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An overseas education research officer from the Japanese government has visited the University of Chester to research the institution’s unique and internationally-recognised approach to work-based learning in Higher Education.

Yasumasa Shinohara, from the Japanese Ministry of Education (centre,) pictured with staff at the University of Chester, including Jeremy Peach, Director of Work Based Learning (to Yasumasa’s right) and, standing next to Jeremy, Dr Wendy Dossett.

Yasumasa Shinohara is a Senior Specialist in the Overseas Education Research Unit, which is part of the Lifelong Learning Policy Bureau at the Japanese Ministry of Education in Tokyo. His role involves monitoring British HE and advising colleagues within the Japanese government on educational policy and practice. 

The Japanese Ministry of Education is currently designing a more vocational style of higher education and considering how it can better develop students’ workplace skills. Yasumasa approached the University with a request to learn more about how Chester develops students and prepares them for the workplace through Work Based Learning (WBL), and to find out about the philosophy of WBL at the University. 

Yasumasa said: “The University of Chester’s Work Based Learning model gives the opportunity for work experience to students across the University, whatever subjects they learn. I know sandwich courses have been established in UK universities, however, my understanding is that there is no other university offering quite the same opportunity for undertaking work experience as a part of the academic curriculum, and requiring critical reflection upon that experience. The University of Chester is a leader in the field. Chester’s experience will inspire colleagues in Japan, who are working on improving the learning experience of students across the sector, as well as designing the curricula of newly-planned vocational universities.”

The WBL model at the University of Chester aims to:

  • provide an opportunity to explore graduate employment options;
  • help students gain experience and expertise in a particular role or occupation;
  • develop and apply key employability skills such as team-working, project management, decision-making and communication in a work setting;
  • provide opportunities to sample a possible future career;
  • help students reflect on what they learned from the experience. This is crucial, as it helps students gain more from the placement and better prepare them for a graduate job.

Employers report that some of the benefits include:

  • Students can dedicate their time to a project or area of work;
  • Obtaining fresh ideas and perspectives to working practices and challenges;
  • Assessing, developing and recruiting potential new members of staff;
  • Mentoring opportunities and development for their staff.

The visit was organised by Dr Wendy Dossett, Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University, who explained that Yasumasa was interested in her experiential module on Religious Education, as well as in the wider opportunities for experiential and work-based learning. She said: “A visit seemed the best way to facilitate a knowledge exchange. Chester colleagues were fascinated to learn about the priorities of, and the challenges facing, Japanese Higher Education.”

Jeremy Peach, Director of Work Based Learning at the University of Chester, added: “It has been an absolute pleasure for us to share our knowledge with the Ministry of Education in Tokyo through this visit. The renowned and highly unique Work Based Learning (WBL) module at the University of Chester has been successfully bringing student talent and businesses together for over 20 years. WBL forms part of students’ degree courses through a five week placement in their second year. This encourages the application of academic knowledge in the workplace, while enhancing personal and professional skills. It also provides students with credits towards their degree. The placement may take the form of a particular project or piece of research, or involve the student in the daily routine and running of an organisation or department.

“External examiners have described our WBL provision as exemplary and feedback from our students shows that they find it to be a worthwhile and enriching experience. To know, through Yasumasa, that it has an international reputation is extremely pleasing.”

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