#HEFCECatalyst: PlacementPAL Research Project

Dr Suzanne Nolan is working with colleagues across the University of Suffolk on this exciting research project, designed to help students transition from university into work-based learning:

UoS PAL A1 poster 12.6.17

If you are interested in finding our more, please email Suzanne at s.nolan@uos.ac.uk.


Another message from Professor David Collins

In my previous blog I made no fewer than three reading recommendations and yet confessed that I did not actually take up reading seriously until I was around 16. I should probably take a moment to expand upon this revelation…

It’s true I did not actually take up reading seriously until I was around sixteen. How had I spent my time prior to that? Well I had been playing soldiers (my father and all my uncles had seen action in World War II), playing football (poorly), playing basketball (with a little more flair, but if you ever meet me, you will see that this was not going to go anywhere). I had also been watching television.


All this ceased abruptly when I was sixteen. My family moved from Kilmarnock to a very small town called Newmilns and my father returned our old rented television (yes people rented televisions in those days!) and simply refused to buy a replacement. So I guess you are now thinking that this is the part of the story where I say… ‘And at this point, having been denied easy access to the mind-numbing so-called entertainment that is television I turned to reading, quickly devoured all the classics, and in so doing took the first steps on a path that would lead me to an academic career.’

Well I’m sorry to disappoint you, but this is not how the story goes. Truthfully I was miserable. My friends now lived miles away and the things that I would normally do to keep me occupied on a winter’s evening (watching television and road-running) were now no longer options (the roads in our little town were not lit). And in any case, the narrative of my transformation from viewer to reader fails because I had decided that I would like to become an academic two years previously!

So how did a boy from a working-class community, with no previous exposure to University study let alone academic careers, come to this decision aged fourteen? Well, the example set by some good teachers plainly helped. But the truth, as far as I am concerned, is that watching television improved my education. Watching really good television programmes had fuelled my curiosity, and it had begun to teach me that you could educate and entertain. Indeed television had taught me that education was pretty much impossible in the absence of an engaging narrative. It’s probably not surprising therefore that much of my research on the practices and processes of managing has focused upon storytelling.

So what’s my point? I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you feel that your background and biography somehow disqualify you from higher education, think again. I transitioned fairly quickly from not reading books to writing my own and there’s no reason why you can’t so the same.

The University of Suffolk is committed to supporting students from all backgrounds succeed in their chosen careers. Explore our range of degrees here. Professor David Collins is the Head of the Suffolk Business School, which offers undergraduate degrees in:

  • BA (Hons) Accounting and Financial Management
  • BA (Hons) Business Management
  • BA (Hons) Event Management
  • BA (Hons) Event Management and Tourism Management
  • BA (Hons) Tourism Management

We also offer postgraduate qualifications in:

  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • MSc Business and Management
  • PgD Human Resource Management
  • MSc Human Resource Management

University of Suffolk set to benefit from share of £2.8 million to develop innovations in learning and teaching

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has announced the projects it will be supporting from a broad range of higher education institutions and further education colleges across England, including from the University of Suffolk.

Sixty-seven universities and colleges were awarded up to £50,000 each from the Catalyst Fund to develop and evaluate innovations in learning and teaching, at either undergraduate or postgraduate taught level, working with specific cohorts of students. Projects will run for a period of 18 months and active student engagement is a key aspect in all projects. The projects address a wide variety of themes including: learning analytics, interdisciplinary learning, academic and employability skills, peer-assisted learning, assessment and student co-creation of learning resources.

The University of Suffolk’s project is called placementPAL (Peer Assisted Learning). The aim of this project is to enhance students’ effective and confident transition into work placements through timely and innovative ‘scaffolding’ of students’ learning. The project offers an exciting opportunity to deepen understanding of the ways in which students prepare for, and learn on placement, and how they learn to participate effectively in work-based contexts. The University will use this understanding to develop a sustainable web app called placementPAL. The app will deploy digital smartphone technologies to help students derive the greatest value from their work experiences.

Associate Professor and Quality Enhancement Manager at the University of Suffolk, Dr Christine Smith, said “We are delighted and excited to have this cross-institutional opportunity to look closely with our students at their transition into work placements and to explore an innovative way to better support those important opportunities for students to prepare for the world of work through the use of contemporary digital technology. We can anticipate the outputs of the project being of interest to all and any HE programmes/courses that feature a work placement element.”

“Transition from campus to practice placements can be quite stressful experiences for students. The app will act as an advanced aide-memoire to flexibly scaffold the application of subject knowledge, giving students confidence such as in using professional vocabulary, dealing with complex work problems, and nurturing a sense of legitimate participation in work-based practices.”

Dissemination of the project’s findings will include an open event, peer-reviewed journal articles and participation in HEFCE evaluation and dissemination activities.
A total of 139 bids were assessed, with advice from the Higher Education Academy, Jisc, and student representation, to ensure the selected projects would fully engage students in the innovation activities as leaders and co-creators. Projects were also chosen on the basis of demonstrating a clear and robust approach to project management, methodology and evaluation. HEFCE will work with the projects to support their networking, evaluation and dissemination, so that the innovations and lessons learnt are shared with other providers across the whole higher education sector.

HEFCE’s Chief Executive, Madeleine Atkins, said “We were delighted by the level of interest from universities and colleges in developing new ways of working and are pleased to be funding such an exciting range of learning and teaching innovations. We look forward to working with the project organisations to share the lessons across the sector.”

PlacementPAL is a joint project between the Suffolk Business School and the Department Of Health Sciences.

The project is recruiting a Research Assistant to help support the project, the deadline for applications for which is Thursday 15 December, 12:00. For more information, and to apply, please visit the University of Suffolk ‘Work at Suffolk’ page.


  • The projects have been funded by HEFCE’s Catalyst Fund, which aims to drive innovation in the higher education sector, enhance excellence and efficiency in higher education, and support innovative solutions. The projects reported here are funded under Call A of the ‘Innovations in learning and teaching, and addressing barriers to student success’ strand of the fund, detailed in HEFCE Circular letter 20/2016.
  • Funded projects.