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Why placements are a good plan (even during a pandemic)

Employability Service

Category: Student support services

13 November 2020

Should you be considering taking a placement year? Here are some very good reasons why the answer is always 'Yes'.

Most students and employers know that a year-long placement is the ‘gold standard’ of work experience whilst gaining your degree full-time at university.

So-called ‘sandwich’ degrees are courses which include an industrial placement or a year in industry, and have been around for decades in the UK. Work-based learning is commonplace in practice-related courses such as nursing and midwifery, education and social work. But the benefits of a placement can be enjoyed by many students on business, science, technology, arts and humanities courses too.

Not only does an extended period of work experience help develop the professional skills you’ll be expected to use as a graduate – such as teamwork, problem solving, communication, influencing and commercial awareness – it also acts as a ‘long interview’ and many students are offered full-time permanent positions by their placement employer after they graduate.

Read more reasons why everyone should do a placement year, from a student’s perspective.

What help can I expect to find my placement?

Person sitting at desk with laptop and larger computer screen

As you might expect from a university ranked 5th in the country for the proportion of UK undergraduates in employment or further study 15 months after graduating (Graduate Outcomes Survey 2020, rankings for subsequent years may change), we provide extensive support for placement students.

From your first year, you can expect to take part in a carefully designed development programme which helps you to decide what kind of employer and placement role will suit you. Your dedicated Student Placement Advisor will guide you on how to make successful applications to placement vacancies, many exclusive to ARU students, as well as interview tips and other tailored support to make sure you are ready for your placement.

Can I switch to a four-year placement course?

If you've signed up for a three-year full-time degree course and you are a UK or EU student, you may be able to switch to a placement course. This will depend on whether ARU has approved your course for a placement year and your faculty agreeing that you will be able to resume your final year of study when you return from your placement year.

Could I do my placement in another country?

If you are a UK or EU student, you can do a placement internationally, which is a great way to experience working and living in a different culture. There are some conditions, for instance you must have the right visa to work in that country, and currently there are travel restrictions in place because of COVID-19. We also work with you and your proposed employer to assess the risk of your work placement for safety and security reasons.

Do I still have access to student benefits while I am on placement?

You still have student status while on placement and can enjoy all the benefits of your student experience, such as membership of the Students' Union.

Additionally, you will be assigned a Placement Tutor who will make regular contact with you throughout your placement so that you feel connected and are able to reflect and learn from your experience.

What about the impact of COVID-19 on placements?

Businesses realise the importance of attracting graduate talent and many have continued offering placement opportunities throughout the pandemic. Some of our students have found themselves working at home and vastly improving their digital skills in the process.

We encourage you to have a flexible mindset. Whilst placements in tourism, sport, leisure and hospitality may be harder to find, there are many growth areas, including health-related, virtual education, project management and supply chain. Perhaps consider doing a placement that will develop skills you don’t cover in your degree such as customer service, negotiation and office-based skills.

There remain uncertainties about what will happen with graduate employment in the future but one thing we know for certain is that graduates with valuable work experience will be in demand by top employers. Is it time for you to think about doing a placement?

I’m interested in finding out more about placements

To find out more about the benefits of a year-long placement and whether it is a possibility for you, contact [email protected].

If a year-long placement isn’t right for you or your course doesn’t support a placement year, there are other options for shorter summer internships or part-time roles while you are studying with us. Check out the ARU Careers Centre (login required; current students have access) or contact [email protected] for details.

By Emma Jennings
Placements & Employer Engagement Manager


The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.