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  PT professional training year     PT year in Chemistry     How does it work?     Why go on a pt placement?
PT professional training year

The University of Surrey is a pioneer in the field of work-based learning and can now claim to have more than 40 years of experience in operating undergraduate degree programs in collaboration with industry or professional bodies.

At least 80% of our undergraduate students, across all academic disciplines, complete a Professional Training (PT) year as part of their degree -the highest proportion of any UK university.

For the majority of students this is a 12-month placement spent in the third year of a four-year undergraduate degree. Most are paid a salary by their employer (about two thirds that of a graduate salary).

PT year IN Chemistry

Chemical Sciences (Faculty of Health and Medical Scienes - FHMS)) at the University of Surrey places about 40 to 60 students (around 90% of our undergraduates) per year. Students undertaking an MChem degree program focus on a placement involving industrial research whilst BSc (Hons) students obtain experience of a wide range of work-place activities. Students work at many different chemical companies, ranging from major multi-national to local analytical or forensic laboratories. More than 10 students are placed in European and Worldwide chemical companies for 12 months or more. This enables the students to enhance their chemical knowledge and put into practice their academic experience in a work-based environment.

Over 85 companies are listed for potential placements covering industrial, pharmaceutical, computational, analytical, environmental, forensic, management and language-based chemical opportunities.

The placement programme is a partnership between the University and the company, such that they work together with the students' chemical training and development in mind. In this context, students on placement are under the guidance of an industrial supervisor and receive, at least three visits by a University chemistry tutor. During these visits the tutor reviews the conditions of the placement, including the workplace activities the student is involved in (generally through a formal oral presentation and laboratory tour by the student) and the company's satisfaction with the students performance. Such a system enables a continuous monitoring of the student placement at the PT workplace (by both the industrial supervisor and the visiting academic tutor). In this manner, problems can be quickly resolved and a student's performance adjusted so that individual interests, academic strengths and career ambitions correspond to both the student and employer requirements.

How does it work?

The Professional Training (PT) scheme in Chemistry is closely linked to the academic programme during the first two years of study. Specialist modules in Scientific Communication are undertaken to develop the student's oral and written presentation skills and personal development. At the beginning of the second year the senior tutor interviews all students wishing to take a PT placement (and who have satisfied the BSc (Hons) or MChem degree regulations). Placements are found through a university supported system whereby both the Senior Tutor and PT Secretary help the student in contacting a company, arranging interviews and completing contacts. This enables the tutor to direct the student into an area that corresponds to individual interests, academic strengths and/or career ambitions. Students work through their placement under the guidance of an industrial supervisor. Many students want to have a placement in the UK close to their family home or the university. Some students go on placement in Europe where they can benefit from the opportunity to work in a company using a foreign language and experience living in a different cultural environment. Placements abroad (Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, USA, etc.) are normally based on an international cooperative student exchange programme whereby an overseas university and an experienced senior tutor coordinates the local requirements (work permits, accommodations, visits, assessments, etc).

Students start their placements around June to finish it in September after a work-based period of 12 to 15 months.

The placement counts as part of the degree. In the case of students completing a placement for

  • MChem: leads to 30 P- credits and 80 M-credits of the degree awarded.
  • BSc (Hons): 120 P-credits leading to the award of a diploma, the Associateship of the University of Surrey (AUS). This diploma is awarded along with the degree certificate.
Why go on a PT placement?

The main reasons why most of our undergraduates in Chemistry undertake a 12-month placement are:

  • to apply theoretical and practical chemistry in a "real" working environment;
  • to discover, in a working context, what areas may be pursued for a potential future career;
  • to have access to state-of-the-art technology in industry (specially for computer aided, forensic, medicinal and analytical);
  • to develop their personal self-confidence, independence and maturity;
  • to earn a salary;
  • to live and work abroad and thereby develop both a foreign language and experience another culture;
  • to be known and assessed by a company that might become their employer or offer references for job application. After graduation 15 to 20% of our students take up permanent employment with their placement companies, or 40% with companies which offer placements.

Most of our students feel that this type of work-based learning or co-operative education experience is "fantastic" and provides the opportunity to develop academic and future career competencies along with broadening their personal and cultural frame of mind.


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