Professional work placements are key to what we do at BU. In some cases, a placement will be part of your degree’s structure – but every undergraduate student has the opportunity to do one, whatever course you are studying.
Some courses offer placements between two and six weeks, while for others the duration is 30 weeks, completed after the second year of your degree. Either way, the experience can make a big difference to your CV, your career, your networking opportunities and your skillset.
Because of this, securing a great work placement is just as competitive as securing a great job. You’ll need to demonstrate talent, commitment and initiative – but we’ll be there to help you along the way.
Finding the right placement
Searching and applying for placements is a process that starts from your first year, beginning with making industry contacts and establishing the kinds of opportunities that interest you. There are a number of ways to do this, from initiatives such as insight days run by some companies, to our annual Careers Fair, featuring around 70–80 employers.
You’ll then begin applying for placements in your second year. We have a team who can help you through this process, and advise on how you can find the right kind of placement – in addition to advising on how to approach organisations that you have identified as suitable for you. If that means a placement in another part of the UK, or in another country, we can offer help and support. This is supplemented by information and advertised opportunities on our online careers centre, MyCareerHub.
MyCareerHub was a fantastic tool to use, as you could list specifically what you’re searching for, where, and for how long. I wouldn’t have found my role without it; I cannot recommend enough that BU students make the most of the tools out there!
Companies you could work with
We have excellent relationships with many multinational companies – from IBM to Mercedes-Benz – and work closely with employers who take students for work placements. Details of the companies our students have previously worked with on placement can be found on each of our course pages, and you’ll find they cover a broad range of organisations of various sizes across different sectors.
Some of our students even find themselves pursuing placement opportunities in industries or areas that they hadn’t previously considered as options. You may find the perfect opportunity to gain hands-on experience with an independent business with a small team or a global corporation with thousands of employees. No two placements are identical and it’s all about finding a company that will give you the right experience, and that you can provide value to in return.
Many of our students return to their placement employer for their graduate role, having demonstrated their worth to the organisation and gained an insight into what they can expect in a full-time position.
You may end up doing something different to what you thought, like I did, but ultimately any experience is beneficial. And who knows, you may end up loving it!
BU student Marah talks about her experience as a marketing placement intern for Disney.
Support and tuition fees during your placement year
You’re still very much a member of the BU community while you are on your placement. You’ll be allocated a Placement Development Adviser who will usually visit you while on placement and stay in regular contact with you and your employers. If you undertake a 30-week placement, you’ll still pay tuition fees, but they will be considerably lower than the taught years of your degree. This allows the Placement Development Advisers to support you throughout your placement – they’ll be in contact with you to make sure that you're on track with your career development goals.
You’ll also still have access to all the support services on offer at both BU and the Students’ Union (SUBU). This is in addition to access to all of the university’s online and on-campus facilities, ensuring you’re able to do any preparation you need to do before returning to your studies.
Short placements (typically between two to six weeks) and integrated placements on health courses do not have a separate fee to pay.
Being on placement taught me many lessons about the professional world – the value of teamwork, the value of resilience, but importantly, it taught me a great deal about myself as an individual.
Getting paid during your placement
We do our best to help all of our students find paid work placements, but this isn’t always possible. We encourage all the employers we work with to provide at least a minimum wage to our students; you can find out more about the National Minimum Wage on gov.uk.
You may still be eligible for financial support during your placement year; UK students on placement at home or abroad are generally entitled to a reduced Maintenance Loan, and the Placement Opportunity Fund offers additional support if you are eligible.
I really did enjoy my placement year, but it definitely wasn’t a walk in the park. It has been a huge year of learning for me and I’m so thankful I had this year before I left university.
Directing your future
In addition to the new skills you’ll have developed, a successful placement will see you return to your studies with a clearer understanding of the industry you are looking to enter, and you will be able to direct your learning to become the kind of professional you want to be in a much more informed way. You can hear more stories about our students’ experiences on placement on our Undergraduate Blog and placement stories pages.