Issue date: 22 July 2003

ISSUE DATE: 22/07/03

Employers who want to find out which work skills graduates have gained during sandwich degree courses will soon be able find out this information on a new website. Until now, the students’ third year placements in industry or business have been assessed on just four ‘pass or fail’ criteria. This does not adequately record or give credit for the complex skills that a student may have acquired, according to researchers from the University of the West of England (UWE).

The research team from the Faculty of Applied Sciences is remedying this in a four-year scheme funded by a grant of £149,000 from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The website - www.profile.ac.uk – has been designed to provide a framework for monitoring and assessing the wide range of skills acquired during the ‘sandwich’ year. Initially pilot data from UWE will be used, but from 2004 the website will be available for all to use.

“For some time, university tutors have been seeking a means of measuring the value of work-based learning. For them, this has been the equivalent of the quest for the Philosopher’s Stone”, said project director Dr Stephen Gomez, who has many years of experience as placements officer for UWE’s science students.

Phase one of the project involves recording elements of workplace learning under three broad headings – generic skills; skills specific to that workplace, and personal/professional development. The resulting database has been linked to a website that is designed to be self-supporting and will be able to accommodate information from other Higher Education Institutions.

“We want to be able to link specific placement activities – working with gel electrophoresis, electro-physiology or polymer chain-reactions for example – to University practicals, emphasising the transferable skills that a student has acquired,” said Stephen.

“Generic skills recorded will reflect the QAA BioScience benchmarks such as critical/analytical skills; independent thinking; problem solving; team-work and communication skills.

“We want to capture the diversity of the different work experiences that students undergo. We also want to be able to compare the skills acquired, allowing both tutors and employers to assess the value of the work being undertaken.”

Future developments could include a ‘headhunting’ service for employers to access when wishing to recruit a graduate with a specific skillset. The website will be free to use for Higher Education Institutions and students, and care will be taken to protect the confidentiality of individuals.


Editor’s notes

1. Profile.ac.uk is a Higher Education Funding Council for England-funded FDTL (Fund for the Development of Teaching & Learning) Phase 4 project.

2. The project profiles the learning activities on work placement in terms of basic elements and places this on the website. Once on placement, the student interacts with the elements on-line, recording their progress which can be monitored by their tutor and supervisor. Each element will have five properties:

 A credit value
 Notional learning time
 Learning outcomes
 Credit level descriptor (based on QAA benchmarks)
 Assessment of learning activities

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