Does placement matter? An empirical study of final year performanc
Centre for Higher Education Practice “Festival of Innovative Practice” June 16th 2011, Jordanstown CampusDoes placement matter? An empirical study of final year performanceCHEP funded (Round 2)Project TeamDr Peter Green (Jordanstown campus) senior lecturer (Project leader)Mrs Helen Foster (Jordanstown campus) lecturerMr Philip Houston (Jordanstown campus) work experience consultantDr David McAree (Magee campus) lecturerMrs Claire McCann (Coleraine campus) lecturerDr Douglas McCulloch (Jordanstown campus) lecturerMr Michael Pogue (Jordanstown camous) lecturerDr Brian Rushton (Coleraine campus) Professor of Botany
INTRODUCTION Employability is the key factor with regard to the inclusion of a work-based placement within full- time undergraduate degree programmes. It may be argued that from a students perspective degree classification is the “currency of employment” (Tomlinson, 2008). Knight and Yorke (2004). If students attribute little “value-added” to taking a work placement year they may opt not to engage in a placement period, despite the views of educationalists and employers on the benefits of work experience.
INTRODUCTION• In 2007, approximately 50% of University of Ulster graduates had undertaken a recognised placement in some form, but placement is now currently optional on many courses.• The BSc Business Studies degree for example, has witnessed a fall from 65% in 2007 to 45% in 2009 in students opting to take a placement year.• Nationally in the UK, whilst the percentage of graduates has increased by 9.1%, those graduating with placement has fallen by 7.1% in the period from 1999 to 2003 (HEFCE, 2009).
International considerations Arthur and Little (2010) report that 55% of all European graduates had undertaken a placement period, with over 80% in Finland, Germany and the Netherlands, whilst the observed figure for the UK is 29%. Given the claimed importance of placement from both educationalists’ and employers, the downward trend in the UK is clearly undesirable (see, the Confederation of British Industry, 2009).
INTRODUCTION An important research question, from both an educationalists and students perspective is therefore, does the completion of a work placement year, despite the fact that it does not contribute directly to the final degree mark in a mathematical sense, have a positive and significant impact upon final year performance and consequently, upon degree classification?
OBJECTIVE This study investigates the impact of students taking a work placement (internship) year on the final degree mark and hence classifications achieved by the 2009 cohort of students on nine undergraduate degrees at the University of Ulster. A number of control variables are explored. Namely, total tariff points on entry, prior tertiary level degree performance, and gender.
THE LITERATURE Bourner and Hamed (1987) provide evidence that the taking of a work placement year is associated with improved degree results, having controlled for A-level scores on degree entry (see also Davis 2003). Gomez, Lush and Clements (2004) find that on average, students who take a year long placement gain an advantage of 4% in the final year, compared to students who did not complete a placement year.
THE LITERATURE Rawlings, White and Stephens (2006) conclude that internship or placement has a significant positive impact upon academic performance (see also Wallace 2002 and Mendez 2008, 2011). None of the aforementioned studies specifically investigate the impact of a work placement year on business related degrees.
THE LITERATURE Duignan (2002) compared the academic performance of business undergraduates and reported no difference between the performance of students undertaking a placement year and those not. The failure to produce evidence of a beneficial effect is attributed to a failure to fully exploit the learning potential of placement. In particular, the structure and management of the placement are contributory factors.
THE LITERATURE Essentially, Duignan (2002) argues that the placement student is a “transient” between the workplace and University, each of which has its’ own value and reward system. Consequently on return to University and study, a student may be demotivated, loosing any potential learning transfer from the workplace.
THE LITERATURE Gracia and Jenkins (2003) provide some evidence that students who opt to take a year of supervised work experience before their final year, perform better than those who do not, on an undergraduate degree programme in accounting and finance at the University of Glamorgan.
THE LITERATURE In the context of an undergraduate degree in Economics at the University of Surrey, Mandilaras (2004) similarly finds that there is a statistically significant positive relationship between the completion of a placement year and academic attainment, as measured in terms of degree classification. Surridge (2009) finds that there is statistically significant better performance for students completing placement on accounting and finance degrees.
THE LITERATURE Higson (2011) also concludes that undertaking a placement year improves degree performance, but that “better” students take a placement year using data from all students studying Combined Honours Business Administration who graduated from Aston University between 2002 and 2008. Green (2011) provides evidence from a study of a single cohort of Business Studies students at the Jordanstown campus which suggests that the completion of a placement year on average, improves the final year classification award achieved by students from 2.2 to 2.1.
THE LITERATURE HEFCE (2009) provides some interesting statistics with regard to this study: 71% of students graduating with a placement year in 2003, achieved a 2.1 or above, compared with 60% of other three year courses (based upon classified degrees). “... that students who studied abroad for part of their course entered with higher qualifications than other students, and placement students entered with lower qualifications than other students.” (page 25) With regard to entry and classifications, “....the higher overall (classification) rate for those who studied abroad or did a placement can not be entirely explained by differences in entry qualifications.” (page 27)
DATA The empirical evidence presented is based upon data gathered relating to the graduating cohort of students on nine undergraduate degrees in 2009. Only students who entered on the basis of UK entry tariff points were included, thus students entering with Irish Leaving Certificate or joining the programme of study either in second year, or third year (via franchise or alternative qualifications, such as HND) were excluded. In addition, students were excluded if extenuating circumstances prevented them from taking all of the final year modules.
DATA Students who had repeat assessment to complete, in final year modules were included on the basis of their first attempt results. Similarly, when gathering data on second year degree marks, the mark employed was that achieved on the first attempt for those students who had to complete repeat assessment before either proceeding to work placement, or directly into final year. The final sample thus consisted of 530 students.
METHODOLOGY A combination of both parametric and non- parametric statistical tests is employed to investigate the issues of interest. Both parametric and non-parametric tests are employed due to the relatively small sample sizes which may invalidate any standard assumptions regarding the distribution of the variables investigated when employing parametric tests.
METHODOLOGYIn addition, multivariate models to explain finalyear degree mark are developed. Specifically,the following models are investigated:Y = α0 + α1X + α2M + α3DIS + α4GEN + μY = β0 + β1X + β2M + β3MDIS + β4GEN + σ
Question 1Is there a relationship between the average final year degree mark andtotal tariff points on entry?Table 2Yes. There is a positive and statistically significant relationship.Question 2Is the completion of a work placement year associated with a higherfinal year degree mark?Table 3Yes. Those students who complete a placement year have astatistically significant higher average final degree mark, whichtranscends a classification boundary (62.98 compared to 58.94).
Question 3Do students who complete a work placement year have higher totaltariff points on entry?Table 4Yes. Students opting to proceed directly to final year on average have lowertotal tariff points (295.78 compared to 296.59), but the difference is notstatistically significant.Question 4Do students who complete a work placement year have higher averagesecond year performance?Table 4Yes. Those students who complete a placement year have a statisticallysignificant higher average second year degree mark, which does NOTtranscend a classification boundary (58.14 compared to 55.95).
Question 5Is the average final degree mark for students taking placement higherthan the average mark they achieved in second year?Table 5Yes. Those students who complete a placement year have astatistically significant higher final year mark than the second yeardegree mark, which transcends a classification boundary. (62.98compared to 58.14)Question 6Is the average final degree mark for students opting not to take aplacement year higher than the average mark they achieved in secondyear?Table 5Yes, but although the difference is statistically significant it does NOTtranscend a classification boundary. (56.94 compared to 55.95)
Question 7Does gender impact upon the final degree mark achieved by students?Table 6Yes. Female students have statistically significant higher averagemarks which transcend a classification boundary (61.65 compared to57.22)Question 8Is the taking of a placement year a surrogate for gender?Table 7No. Individual analysis reveals that for both male and female studentsthose who complete a placement year have higher average final yearmarks which are statistically significant and represent a difference inclassification (male students, 60.4 compared to 54.54, and female 63.86compare to 58.39).
Table 8: Ordinary Least Squares estimation of multivariate model (Full sample) Y= α0 + α1X + α2M + α3DIS + α4GEN + μ (1) α0 α1 α2 α3 α4 RA2 22.264 0.008 0.593 4.492 -1.986 0.446 (0.000)** (0.120) (0.000)** (0.000)** (0.001)**Number of observations is 530.
Table 9: Ordinary Least Squares estimation of multivariate model (Placement students) Y= β0 + β1X + β2M + β3MDIS + β4GEN + σ (2) β0 β1 β2 β3 β4 RA2 29.680 0.009 0.433 0.085 -1.718 0.409 (0.000)** (0.091) (0.000)** (0.018)* (0.007)**Number of observations is 293.
IMPLICATIONS Does a work placement year results in tangible gains? Will students be able to afford to do placements? Students’ would appear to be more concerned with a placement year extending their period of study, which is a particular dimension of affordability. Perhaps the answer to the question of affordability lies in more innovative ways of incorporating placement within the curriculum design of undergraduate degrees, which explicitly recognise the contribution of a work placement year to student learning and employability.
FUTURE RESEARCHCHEP funding round 4. Student engagement and employability: An empirical investigation into the impact of a work placement year.
FUTURE RESEARCH This study seeks to investigate whether employability, as measured by employment at a graduate level within six months of completing university study is associated with student engagement as measured by the completion of a one year work placement. As such this study builds upon the research of Foster et al (2011), but extends it specifically into the area of student engagement and employability.
FUTURE RESEARCHThe methodology employed will consist of bothparametric and non-parametric analysis,specifically employing correlation analysis andbinary logistic regression. The dependentvariable in the latter will be a dummy variabletaking the value of 1 for those students gaininggraduate level employment within six months ofgraduation and zero otherwise. The form of themodel to be estimated is
FUTURE RESEARCHWhere, pi is the probability of a student (i)gaining graduate level employment within sixmonths of completing university study, β0 is aconstant term introduced to capture the impact ofomitted variables and the independent variables,are a combination of dummy variables (for thecompletion of a placement year, final yeardegree classification, degree specialisation, thenature of the work experience gained onplacement and gender) and other controlvariables including total tariff points on entry, andsecond year degree performance