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University of Ulster

Case study

“The experience and skills I developed during my placement year will benefit me in completing my degree and getting a graduate engineer position”

Samuel Nimick MEng H Mechanical Engineering and DPP programme

University: Ulster University

Partnership/Sector: IET Academic Partner

Author: Dr Margaret Morgan, Ms Victoria Devenney and Prof Colin Turner

Location: Belfast

Briefly describe your University and Department

Ulster University is a multi-campus university based in Northern Ireland. The School of Engineering, currently based on the Jordanstown campus, will relocate to a new state-of-the-art city centre campus in 2019.

The School has approximately 950 students and offers a broad range of MSc, MEng, BEng H and BSc H engineering and technology programmes all professionally accredited to CEng, partial CEng, IEng and CEng further learning levels as appropriate. All undergraduate programmes are ‘thick-sandwich’ where the student spends the third year of their programme in paid employment in an engineering company.

Describe your partnership/your links in industry

The School of Engineering has a well-established and impressive track record of placing students locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. The administrative and assessment aspects of the placement activity are organised and managed using an award-winning proprietary software system known as OPUS - Online Placement University System. Each year, approximately 240 students are successfully placed with around 200 companies.

How do students benefit?

Almost all students find the placement experience transformative. Their technical skills are enhanced and their professional/soft skills are vastly improved as is their self-confidence and self-esteem. The salary they receive also helps alleviate some of their high levels of student debt. Students who successfully complete the year in industry are awarded a Diploma in Professional Practice, DPP, on graduation. All students have a much clearer idea of the type of career they wish to pursue after graduation.

How does the university benefit?

It is very rewarding for staff in the School to see the positive developments in students as a result of their year in industry. In general, students are very motivated to do well in the remaining/final years of their programmes. Some students will have the promise of a graduate position: others will have book allowances or other monetary benefits, and some will have the opportunity to take a final year project with his/her Placement company. A member of staff from the School visits the student on site during his/her Placement and this academia/industry interaction facilitates mutual understanding, trust and opens potential collaborative opportunities.

How do you feel this will improve the industry in the long-run?

Developing the next generation of high quality engineering graduates is a key task for all university engineering departments, professional bodies and industry. Industry needs to attract the best graduates to maximise its development and growth opportunities. Through its participation in the work experience programme, industry can familiarise itself with current education trends and gets its name known among new graduates as being an employer of choice.

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