University of Strathclyde



To review all undergraduate and postgraduate taught placement and internship activity across the Faculty of Science. To identify the benefits perceived by students who have participated in such activities and align these with existing evidence from industry. To identify the perceived barriers to student engagement from those with non-participation. To create a range of resources that addresses any gaps identified that will empower students to take advantage of opportunities to gain work experience and ultimately assist their transition from university to graduate employment.

This project was supported by Enhancement Theme funding from QAA Scotland.

The full report is available at the bottom of the page.


Faculty of Science

Contact Details

Debbie Willison,, Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, Faculty of Science



Student Transitions


It is well recognised in Higher Education that graduates who have participated in work based learning during their studies have enhanced their employability prospects once they leave university1. Almost half of the employers who took part in the High Fliers Annual Review of graduate vacancies commented that graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection process and have little or no chance of receiving a job offer2.

All five departments in the Faculty of Science participate, in some way, in placement/internship activity but a review of activity has never been undertaken. More importantly, the percentage of students engaged in these activities has never been determined. This project would carry out such a review so that our baseline activity can be established. Additionally the perceived benefits of placement/internship activity will be established by asking relevant students to complete a questionnaire. Equally as important will be the request to students who have not participated in an internship or placement to complete a separate questionnaire regarding the perceived barriers to these activities. Once this information has been collated into a report, a range of resources will be identified and developed. These will be compiled into a guide to support students in securing internships and placements. This will highlight existing workshops delivered regularly by the Careers Service and employers and be complemented by student interviews with employers to represent their perspective on this process. This compilation of practical advice will help remove the ‘fear’ factor around securing a placement.


This is a two year project so work is currently still underway. The work is being undertaken by a student intern in partnership with the staff members of the project team. Their first task, which was completed in summer 2016, was to carry out a survey of the internship/placement activity across the Faculty of Science and ascertain the percentage uptake from students across the faculty. The intern consulted the External Engagement Plans created by each department and utilised an existing Employability Audit Tool3 during this activity. Using this Audit Tool assisted the identification of good practice in relation to employability and identified action points around placement activity specifically. A report summarising the findings from this work was produced in July 2016 (see attached).

The second phase of work is now underway in the first semester of the 2016/17 academic year, and the intern, with staff members of the team, has created a questionnaire for students. This will be piloted with the help of student faculty representatives from USSA before being circulated to all students in the faculty. The results from the questionnaires will be summarised in a second report and will inform the preparation of resources which will begin in the second semester. After the examination period in 2017, all resources will be finalised by the team for immediate use.

Key findings

As this is a two year project there are still a number of key findings to be identified. What has been identified is the range of work based placement/internship activity, that staff are aware of, which currently takes place in the faculty of science. This had not been quantified previously and is helpful to all departments in the development of their external engagement plans. Once the work is completed we also hope to identify further work based placement/internship activity which students have organised themselves. We will also identify the barriers which students perceive to exist in applying and securing work based placements/internships. 


The first report produced in July2016 has been shared with members of the Faculty Learning Enhancement Committee and contained the following recommendations.

  • It would benefit all departments if this report was disseminated throughout the Faculty of Science to allow members of academic staff to see areas of good practice in other departments. Staff like to encourage students to do peer marking and so the writer feels it would benefit staff to do the same and take advice from those departments that have successful placement schemes.
  • From talking to various members of staff within the Faculty it is clear that any integrated placements that bear credits are well organised, recorded and assessed however, little is known about placements students organise of their own accord. Therefore it is recommended that staff do more to capture informal placement activity.
  • Another way of collating information on work experience placements would be to integrate questions into the registration process for students. Students have to register every year and to answer a handful of questions on top of this would be no great effort on the students behalf. The Careers Service have already started this process with questions about student career aspirations and goals.
  • Between August 2015 and June 2016 the Careers Service vacancy database has advertised 1375 work experience opportunities. Of these 524 were 6-12 month placements and 851 were summer internships. It is recommended that all staff are made aware of this and are proactive in encouraging students to register with the Careers Service Vacancy System, which they can do via:

Next steps

As stated above the project is still currently underway and once completed there will be a consolidated suite of resources to support students in applying and securing work based placement/internships. These will be advertised to staff and students for immediate use. We also plan to disseminate our work at various education conferences including the International  Innovation and Enhancement In Higher Education Conference in June 2017.

Lessons Learned

We believe that this project is working well and has built significantly on the knowledge base we have on work based placement/internship activity. A key factor in this project was the engagement of a student intern as we believe this approach of working with students works well and would not propose any changes.

Timing of when the funding is made available can be slightly problematic. Once funding is secured and a selection process takes place it is usually into the summer months. The student intern did have some difficulty in securing staff time to conduct interviews. Interaction with the wider student body could not take place until the start of the 2016/17 academic year.

Student involvement

Students were involved in this project on a number of levels. A student intern had the lead role in surveying staff within the faculty. The student intern will then interact with a small group of students to pilot the questionnaire which has been created. The questionnaire will then be shared with all students in the faculty of science. Longer term, the resources which will be created will be applicable to all students in the institution.




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The full report is available to download below