Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences


The Full Year Placement


Robert Jones


Geography Subject Area, School of Natural & Environmental Science, Coventry University, Priory Street, Coventry, CV1 5FB, UK


+44 (0)1203 838411


+44 (0)1203 838447



Coventry University is the only British higher education institution which has a compulsory year-long sandwich placement within its geography degree. Suitable employers are found by the Professional Training Tutor. Students who successfully complete the placement are awarded a Certificate of Professional Training. The placement programme is seen as beneficial both in course marketing and student recruitment and in enhancing the students' employment prospects.


The geography year-long placement at Coventry was introduced in 1976 and has been operating successfully for over twenty years. Its origins lay in the transfer of geography from the arts to the science faculty and in a requirement of the latter that all its courses include a 'thick' (52 week) sandwich placement. From an initial number of 13, now over 70 single-honours geographers are placed each year, plus a further 20 on a recently developed and related BSc course in recreation and the countryside.

Main features:

The principal aims are to provide students with first-hand experience of the world of work and to enable them to apply their geographical and personal skills within a work-based setting. The Professional Training Tutor is obliged to secure places for all the students, although a handful do find their own jobs which are then approved. Under a recent amendment, mature students with work experience (a small but growing number) can, if they wish, forego the placement and complete their degree within three years. A wide range of employers are used but all have some connections with the world of geography and hence environmental agencies and planning departments are among the most common destinations. At the outset in the 1970s most students received a salary from their employer. Growth in numbers on placement has meant that in recent years more use has been made of mandatory local authority grants, although even now over half the jobs are salaried.

Until recently the assessment of student performance was limited and without clearly defined guidelines as to what constituted success. Now, there is a learning agreement which specifies the work to be undertaken, the details of which obviously vary between placements. The learning agreement (which also specifies the roles of the employer and a visiting tutor from the academic staff) is used for assessment purposes in that the students' performance is measured in terms of how successfully they have met the objectives set out in the learning agreement, as well as by an appraisal of more general qualities expected of an employee in the workplace.


The thick sandwich has given Coventry a distinctive market niche and reputation.

The students return to their final year with greater maturity, self-confidence and responsibility and also with enhanced employment prospects. The main disadvantage is the heavy administrative burden involved in establishing and managing such a large number of whole-year placements.

Key advice:


Jones, R., Healey, M. & Matthews, H. (1995) The thick sandwich: still on the menu, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 19(2), pp.189-195.

Matthews, H., Healey, M. and Jones, R. (1995) Profiling and learning outcomes: the enhancement of a professional training programme in geography, in A. Jenkins & A. Ward (Eds.) Developing Skill-based Curricula Through the Disciplines: case studies of good practice in Geography, SEDA Paper 89, pp.141-150.


Certificate of Professional Training
Learning agreement
Sandwich placement
Work placement

This is one of the case studies which appears in the GDN Guide "Transferable Skills & Work-based Learning in Geography"

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