Work-integrated Learning and the 'Inclusive' Challenge of Preparing a Diverse Student Cohort for the World Beyond the Academy

Jacqueline MACKAWAY
Macquarie University, Australia

Macquarie University, Australia

Macquarie University, Australia


Universities are making increasing use of work-integrated learning (WIL) to meet the demands of government and industry for more and better educated graduates. More recently concerns regarding inclusive practice in WIL have been raised, with questions asked as to whether all students can access and successfully participate in this type of learning. This paper presents findings from a study in one Australian university, which sought to better understand which students are potentially disadvantaged by the placement model of WIL, how disadvantage is experienced by the involved stakeholders (students, host supervisors, academics and professional staff), and what can be done to enable better access and participation in WIL. Findings reveal a variety of multifaceted, and often "invisible", student-centered factors which have significant influence over which students are at risk in terms of exclusion from placements, and how the experience of access and equity manifests itself for each of the stakeholders. The study suggests a range of strategies utilised by stakeholders to address the challenge of finding a placement for all students, and also draws attention to the "wicked problems" which further complicate issues of access and equity in WIL.

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