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Supporting Students to Grow and Develop

What is a Work Based Project?

A Work Based Project (WBP) is a great opportunity to undertake an employer-defined project and to place what you have gained from your studies into a ‘real world’ setting. It is also an important step in your career development journey.

A WBP is a dissertation project that is undertaken with input from an external organisation such as a business, public sector or non-government organisation (NGO). WBPs may be based on site (you work at the organisation) or offsite (you are based at their university) or a mixture of the two. The WBP is typically proposed by the external organisation and a member of that organisation will act as a supervisor/mentor. An academic supervisor is compulsory to ensure the project is realistic and meets the academic requirements of a Masters dissertation project.

Why do a Work Based Project?

Undertaking a WBP has many potential benefits:

  • You will be working on a ‘real world’ project defined by the organisation’s business needs. This is likely to challenge and reward you and increase your motivation.
  • In addition to enhancing your specific skills (e.g. technical, intellectual), it also offers an opportunity to further develop your generic skills (e.g. communication, team working).
  • By working closely with an organisation you will be able to gain an insight into that organisation and the sector in which it operates.
  • This is an opportunity to refine your career plans - you could use the opportunity to network and raise your profile or to ‘try out’ a sector which is new to you.     
  • You will gain valuable experience in the workplace and of managing a project within it.
  • Completing a WBP will enhance your employability as well as provide you with material for your CV and to talk about in interviews.

See for more FAQs.

Before you begin your project:

Prior to beginning your project, it is a good idea to have worked out and agreed:

  • Your expectations and those of your host organisation and your academic supervisor.
  • Routes of communication between you, the host organisation and your university supervisor.
  • Everyone’s roles and who is responsible for what during the project.
  • What the final deliverables are and the deadlines.
  • Any specific requirements of your academic programme.

Using a Project Agreement is a good way to ensure these points have been addressed and documented should you need to refer back to anything at a later date.

During your project:

Taking action

  • Put your plans into action, learn about the industry and those who work there.
  • Build good networks and maintain them.
  • Consider how you can present the experience to potential employers.

Knowing yourself

  • Keep a record of what you are doing and have achieved – it will be very useful later when you present the experience to potential employers
  • What skills and experience do you bring to the project?
  • What are the areas you need to develop further?

Decision making

  • Given what you know about yourself and what you can gain from this opportunity where will you go next?
  • What goals will you set yourself and how do you plan to achieve them?

Knowing what’s available

  • Take every opportunity to talk to people and learn about their career path, the industry and organisation
  • Get involved while you are there, eg. shadow meetings
  • How can you use this time to enhance your employability?

Finishing your project:

  • Ensure you have completed everything you said you would and provide the organisation with a copy of your work and final report or dissertation.
  • Maintain the networks you have built up – share contact details and connect with colleagues via LinkedIn as these could be useful in the future.
  • Reflect, review and evaluate the project – how do you feel the project went, what would you do differently next time? What went well? (you could also ask your supervisors for input to this review as well).

Work Based Project Portfolio

Managing your relationship with your host organisation is critical to the success of your work based project and your overall dissertation.

Portfolios can be used as a means of documenting different phases of a work based project. This can encourage good time management; organisation and professionalism as well as ensuring key stages/forms are completed.

Can I arrange my own project?

This may be possible, it depends on your programme. In the first instance speak with your Programme Coordinator. If arranging your own project please refer to

Also included in the Student section of the Toolkit

Disclaimer: This toolkit has been developed based on the advice and guidance available at the time of publishing. Users of the toolkit should ensure that they are familiar with guidance and regulations in their own institution at that time. All resources can, and indeed should be tailored to meet the requirements of individual student groups. Your local Careers Service may be able to provide advice and guidance on this. Where material is adapted due credit should be given to the original authors, ie. Making the Most of Masters, by either maintaining the name, logos and watermarks or alternatively, by using the following text:

"This material has been adapted from resources produced by the Making the Most of Masters Project."

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