Return of the sandwich course?

‘A total of 153,535 first-degree undergraduate students were enrolled on sandwich courses in 2014-15, compared with 113,795 in 2009-10, when over the same time period undergraduate numbers in total have been falling.

Besides piling application letters on top of coursework in the second year, the placement year could set students back an extra £1,800 in tuition fees, so why are more students being drawn to the sandwich course?

Helen Higson, deputy vice-chancellor of Aston University and professor of higher education learning and management, says that as students start to think more about why they should do a degree, the model that gives them the added value of work experience is becoming more attractive.

“For many of our students, their parents didn’t go to university and their families are in quite low-level jobs. A placement year gives them the opportunity to make those connections and build social capital,” she says. “Research I’ve done shows that if you are a less confident, less academically strong student, the placement year improved your degree performance more than if you were a strong student.”

Three-quarters of students at Aston spend a year in industry, including those on non-vocational courses such as English and history, who, Higson says, benefit the most from a placement year.

“An English degree qualifies you for everything and nothing. To be able to use English literature skills, like writing and analysing, in a vocational environment actually takes these studies and makes them relevant,” she says.’ – Times Higher Education


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