Undergraduate work placement and academic performance : an investigation into the relationship between learning transfer and the architecture of the internship in a business undergraduate programme
Universities in response to government initiatives, have engaged with the vocalisation of Higher Education. This has included the extension of placement opportunities in the belief that this will imbue undergraduate teaching with enhanced relevance to the world beyond the university while increasing the employability of graduates. Among a range of claimed benefits for internships, it has been asserted that there will be enhanced academic performance; to date there has been virtually no published empirical evidence on this relationship. This thesis addresses this lacuna. A set of investigations was designed to test for enhanced academic performance post-placement, with differences in the architecture of the placement as intervening variables. It was found that under work environment architecture, there was no significant difference between the academic performance of placement undergraduates on return to academic studies and that of their non-placement peers; under learning environment architecture there was a significant difference between those who had taken placement and their non-placement peers. There was evidence of prior-selection: students who were academically stronger tended to undertake placement. There was indications that in the learning environment architecture, those who had taken an internship did not add value to their academic performance, whereas their non-intern peers did. There was some evidence that academic motivation in the immediate post-internship period was diminished. In accounting for the findings, the processes of transfer of learning are considered as well as sub-issues including the role of contracts and motivation in transfer of learning. Consideration is taken of the implications of the findings for the constituent stakeholder groups. Issues relating to the public policy are considered and directions for further research are suggested. The results support the view that internships can be designed to promote academic values and learning; they should not be seen merely as vehicles for promoting the learning of skills and competencies which are not readily produced in the universities.