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International Placements in Chemistry & "Kultur Brillen"

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The presentation was given at a meeting in Idstein, Germany in October 2016 for industrialists and academics and reflects the author's views on international placements in science (chemistry) gathered from over 30 year's experience of finding jobs for undergraduate students in industry, commerce and governmental bodies.

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International Placements in Chemistry & "Kultur Brillen"

  1. 1. CAS Wallace Dr Ray International Placements in Chemistry
  2. 2. International Placements in Chemistry The University View and “Kultur Brillen”
  3. 3. Presentation (with minor editing) given at the University Network with Industry in Chemistry and the University Network with Industry in Biosciences Meeting in Idstein, Germany 28th October 2016
  4. 4. Why do I feel that there is no overarching university view?
  5. 5. Because we all see things differently and from our own perspective. Hence a definitive ‘University view’ is impossible although many of us will identify common themes of importance
  6. 6. Whilst you might be right in thinking that the majority of universities would say that international placements are a good thing, when it comes to their practical commitment to them and the resources that they put into them then a different story can start to unfold
  7. 7. • Many university websites enthusiastically describe the benefits for students of a placement abroad –often this refers predominantly to study at a foreign university • Valuing specifically a work placement abroad is much harder to identify although examples of employment are included in case studies on placements abroad • Subject disciplines/departments (for example business) where a work placement is part of their culture do highlight these opportunities and their benefits independently on their websites
  8. 8. The latter websites are generally aimed at students. Finding examples of policy and opinions is much more difficult but they can be found ….. three examples
  9. 9. What are the benefits of a quality placement? BENEFITS FOR THE INSTITUTION • Improvement in the university’s reputation amongst students • Raising the institution’s profile • Increased positive contact with employers • Form part of a broader, institution-wide emphasis on business engagement The National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) is an independent and not-for-profit membership organisation that promotes, develops and supports university-business collaboration across the UK
  10. 10. International (work) Placements in Science One Academic’s View
  11. 11. We can imagine opinions on placements and commitment to them will diverge even further if we look at things on an international basis
  12. 12. This is because: • No two universities are alike • No two countries are alike, indeed no two regions are alike • Universities differ in the power and autonomy of individual faculties & departments • Some universities are ‘central management’ led, others are academic led
  13. 13. Firstly some data from the UK
  14. 14. Twenty Higher Education Institutes provided approximately 70% of all placements to businesses and industry. Table lists the institutions and average number of placement students over the period 2002-10
  15. 15. JACS (the Joint Academic Coding System)
  16. 16. Some snippets from
  17. 17. So what are my personal reflections and conclusions from over 30 years experience of sandwich courses?
  18. 18. Additional benefits of work experience abroad over and above employment and technical skills • Culture and community - working abroad shows a student’s desire to get stuck in and work alongside local people • Sink or swim - demonstrate to potential employers that they can cope in a multicultural, multilingual working environment • Language skills - these are hugely valuable to employers • Get up and go - moving abroad and finding work experience shows motivation, independence, maturity and adaptability • Travel - a bonus • Graduate employability – the student will became an applicant that stands out from the crowd “Working in another country forces students to step outside their comfort zone, which opens up opportunities to develop new skills and have new experiences.”
  19. 19. This is where I come at last to raise the issue of “Kultur Brillen” A term coined by the German-American anthropologist Franz Boas many decades ago
  20. 20. This idea has been developed and expanded in recent years by Martin Lindstrom a Dutch brand strategist and author • “When we spend too much time in the same environment, we tend to become blind to our surroundings. In reality, our cultural glasses are out biggest handicap.” • “The reality is that the roadblock holding back progress and transformation isn’t our surroundings. Rather, it’s our own minds. Our perspective. Our Kultur brillen.” • “Humans are ruled by inertia. We have a tendency to cling to what is comfortable, to what seems to be working – until finally, the pain of remaining the same outweighs the pain of change.”
  21. 21. These things are none the less true when it comes to international work placements and apply to students, academics, employers & university managers What might be seen as perfectly normal or possible in one academic environment or by an employer in one country because of their local conditioning, history and culture might seam alien and at best, impractical to others On my final slide I will show you why many British chemistry students will not want to undertake an industrial placement abroad which might not have been apparent to you because of “Kultur Brillen” ……… but first some data again from the E4E Education for Engineering report
  22. 22. Barriers to placements (quotes from the report) Students The overwhelming barrier to increased take-up of Sandwich Courses is down to students, despite the fact that there are substantial benefits for the individual in taking up placement opportunities. The issues cited are in the main, practical. The barriers include the need to fill out application forms during busy periods of the year, uncertainty in securing a placement, strong peer group pressure to opt out of taking up placements, finding a placement close to the university or parents’ home, a preference to concentrate on undergraduate studies and a desire to finish studies early to start work. Institutions For Institutions, there is a need to commit substantial human resource to developing and maintaining relationships with employers. There is a need for close personal contact with employers from academic and administrative staff. Where this relationship exists, there are often repeat placements, as employers know that they will receive good quality students. In terms of developing new business, there is again substantial effort required to convince employers of the value of placements (particularly SMEs) and to build relations and trust. “Increasingly universities are using a careers and placement team to find new employer partnerships.” “A developing problem is the lack of industrial experience of a growing percentage of academic staff. They have little knowledge of, or empathy with industry and can consciously (or sub-consciously) discourage students from even considering Sandwich Courses”
  23. 23. Benefits Problems • Culture and community • Sink or swim • Language skills • Get up and go • Travel • Graduate employability • Expense/further debt • UK placements pay full salary, most foreign ones don’t • Poor foreign language skills • Loss of peer group as most students will not spend a year out • Student from disadvantaged background • Far from home & friends and travel home difficult/expensive • Feeling like an outsider
  24. 24. Thank you for reading
  25. 25. CAS +44 (0) 7531860983 dr_ray_wallace@hotmail.com © Ray Wallace 2016

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