Every year, hundreds of students opt to take courses that include a year in industry in the hope it will improve their job prospects. I’m fighting to make sure these students are supported.
UEA currently has a number of undergraduate courses that include a year in industry, a “sandwich” year designed to give students experience in a working environment. As the graduate jobs market is becoming increasingly competitive, these kinds of courses are increasingly popular. Students need the chance to get this kind of experience before they graduate.
These courses are particularly popular in the Faculty of Science, particularly BIO. I’m actually on the BSc Biology with a year in industry course (though I’ve suspended my studies this year to, you know, be an officer), and I’m supposed to be going on my placement year next year.
Now, there is usually a huge drop-off rate for students who come to UEA on this four-year course, but don’t manage to get a placement, so continue to do a standard three year BSc.
This is disappointing for a lot of students. There is some school support for students applying for their year abroad – but the rate at which students drop out of the placement year would suggest that it isn’t enough.
Most Universities have a dedicated member of staff who goes out into the industry in order to build connections and increase the number of opportunities available for students. UEA doesn’t – and this is pretty unusual.
In fairness, UEA does charge lower tuition fees for the year in industry than a lot of other Universities, but this seems to be that this is because it’s genuinely worse.
As the Activities and Opportunities Officer, it’s my job to look at student opportunities and employability within the University. I sit on the Employability Executive, who are responsible for organising years in industry.
I’m arguing that most students would rather pay the national average tuition fees for a year in industry, and get the staff support which would allow them to do a year in industry. I’ve made this very clear to Employability Executive.
Of course, I think this should be happening in every course which includes years in industry. I am hoping that if this takes effect in the Sciences, the rest of the University will follow suit.
If the University wants to take employability seriously, they need to invest in years in industry.