What are placement years in UK? University expert explains its importance for international students

What are placement years in UK? University expert explains its importance for international students

This article will explore why placement years are increasingly popular with international students in the UK.

Claire BrookeUpdated: Saturday, March 18, 2023, 01:40 PM IST
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Representational image | Photo: Pixabay

(The Free Press Journal publishes articles by study abroad consultants, Consulates, foreign universities, international students, and much more every Saturday to give its readers a glimpse of the world of overseas education.)

A placement year is a popular option for students, who want to stand out from their peers and fast-track their graduate careers after studying in UK universities. 

Spending a year with a business or organisation as an integrated part of an undergraduate degree programme has been offered by UK universities for several years but has gained increasing popularity in recent years as ‘employability’ became a key consideration for students and parents alike. For employers, offering placements is a way to guarantee their future pipeline of new graduates. 

At most universities, the placement year is an additional year that typically takes place after the penultimate year with students returning to university to complete their final year. Placements are not normally guaranteed and students are responsible for securing the same though the norm has been to receive advice and guidance from universities to support students with the process. This article will explore why placement years are increasingly popular with students: 

Developing skills required by employers 

During the placement year, students will work at a level very similar to a recent graduate and will be developing the key skills employers are looking for such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and commercial awareness. It also allows students to apply the knowledge they have learned during their studies in the real world. The placement year also gives students an academic advantage when they return from placement for their final year of study, academic tutors often comment on the difference between those students who have completed a placement year compared to those who haven't in terms of their advanced time management, organisational, technical skills as well as their professionalism. 

Claire Brooke

Claire Brooke |

Experiencing the graduate recruitment process

Applying for placements is a very similar process to applying for a graduate job. Students will have to prepare a CV( resume), complete online applications, attend interviews and assessment centres, which takes great preparation for the graduate recruitment process. We also spend a lot of time working with students to ensure they are as best prepared as possible to succeed. 

Building a professional network

A big benefit to doing a placement is that people students get to meet and work with during the year. In addition to the support available from their immediate team, students will often be assigned a mentor and will get to network with senior leaders from across the organisation who are keen to support the next generation of future leaders. 

Securing a graduate job offer early

A placement year is often seen as an extended interview, from both the organisation’s and the student’s perspective. For the organisation it is an opportunity to assess whether they would like to offer the student a position after graduation, as some organisations will make graduate job offers at the end of the placement so students can progress into their final year knowing they have secured a job. 

Confirm career plans

A placement is a great opportunity to confirm career plans and it's not always about finding out what you want to do, sometimes it can be about finding out what you don’t want to do! Students will often have an idea about a particular company they want to work for or a specific job role they want to do but the reality might not match up to their expectations and it's much better to find this out at an early stage. 

There are undoubtedly many benefits to undertaking a work placement year as part of an undergraduate degree and hopefully, this article is successful in giving some insights into a few of the reasons why a placement year is something a student should consider when applying for University.

The author is a Year in Industry Manager, University of Sheffield. the UK.

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