.• We recommend such a central record be maintained with certain basic information, e.g., name of student and his department, where and for how long etc
• What support is offered to students undertaking international placements –both before, during and post-placement?• Typical pre-placement activities include student briefings on any assessment requirements, documentation/visa issues, health and safety, and practicalities such as accommodation but not in all cases.• Another area of pre-placement support needed is with visa applications, but this is not always easily available.
• What skills and attributes are gained by students who undertake international placements?• A number of factors were mentioned including:• Confidence - when they come back they know more about their placement than anybody else so that gives them confidence to talk about it;• they ‘become better students’ after having been on an international placement, and ‘ add a different dimension to the final year’.
• Another respondent commented:• It definitely changed them and some said it changed their life and their whole outlook; I’m not sure whether that makes them better or different students.• There is greater cultural awareness, from those who’ve gone abroad.
• What are the benefits of International Placements to the department/University.As well as the skills and attributes gained by the students, other responses included:• Part of our strategy to engage with alumni. The placements allow the school to be more competitive in the current environment and helps to distinguish us from other Universities and comparator schools.• From a University and department perspective, there is a ‘PR side....with the fact that the department can offer such placements to prospective students’
• Conclusions and comment:• International placements can make an important contribution to the student experience and internationalisation agenda• Clearly adds to student experience and employability• The university has a range of good experience to draw on that needs to be captured and shared (along with experiences form other universities)
• Results:• Variety in practice: short duration to extended study• Commonality in staff’s rationales for offering placements: employability development, enhancing career opportunities and enhancing subject specific skills. Significant gains in confidence and self-awareness (features of ‘placements’ in general not just international placements.
• Range of organisational structures from DIY to strong departmental input, often depends on individual enthusiasts• Monitoring and support included innovative e-methods and CLL pre-placement advice• Increasing interest in international placements from students and staff• No central recording of placements or collation of good practice
• Inevitably there are resourcing issues in further developments, but this can be offset against time being spent re-inventing the wheel and the risks that bad wheels are being invented (with harm to students and legal implications)
• Although this was a small scale study – highlighted many potential benefits that can be gained by students, departments and the university in offering international placements.• However, the resource needs to support such placements before, during and post-placements are important and they make the difference in terms of the quality of the learning experience.• Consider how the learning from such placements can be incorporated into the assessment processes of the student’s learning programme so that opportunities to maximise learning are realised.