What should a student consider when thinking about a placement?

An academic placement is not for everyone, and some modules lend themselves more easily to academic placement than others. No undergraduate is required to undertake a placement during their degree course, and we encourage students to consider carefully whether it is for them. When students begin to think about whether or not to undertake an academic placement we suggest that they ask themselves the following questions:

What sort of person am I?

Students who get the most out of academic placements tend to be well organised and self-motivated people. It sometimes takes determination to secure a placement and it helps to think ahead and plan early.

Working away from the university means that placement students need to be relatively independent and happy to meet new people.

Do I enjoy independent research?

We have found that many students enjoy working on an extended piece of research which they have, with our help, planned and carried out themselves.

An academic placement gives students a further chance to create something unique at university: an independent research project of which they can be proud.

Do any of the modules I am about to take inspire me to think about how my knowledge might be applied?

Most of our modules lend themselves easily to academic placements, and often students will appear at a drop-in session and work with the placement tutor, sifting through their module choices and discussing what attracts them in terms of placements.

For other students, they either have a moment of inspiration when they consider one of their modules, or they look through the ideas we are offering and decide that one of them appeals to them especially. Indeed, some of our students will choose a particular module based largely upon a placement they think will suit it.

Do I want to explore a career area?

There is no doubt that an academic placement, like any placement, can help in making decisions about a student's future career. It could be argued that an academic placement is even more useful than a work experience placement in this setting, as a student will often be working on a discrete project which is of intrinsic value to an organisation.

A key reason why we have chosen to offer opportunities for academic placements rather than work experience placements is that we know that our students have surprisingly varied career paths: recent graduates have entered 'traditional' fields such as teaching, publishing, journalism and marketing, but have also gone on to gain professional qualifications in law, psychology and medicine, and many are blossoming in banking and finance. With such an impressive array of career destinations we want to encourage our undergraduates to use this opportunity to explore career areas and to prove to themselves how useful their transferable skills can be in a workplace setting.

Would I like working in a professional setting?

Many of our students already have experience of work and so know that they will find it relatively easy to fit into a professional setting. For some, an academic placement represents a step up, from a more casual working environment to a formal setting, in which they are noticed and treated as fellow professionals. For others, this is their first experience of professional life.

For students to move away from the seminar room for a while to try out their skills and test their knowledge in a professional setting can be thrilling, invigorating and satisfying; it can also be scary and exhausting. So, we offer the support our students need at every stage of the process. They are never left to feel as if they are facing this new experience alone.

Do I feel like an adventure?

To refer to an academic placement as an adventure may seem simplistic, but it is the most common term used to describe the experience by those students who have been through the process.

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