3.7.2 Placement Learning Policies
Structure of placements
1. Placements may take place as part or all of a module, or may constitute a full or part year of an academic programme.
2. For all placements other than those undertaken via concession the learning outcomes to be achieved by the placement (including the implications of the placement for progression from one level of study to the next, where relevant) should be incorporated within the relevant programme specification and regulations, and/or module outline(s).
3. Where placements form a full year of an undergraduate degree, these may constitute a 'replacement year' for a year of study at Durham, or an 'extra year' that does not contribute marks in full to degree classification. Regulations regarding full year placements, including assessment and progression issues, are contained in the core regulations in Volume 2 of the Calendar
4. Where placements form all or part of a module, this should be reflected in the relevant module outline. Where they constitute a year of study they should either be part of a specifically-designed degree programme whose intended learning outcomes include those for the placement (all such placements must have defined intended learning outcomes which must be stated when a programme including a placement is approved - see further Appendix (A3.07) or be approved individually for each student involved by concession - Appendix (A3.08).
Approval of placements
Approval of a Compulsory / Standard Optional Placement
5. Where a placement forms a compulsory part of a programme of study or a standard option and are therefore included in the programme specification and regulations, students registered for the programme can take the placement without the need for a concession: it is simply the responsibility of the department concerned to negotiate with each student a programme of work which will meet the learning outcomes of the placement. (Where a student is undertaking a full year placement as a replacement year the placement should also equip the student for study at the next Level on his/her return to the University). This negotiated programme must be documented and a copy kept by both the department and the student (see Appendix (A3.09)).
6. Where a placement is included in a new degree programme, Appendix (A3.07) must be included with the standard documentation for new programme approval and will be considered by the programme approval panel along with the rest of the programme approval documentation. The placement itself should be treated as a module and a module outline should be submitted with the other documentation. Where a placement is to be operated jointly by more than one department a joint submission is acceptable
Approval Process for an Optional Placement
7. Where a placement has not been approved as a compulsory part of, or a standard option within, a programme of study but the department wishes to permit a particular student to undertake a placement (for example to replace a year of study at Durham with a year of study elsewhere), the department must seek approval of the placement using Appendix (A3.08) and the student must complete the Student Placement Agreement (Appendix (A3.09)). This is to ensure that on graduation students will have fulfilled the intended learning outcomes of their programme of study. It is not necessary in these cases to submit a placement module outline or additional regulations.
8. The completed Appendix (A3.08) and Appendix (A3.09) should be submitted to the relevant Faculty Office (for undergraduate placements) or the Academic Support Office (for postgraduate placements) for consideration for approval. Departments do not need to submit a separate concession request form, as the completed Appendix (A3.08) will be treated as the concession request.
Information for placement providers
9. Once a placement has been approved, the department is responsible for ensuring that placement providers are informed of:
a. the intended learning outcomes of the placement;
b. the role of the placement in the programme of study;
c. and the criteria by which the department will assess the placement and the general standard of work which the department would expect at this level.*
*The need for this will vary. Where a provider is offering, for example, a project which will be assessed by the Durham department this is very important. Where the Durham department has taken responsibility for selecting appropriate modules at another university in consultation with the provider and the student, to meet the required learning outcomes, this is less important. The Student Placement Agreement (Appendix (A3.09)) may be used to facilitate this: the student may be asked to give a copy of the agreement to the provider.
Approval of placement providers
10. The University accepts that the following categories of placement providers should normally be able to provide placements of an appropriate standard:
a. for placements in which students are studying or undertaking project work at a university elsewhere:
i. institutions of higher education involved in a recognised scheme such as Lifelong Learning Programme/ERASMUS;
ii. publicly approved institutions within the country concerned including those which receive state funding;
b. for workplace-based placements:
i. registered national companies operating in the UK as well as in the placement location which may be expected to observe appropriate standards in respect of conditions for employees, health and safety etc;
ii. established agencies such the British Council's teaching assistant programme, and VSO.
11. Note that notwithstanding 10a and 10b above, the department concerned must still ensure that the learning outcomes of the placement can be met and monitor placements to ensure that the expected standards are reached. It must also take steps to address problems, in consultation with the International Office if appropriate.
12. Smaller organisations, for example those which are restricted to the country of the placement and/or are otherwise unknown (including arrangements made by students for themselves and 'personal' arrangements such as au pairing), are much more problematic and care must be taken to ensure that appropriate information about the placement provider is received. This should be provided by the student where they are arranging the placement and it should be made clear to students that the University reserves the right to withhold approval from such arrangements. Approval may also be withheld from placements which are offered by entirely reputable organisations but where the placement is inappropriate to the learning outcomes and the programme of study. A robust mechanism must be in place within the department to approve such placements using Appendix (A3.07.1) as the basis.
13. The procedure for approval of placement providers will vary depending on whether the placement is organised at departmental level or if the placement provider is a university with which a university-wide student exchange agreement is proposed.
14. For institution-wide student exchanges, proposals must be submitted approved using Appendix (A3.07.02) as the basis. This form must be completed by an appropriate member of staff in the International Office who will arrange for its consideration by the three Faculty PVCs and, subject to support from the Faculty PVCs, take this forward for consideration by Education Committee's Quality and Standards Sub-Committee.
15. For placements based in departments, placement providers must be approved at departmental level using Appendix (A3.07.1) as the basis. The process by which this is to happen must be made clear when the placement is first approved as part of a new programme (see Appendix (A3.07)) and will be audited during periodic review.
16. Additionally for proposals involving departmentally-based student exchanges which do NOT fall within the Lifelong Learning Programme/Erasmus programme, following approval at departmental level, Appendix (A3.07.1) must be submitted to the relevant Faculty PVC through the faculty support officer and if approved forwarded to the Quality and Standards Sub-Committee of the Education Committee for consideration.
Student support and guidance
17. Students undertaking a placement should be provided with a placement handbook (or equivalent document, which can be provided online if appropriate), that as a minimum should cover the following areas:
a. Clear information about the role of the placement in the programme of study, its learning outcomes, the implications of the placement for progression and/or degree classification, the assessment criteria and the mode(s) of assessment to be used.
b. Clear information about their obligations within the placement.
a. Information on a contact in the host organisation, where appropriate, to whom students can take problems in the first instance;
b. Information on the routine contact the department will have with students during the placement to provide a 'progress check' (this can include email, web-sites and duo). Also see paragraph 19 below.
c. Information on the support available to the student from the department while on placement, including a point of contact in case of emergency and information on dealing with problems or complaints.
c. The way in which other students on placement can be contacted.
d. Cultural orientation and work expectations.
e. Health and safety information.
f. Information on insurance.
g. For overseas placements, any language skills preparation available to them.
18. In addition to the placement handbook, students should be given the following information prior to departure:
a. clear information about their own personal programme of work during the placement (see also the Student Placement Agreement, Appendix (A3.09));
b. basic information about the host organisation and its location. Notes from previous students can be invaluable;
c. information about travel arrangements to and from the placement including any responsibility on the part of the student for making such arrangements;
d. information about accommodation arrangements especially for overseas placements. It is not essential for the department to arrange accommodation for placement students but all students (in the UK and abroad) must be told what to expect and what they will have to arrange for themselves. For students travelling abroad departments must provide general advice including 'common sense' guidelines about location, travel to and from the placement and the types of accommodation typically available. Again, notes from past students can be very helpful and consideration should be given to building up dossiers of 'tips' in hard copy or on the web or DUO to which the students can have access while they are abroad as well as before they leave. In some cases the International Office may be able to provide additional advice;
e. general 'cultural' information (do's and don'ts). This may relate to the conventions of a foreign country or to professional expectations within an industry (e.g. the need for safety awareness or confidentiality). In some cases such expectations may be made clear by the host organisation but the department should ensure that students will obtain essential information;
19. This information can be provided via pre-placement briefing sessions, or through the provision of documentation (hard copy and/or online).
Student placements and Intellectual Property Rights
20. Where a student is undertaking a placement this may in some circumstances raise issues concerning the IPR of work undertaken while on placement. General guidance is available at WEBLINK, and where IPR issues may arise departments should contact the Legal Support Unit to ensure that appropriate action is taken prior to the start of the placement.
Support during placements
21. Departments should consider the feasibility of pastoral visits from a member of staff in the department. If it is not possible to visit each student individually consideration should be given to:
a. collaborative visits: such collaboration may be with other Durham departments or with cognate departments in other universities who have students on placement in the same location;
b. making a pastoral visit to a central 'base' to which a number of students can travel within a day;
c. visiting regular placement providers on a regular cycle (e.g. every three years).
22. Where pastoral visits cannot be undertaken it is especially important to develop channels of communication for students during their placements; to ensure that procedures for de-briefing students are robust; and to take steps to avoid sending future students to locations which have presented problems.
23. On return departments should seek feedback from students on their placement, and use to support the review and enhancement of placement provision.
24. For students who have undertaken an extended period away from the University (for example a year abroad or industrial placement), departments should make arrangements to re-orientate students into study at the University for example by:
a. a 'debriefing' meeting at which students can share their experiences, advise on good practice and alert the department to problems and further opportunities;
b. an opportunity to discuss, collectively and/or individually, the implications of their experiences for their next year of study which may include module choice, choice of dissertation etc.
25. Returning students can also be asked to talk with the following year's placement students to share experiences and give advice directly. They may also be asked to prepare notes for fellow-students which can be built up into a comprehensive resource.
26. Placement Learning may be assessed by:
a. the placement provider; OR
b. the 'home' department; OR
c. a combination of (a) and (b) above;
27. Placement learning may be assessed:
a. at threshold level (pass/fail) if the placement is additional to a full programme of study at Durham and does not contribute a percentage of the marks to the classification of the degree;
b. by a marking scheme used by the placement provider, converted into marks on the Durham scale and integrated into the Durham classification process in the usual way;
c. by the Durham department in line with departmental/school assessment criteria providing marks in the usual way which will contribute to the classification of the degree.
28. The placement handbook should make clear to students how assessment is to be carried out, how marking undertaken by Durham staff will be moderated and how consistency will be assured in the assessment process.
29. Where the placement provider is another educational institution and the marks from assessment conducted by the host organisation are to feed into a Durham Board of Examiners for the purpose of student progression or degree classification the department should ensure that it fully understands the assessment process in the host organisation (either directly or via an intermediary such as the Erasmus scheme or the International Office). A copy of any guidance notes or conventions governing the assessment process may support this. It may also be helpful to ask for comments from tutors to supplement raw marks. If in doubt, consider whether the assessment can be moderated at Durham (for example students could be asked to keep a copy of course-work to submit on return - or a project reflecting the student's overall learning experience could be marked at Durham as part of the assessment of the placement).
30. Where marks from a host organisation are to feed into the Durham examination process, the department should establish a method for 'translating' the marks from the host's mark scale to the Durham scale. Ideally this should be based on assessment criteria: match your criteria for a first, 2:1 etc with the relevant points on the host institution's scale. If the host institution will show you samples of marked work from their own students this can inform the 'translation' scale. This can be tabulated and should be made known to students.
31. Assessment should not be delegated to placement providers in non-educational organisations (industry, commerce) but it is good practice to obtain feedback on the student's progress and to factor this into the assessment process as appropriate. Assessment in such cases should be undertaken by members of the Durham department. The student's supervisor within the placement should be given information about the learning outcomes of the placement and the standards expected.
Monitoring and review of placement learning
32. The responsibility for the quality of placement learning rests with the University. Departments must therefore consider their placement learning within their annual review (for example the placement co-ordinator could submit a report to the annual review detailing strengths, weaknesses, developments and action points associated with the placement scheme as a whole and/or individual providers as appropriate). Placement learning provision will also be considered during periodic review.
33. Where a placement is provided by another HEI the quality management procedures of a host university may support the process and it is excellent if Durham students have the opportunity to feed into such procedures; however the University is responsible for defining the learning experience of our students and for assuring its quality. This is particularly important where the placement replaces a period of study which would otherwise have been undertaken at Durham and/or contributes marks to the classification of the student's degree.
34. In terms of the ongoing management of placements it is good practice to:
a. appoint one or more designated placement co-ordinators to take responsibility for managing the placement;
b. document the information regarding the aspects of the placement covered by these guidelines and make this easily available to students, staff and placement hosts;
c. ask students to complete full questionnaires on their experiences. Departments may draft their own questionnaire or draw, in full or in part, on the example given in Appendix (A3.10);
d. establish mechanisms with host organisations, where appropriate, by which good practice can be reinforced and problems addressed - either as they arise or within a routine (possibly annual) review, which may be face-to-face or by correspondence / email / video-conferencing etc. Such problems may be academic, pastoral or administrative;
e. compare the performance of students taking a placement with those who do not (where applicable) and address any issues arising.
35. In addition, for placements which contribute a percentage mark to the classification of the Durham degree it is good practice to:
a. develop close contact with the placement provider. Visits to the host institution to discuss the student's work, clarify assessment criteria and (where applicable) compare work produced by home students in the host institution can be especially valuable;
b. negotiate with the host organisation a process by which information is submitted on the progress of each student and/or the placement as a whole.