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Leicester's research shows benefit of placements

The Careers Service and the Department of Engineering at the University of Leicester conducted statistical research to investigate the relationship between engineering students undertaking a placement and improved academic performance.

Many academics and careers practitioners hold the view that students who complete a 12-month placement as part of their degree demonstrate enhanced transferable skills that benefit them academically. However, this is an area that has been under-researched.

The aims were to discover:

• whether there was a positive association between placements and academic performance;

• if so, was it due to the placement or was it just that academically-able students were more likely to undertake a placement?

The year one, year two and final year marks of 83 students from the 2008 cohort of engineering students were studied; 18 of them had undertaken a placement and 65 had not.

To address the notion that academically-able students were more likely to undertake a placement, the data sample had a broad spectrum of prior attainment in both groups. The t-test (a statistical tool illustrating group mean averages) showed that subsequent attainment of the placement students was, on average, nine percentage points higher than non-placement students, while the regression showed that the placement variable was statistically significant in explaining the final year marks. This implies that there is a positive association between placement and academic performance.  

Evidence of effectiveness and success

The impact of the findings has been significant. They:

• are used to promote placements to students;

• were a contributing factor in convincing the Department of Computer Science to establish placements in its curriculum;

• have led to a better understanding of work-based learning in the curriculum, with the research being presented as a refereed paper at an international conference in Hong Kong and a journal article in a peer-reviewed journal. The research has been cited in journal articles from the University of Ulster and Aston University.
A broader longitudinal study with a data sample of 500-plus students is now underway.

• Winner - AGCAS 2011 Award for Excellence: Research

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Tags: University of Leicester placement research engineering case studies work-based learning University

Created on: 17 November 2011

Last updated: 06 January 2012

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