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Title: Learning between university and the world of work
Author: Lundsteen, Natalie C.
ISNI:       0000 0001 4077 8229
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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Internships are an increasingly popular activity for university students wishing to learn about the world of work, and the term can encompass many types of opportunities for learning about industries, occupations, or simply the experience of a professional workplace. The present study examines students following full-time degree courses across a range of subjects, in internships that are not integrated into course requirements. Internships of this kind are often located within the ‘employability agenda’ for higher education, developing students’ transferable skills to enable them to make smooth transitions to knowledge work outside the university. University careers advisors therefore encourage these internships as a form of experiential learning, and the notion of student employability is implicitly accepted by policymakers and universities. Yet, little is known about how or what students learn in internships. This study, which took place over three summers, examines how six students from one university made sense of their ten-week summer internships in an investment bank. The students were interviewed prior to their internships, three times during the banking internship, and again on return to the university. Using conceptual tools from sociocultural theory, the study starts from an understanding of movement between university and workplace as a matter of transition, rather than transfer and application, of knowledge and skills from university to the workplace. Adopting the idea of the ‘figured world’ (Holland et al., 1998) permits examination of how the students engaged with the cultural world of the workplace setting, interpreting and engaging with the practices there, and experiencing identity struggles that were of significance to them. The findings reveal the lack of support for the students’ engagement both before and during their placements, and have implications for the careers advising given to students undertaking internships. The study therefore concludes with a presentation of the principles that underpin student experience of internships. Universities can assist this by providing more resources for guidance to students undertaking internships, by assisting them with developing an awareness of the motives that are inherent in the workplace, as well as their own motives and those of employers providing internships.
Supervisor: Edwards, Anne Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Learning ; Economics and education ; Sociocultural and activity theory ; Vocational and professional learning ; internship ; university ; transition