Learning for the Real World: Preparing Postgraduate Design Students for Employment through Embedding Work-Related Learning in the Curriculum
Editor: Lyndon Buck, Geert Frateur, William Ion, Chris McMahon, Chris Baelus, Guido De Grande, Stijn Verwulgen
Author: McKinnon, Sabine; Wood, Bruce
Institution: Glasgow Caledonian University, United Kingdom
Section: Professional Perspectives for Design Students
Employability has been the subject of considerable debate in the UK higher education sector for some time. In the case of design graduates there is evidence that employers are dissatisfied with their general commercial awareness. Glasgow Caledonian University’s MA Design Practice and Management aims to improve students’ employability skills by giving them the opportunity to spend one third of their programme working in a real-life creative company. This paper presents the findings from a pilot study with the first cohort of students (n=8) on this programme. Its objective was to explore the perceived benefits and challenges of embedding work-related learning in the curriculum. The research adopted a mixed method approach. Students assessed their own employability skills in an on-line survey at the beginning and the end of the programme. Focus groups as well as interviews with the placement providers (n=3) and the academic programme leader provided additional qualitative data. All students reported improved employability skills as a result of their real-life industry experience. The programme leader observed increased confidence levels among the students and welcomed their improved independent learning skills. Employers appreciated the knowledge transfer opportunity and valued their work with the students as a useful recruitment tool. The challenges included raised anxiety levels amongst students who are not used to such a teaching approach and an increased workload for academics.