WIL in Liberal Arts Programs: New Approaches

Work-Integrated Learning in the 21st Century

ISBN: 978-1-78714-860-4, eISBN: 978-1-78714-859-8

ISSN: 1479-3679

Publication date: 29 August 2017


In a service-led, knowledge-based economy, employers increasingly expect universities to deliver a workforce suited to this environment. This emphasis is evident in contemporary Australian higher education, which is shifting to an acquisition of vocational outcomes. However, vocational outcomes are not traditionally viewed as outcomes of liberal arts programs. Balancing new expectations with traditional perspectives generates a tension between assuring graduates employment outcomes and maintaining the integrity of the Bachelor of Arts (BA) as a liberal arts program. Getting it wrong can result in fragmented and unstable curricula. One of the many ways that Australian BA programs are grappling with this problem is through the provision of work-integrated learning (WIL) opportunities for liberal arts students. In professions-based programs such as engineering or dentistry, the shape and nature of these courses may be obvious. It is less so in the generalist BA. Australian BA programs offer students the opportunity to engage with WIL in a variety of ways. Evidence from national studies investigating the Australian BA between 2008 and 2016 highlight common features of practice – such as the objectives, activities, and structure, and indicate that two approaches to providing WIL opportunities in the BA are evident. In order to meet the goals and aspirations of both economic and social purposes of higher education, liberal arts programs tend to adopt either a transactional or a transformational model. Each model has particular characteristics and approaches to practice that can inform the development of new programs and policies more globally.



Gannaway, D. and Sheppard, K. (2017), "WIL in Liberal Arts Programs: New Approaches", Work-Integrated Learning in the 21st Century (International Perspectives on Education and Society, Vol. 32), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 51-66. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1479-367920170000032003

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