The three I’s of Westminster placements

I gave a talk today at the PSA/BISA 5th annual Learning and Teaching Conference, held at the Wilberforce Institute in Hull.  I was speaking on ‘Experience-based learning: The three I’s of Westminster placements’.   The Hull Westminster placement scheme has now been running for a quarter of a century – I see an anniversary celebration looming – and what I covered was the benefit derived by students from the scheme, in terms of knowledge, skills and personal development, and the three I’s essential to the success of the scheme: integration, induction, and investment.

A placement scheme needs to be integrated into the degree programme, with students utilising their campus-based scholarship to make sense of their Westminster experience and drawing on their roles as participant-observers to feed into their studies while on placement.  There has to be a process of induction, both in terms of substantive knowledge of the institution, and its place within the polity, and of process (knowing what to do and what is expected, getting to know the institution), which continues while on placement.  And there has to be an investment of resources, both in terms of academic and support staff, in order to ensure that the scheme works effectively.

Getting the process right is a demanding exercise, given that one is seeking to meet the needs of students, the university, the placement providers (parliamentarians) and funders (the student loan company).  After a quarter of a century, I think we have more or less got it right, but there’s always room for improvement.

When I first placed students, there were three.  This semester, there will be thirty-five.

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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5 Responses to The three I’s of Westminster placements

  1. I’ve just graduated from Nottingham’s Politics Department and I think we could learn a lot from Hull’s scheme. What graduation taught me was a degree – regardless of classification achieved – means very little on its own with employers demanding the one thing a graduate has little of – experience!

    Without an internship under your belt you will struggle to even get an interview for a Parliamentary Assistant/Researcher role working for an MP. Hull’s scheme appears to give you that vital initial experience.I’m currently interning for a Labour MP in Portcullis House something I found incredibly difficult to obtain in itself. Had I participated in something like the WHIP scheme I would have been ‘work-ready’ the day I graduated.

    • Lord Norton says:

      DanielCooper: Many thanks for that. Work experience at Westminster – apart from being intrinsically fascinating – does indeed deliver various skills that exployers want. We know from surveying our students that the principal skills they acquire or develop are those of time management, oral and written communications, and dealing with others. It also contributes enormously to self development, especially self-confidence. As you say, our graduates are as a result ‘work ready’.

  2. ladytizzy says:

    A bit like McDonald’s, then?

    (For once this year, I wanted to remember the whole experience of a bitchin’ commenter.)

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