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Work Based and Placement Learning Policy

13.1 Purpose

13.1.1 The experience and impact of work based and placement learning is a significant factor in developing student employability and the student experience. The University of Stirling aims to produce confident, aspirational graduates who can successfully compete in a global economy. It is also committed to achieving a minimum rate of 85% graduate level employment for undergraduates and postgraduates (Employability Strategy 2017-21 and University Strategic Plan 2016 – 21), and for all programmes by 2021 to include work based and/or work-related learning. Developing student employability not only impacts positively on the outcomes for the student, but influences the University’s ranking in higher education league tables and relevant websites.

13.1.2 The purpose of this policy is to support those developing or delivering a programme which contains work based or placement learning (WBPL) to ensure it is a positive experience for all stakeholders.

13.1.3 The policy sets out the responsibilities of staff, students, and WBPL providers to ensure that effective processes are in place to enable a high-quality learning opportunity, and to manage and mitigate any risk. Everyone involved in work based and placement learning has a responsibility to do what they can to reduce the chances of harm to the student and others.

13.2 Scope of the Policy

13.2.1 For this Policy, the University has adopted the Quality Assurance Agency’s definition of work based and placement learning as outlined in its UK Quality Code for Higher Education - Chapter B3: Learning and Teaching: “Learning achieved during an agreed and negotiated period of learning that takes place outside the institution[1] at which the full or part-time student is enrolled or engaged in learning... the learning outcomes are intended as integral parts of a programme of study. It is important that each student is supported by the institution throughout his/her placement experience, to ensure that specific learning related to the programme can be achieved.”

[1] It is also accepted that there may work based and placement opportunities for students within the working environment of the University of Stirling.

13.2.2 WBPL within an academic programme can be delivered in a wide variety of ways, for example short term, extended; part-time, full-time; paid, unpaid; credit bearing or not credit bearing; practice placement or internship. WBPL that is not part of an academic programme, for example part-time work which students organise themselves, falls outside the remit of this policy. The management of work based dissertations are not within the scope of this policy.

13.2.3 It is recognised that the way in which WBPL is organised and managed will vary according to specific module and programme aims and learning outcomes, and their learning, teaching and assessment strategies. Vocational programmes, such as those in nursing, social work or education may be subject to additional and specific requirements.

13.3 Principles

  • In line with the QAA UK Quality Code for Higher Education, Chapter B10: “Managing higher education provision with others” the University’s key principles on WBPL are:
  • To undertake due diligence before a student undertakes a placement
  • To effectively manage the risks associated with off campus learning
  • To monitor placement management systems regularly and to keep clear and comprehensive records
  • To have in place written agreements that clarify the responsibilities and expectations of each party (student, university, WBPL provider)
  • To remain responsible for academic standards and the quality of provision leading to academic awards, regardless of where the student learning is taking place
  • To ensure that placements enhance the student’s learning experience and contribute to the development of their employability
  • To have an appropriate number of suitable staff to fulfil the requirements of placement supervision
  • To meet the requirements of any relevant Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies as articulated in approved programme documentation
  • To ensure that the needs of disabled students are considered and that reasonable adjustments are in place, which meet the requirements outlined in relevant legislation

The UK Quality Code is currently under review and supplementary guidance is likely to be developed in work-based learning.  This will be monitored by CES and Academic Quality and Governance and implications for this policy reviewed and adapted where appropriate.

13.4 University Responsibilities and Managing Risk

13.4.1 Ensuring the safety and well-being of students when they are taking part in learning off-campus is of paramount importance, and a risk based approach should be taken when placements are being set up and monitored.

13.5 Health and Safety

13.5.1 The Health and Safety (Training for Employment) Regulations 1990 state that if you are having relevant training in the UK then for health and safety purposes you are treated as an employee. Clearly the risks will vary depending on the placement concerned and any risk assessment must be appropriate to the risk, and placements abroad may have a different legal status.

13.5.2 It is the Faculty’s responsibility to ensure the health, safety and welfare of students when on WBPL. A risk assessment must be undertaken by the Faculty prior to the student going on placement, including in cases where the placement opportunity has been sourced by the student. A visit to all new placement providers should be undertaken by a member of staff wherever practical. A Pre-placement Checklist (Appendix 1) and a Risk Assessment Form (Appendix 2) should be completed.

13.5.3 There should be clear information provided on health and safety expectations to both WBPL providers and to students. This should be included at a student induction session and be covered in the preliminary meeting between the WBPL provider and the student.

13.5.4 There is an excellent and comprehensive good practice guide to managing the health and safety aspects of higher education student placements, including a risk profiling tool written by ASET.

13.5.5 There is also guidance from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association on Health and safety guidance for placement of Higher Education students

13.6 Approving and Vetting a Student Sourced Placement

13.6.1 The Faculty must have a process in place to ensure any WBPL opportunities that have been sourced independently by the student are appropriate to the intended learning outcomes of the programme.

13.7 Insurance and Liability

13.7.1 In the UK it is a legal requirement for employers to hold employer’s liability insurance and UK employer liability policies classify work experience or placement students as employees. This means that in the event of an accident at work arising from the placement provider’s negligence, the student has the same rights as the placement provider’s permanent staff. This may not be the case if the placement is abroad and the University’s insurers should be approached for advice.

13.7.2 Sole traders are not legally required to have employer’s liability insurance but as soon as they offer a placement to a student they effectively become their employers. They should be asked to take out an employer’s liability policy.

13.7.3 It is not a legal requirement in the UK for organisations to have public liability cover. However, most reputable employers should have it. This insurance protects the student against claims brought against the placement provider by third parties in the event of negligence on the part of the student.

13.7.4 The student has responsibility to act in an appropriate manner (as outlined in the Code of Student Discipline) and to keep in contact with the University to report any problems with the WBPL provider.

13.7.5 Faculties should check that WBPL providers have employer’s liability and public liability insurance as part of the approval process, and include on the standard university WBPL Agreement Form (Appendix 3).

13.8 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

13.8.1 Where a course of study includes a compulsory WBPL element, or where the University makes a WBPL opportunity available to students, the University will share personal data relating to the student undertaking the WBPL opportunity for the purposes of administration, communication and overall operation of the opportunity.

13.8.2 Occasionally the personal data shared with the provider may include special categories of personal data, such as health information, to ensure the WBPL provider can offer the necessary support and meet their obligations to the student.

13.8.3 All personal data is processed by the University in line with GDPR requirements and the University policy on Data Protection.

13.9 EU and International WBPL Opportunities

13.9.1 Risk assessments must be made for all WBPL opportunities taking place abroad. The nature and complexity of the risk assessment will vary with the type of activity intended and in many cases the work itself will not be unusually hazardous and consideration will primarily need to be given to local conditions. The assessment should be based on previous knowledge, information from the Foreign Office, travel agents and contacts in the place being visited. The Foreign Office, Reuters or the travel agent dealing with the booking will be able to provide information on the necessary vaccinations, local politics, and areas to avoid.

13.9.2 The findings and conclusions drawn from the Risk Assessment should be made familiar to all participants with any significant factors being relayed in writing whenever possible. 

13.9.3 For placements outside the EU students should be aware that sharing their personal information with the WBPL provider will involve a transfer outside the EU and that the data protection laws in some overseas countries may not provide the same level of protection as the EU legislation.  

  • Travel arrangements and accommodation
  • Personal safety
  • Climatic conditions
  • Health risks and up to date vaccinations
  • Cultural differences
  • Obtaining medical or other emergency assistance
  • Contacts back in UK
  • Their personal data may be at higher risk in countries outside the EU which have different data protection standards

13.1.4 Students must be briefed prior to departure and this should include:

13.10 Key Roles and Responsibilities

13.10.1 The University

Is committed to:

  • Offering high quality learning opportunities which meet the learning outcomes set for modules and programmes
  • Offering appropriate support and advice for students planning, taking part in and then returning from WBPL opportunities
  • Offering, wherever it is reasonably possible, that students with disabilities have equal access to placements
  • Making sure mechanisms are in place for the effective administration of WBPL and that these are set out in an appropriate placement agreement with the WBPL provider
  • Ensuring on-going review of best practice guidelines and ensuring staff are trained and updated appropriately

13.10.2 University Staff

Those responsible for WBPL in Faculties will undertake the following responsibilities:

  • To establish and approve the WBPL and ensure its academic legitimacy
  • To record clear documentary evidence that the WBPL complies with legislative and University requirements
  • To ensure that staff have sufficient understanding and training to deliver WBPL opportunities
  • To ensure that the WBPL Agreement Form is signed to confirm that all parties are aware of and accept their respective responsibilities
  • To ensure all parties are aware of any issues relating to confidentiality, data protection and intellectual property (IP) rights
  • To arrange for both the University and the WBPL provider to nominate named person(s) as their representatives who will take responsibility for communication between the WBPL provider and the University
  • To ensure that where the WBPL may involve working with children or vulnerable adults that appropriate disclosure checks have been carried out
  • To organise student WBPL induction and briefing
  • To maintain regular contact with the WBPL provider and to monitor student progress on WBPL
  • To provide students and WBPL providers with opportunities to identify and articulate their learning as a result of the WBPL experience
  • To ensure students and WBPL providers are encouraged quickly to feed back any concerns, including those regarding health and safety
  • To monitor and review the WBPL and to gather feedback from all stakeholders
  • To provide the opportunity for disabled students to complete a placement ARUAA
  • That consideration is given to the support and flexibility, where possible, that students with caring responsibilities may require when undertaking a WBPL experience
  • To outline the consequences of failing to successfully complete the WBPL

13.10.3 Students

The University expects students to:

  • Complete the standard University WBPL Agreement Form
  • Fulfil their hours and complete the WBPL in the format determined either by the module or programme requirements, or as agreed after discussion between relevant parties
  • Attend, participate in, and contribute to University based sessions pertaining to the module
  • Approach health and safety on WBPL with common sense and following all rules and to report any concerns regarding this to the WBPL provider and the module co-ordinator(s)
  • Complete assessed assignments in a timely fashion according to the specified module calendar
  • Contact the module co-ordinator(s) if the WBPL is changed significantly e.g. the content of the project or the method of delivery
  • Comply with all legal workplace standards as advised by the WBPL provider relating to quality assurance, environmental standards and health and safety
  • Make the organisation aware of any special requirements (e.g. relating to any disabilities, illnesses or special medical requirements or additional support needs)
  • Behave professionally while carrying out assigned tasks, including observance of any procedures or practices
  • To present themselves and behave in a professional manner at all times in accordance with the University Code of Student Discipline and any other codes of practice as set out by any external body that accredits their degree
  • Be respectful of the culture and working practices of the organisation, whilst representing the University
  • Inform the provider as soon as possible if not able to attend their WBPL through short term issues, such as illness
  • Notify the module co-ordinator(s) if they or the WBPL provider terminates the WBPL opportunity
  • If using their own vehicle students have responsibility for ensuring that there is adequate insurance cover

13.10.4 International Students

13.10.4.1 Tier 4 students can undertake a work placement during their studies. There are certain requirements that must be met and Faculties must ensure details of work placements are sent to the Student Immigration Team before international students undertake a work placement.

13.10.4.2 For reporting purposes UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) treat work placements and internships the same.

13.10.4.3 A work placement that is an integral and assessed as part of the programme must be reported to UKVI. The Student Immigration Team will report details of the placement to UKVI. Work placements for the University’s degree students must not constitute more than half of the total programme.

13.10.4.4 An "internship" that is an integral and assessed part of the programme should be treated in the same way as a work placement. The internship must not constitute more than half of the total programme. Details of the internship must be reported to UKVI. The Student Immigration Team will report details of the internship to UKVI.

13.10.4.5 Faculties must provide the following information to the Student Immigration Team to enable the University to report fully to UKVI:

  • Name of the employer
  • Address and contact number for the employer
  • Location of placement if address of employer is different
  • Start date and end date of placement
  • Number of Hours per week student will be working on the placement
  • Details of how the placement will be assessed

13.10.4.6 Work placements can be paid or unpaid and can be full time, including during term time. If students hold a visa permitting employment for up to 20 hours per week, they can do this in addition to the time spent on their work placement e.g. take a part time job as well as completing their full-time work placement.

13.10.4.7 Tier 4 sponsors (the University) must continue to monitor the student’s engagement whilst on a work placement. Faculties must therefore have mechanism in place for monitoring student engagement whilst they are on a placement. Any changes must be reported to UKVI through the Student Immigration Team.

13.10.4.8 In all other circumstances (e.g. informal placements/internships that are not assessed as part of the course) international students can undertake the placement or internship only if they hold a visa permitting employment. Tier 4 students are normally subject to restrictions on employment (e.g. 20 hours per week during term time). This means that students cannot work full time during term time. We do not have to report informal placements/internships in these circumstances but students should ensure they are not working in breach of their visa conditions.

13.10.4.9 Any questions or queries should be directed to the Student Immigration Team (internationaladvisor@stir.ac.uk)

13.11 Providers

13.11.1 Students undertaking WBPL should expect providers to:

  • Complete a University WBPL Agreement Form. This should contain clear information of any outputs required by the organisation from the WBPL
  • Provide a WBPL supervisor to act as a main point of contact with the time and experience to take responsibility for the day to day supervision and support of the student
  • Provide meaningful and satisfactory work related to skills, interests and available time
  • Provide an induction session and any necessary training. This should include:
    • Health and Safety arrangements and relevant risk arrangements
    • Fire precautions and emergency evacuation arrangements
    • How to report accidents, incidents and unsafe conditions
    • Dress code
    • Absence requirements
    • Breaks/lunch-times
    • Hours
  • Provide a safe and healthy working environment
  • Provide reasonable adjustments for disabled students according to those outlined on the placement ARUAA in accordance with the Equality Act 2010
  • Make clear the lines of communication between the WBPL supervisor and student and how the WBPL will be monitored
  • Share as much information as possible about the organisation, its policy, clients, programmes and activities
  • Encourage respect from fellow workers toward the student
  • Provide an opportunity for the student to make suggestions, receive feedback and develop a sense of being a part of the organisation
  • If requested complete an evaluation of the student’s work at the end of the WBPL, and, if agreed, at other times appropriate to the module requirements
  • Outline what, if any, financial support (e.g. travel and/or subsistence) is available to the student, and how this will be administered
  • Define the liability and other insurance cover that will be provided for the activities of the student with regard to the student and to others who could be affected by the student’s actions or inactions
  • Indicate which data sources and information provided are confidential and should be suppressed in any reports/outputs, allowing the student time to amend the WBPL output accordingly. Confidential data provided by the company should be marked as such when provided to the student.
  • Ensure that the student is not allowed to complete any tasks for the WBPL provider during the contracted period, except those which directly contribute to delivery of the WBPL.  In cases where other tasks are being undertaken, the student must be paid in accordance with statutory UK law / minimum wage legislation.
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