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Future-proofing placements: The importance of local opportunities for placement students

Julie Fowlie (Brighton Business School, University of Brighton, Brighton, UK)
Clare Forder (Brighton Business School, University of Brighton, Brighton, UK)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 23 January 2019

Issue publication date: 23 July 2019




The purpose of this paper is to present a case study centred on steps taken at a Business School in a UK university, to improve local work placement provision, respond to student demand and engage more productively with local businesses. It is situated against renewed focus on universities’ engagement with local economies and the graduate labour market context as demonstrated by the government’s Industrial Strategy (BEIS, 2017) and the OfS (2018) business plan. It aims to emphasise how moving the focus back from graduates to placement students could offer a useful collaborative opportunity for local businesses to articulate what they want from future employees.


The paper follows a mixed methods approach, drawing upon a case study on a new intervention piloted in the Business School as well as qualitative research gathered from questionnaires and interviews with students. Responses to questionnaires and interviews were analysed thematically in the Grounded Theory (Glaser and Strauss, 1967) tradition.


The paper highlights the lack of literature on local placements and also demonstrates findings which echo existing research on typical barriers and drivers to placements in general. It offers original outcomes such as how for some students local placements offer a convenience value but for others they are part of committing to living and working locally after graduation.

Research limitations/implications

The small-scale nature of the study means that only indicative findings are presented. Further research is necessary for a more detailed examination of its implications.

Practical implications

Recommendations are made for a systematic approach to developing, or establishing for the first time, university–employer relationships in order to future-proof local placement opportunities.


The paper fills a gap in the literature on local placements and also provides a fresh approach to how universities and employers might work together to identify local skills gaps and increase the provision of local placements. It also offers ways in students’ often negatively framed reasons for not undertaking a placement can be mitigated through engaging with the local context.



Fowlie, J. and Forder, C. (2019), "Future-proofing placements: The importance of local opportunities for placement students", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 434-444.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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