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Resources for Engaging

There need to be employer organisations willing to offer projects and students who are motivated to undertake them.

The first step involved in arranging Work Based Projects is to engage both students and employer organisations with the concepts. Crucially, the expectations of all parties must be clear from the outset. Depending on the academic programme, the engagement stage usually takes place between late September and December, although this can be a flexible process.

In this section you will find information on:


Engaging employer organisations

This should be done as early as possible to ensure there is enough time to collect information, follow up any leads and refine project details.

  1. Identifying External employer Organisations
  2. Approaching Employer Organisations

When creating a list of people/organisations to approach the following should be considered:

  • Existing links the programme/school/college/ staff already have;
  • Existing links with other parts of the University (e.g. Careers Service);
  • Alumni contacts.

Other ways of finding suitable organisations:

  • Asking for recommendations from colleagues across the University (e.g. schools, careers services, alumni organisations, research & innovation units, student volunteering units etc.);
  • Asking students the type of organisations they would like to work with;
  • Encouraging students to source their own projects;
  • Contacting umbrella organisations such as the Chambers of Commerce or Scottish Enterprise;
  • Contacting sector bodies and sector skills councils (e.g. Energy Institute, Medical Research Council, Skills Development Scotland);
  • Contacting relevant research pools (e.g. SULSA, MASTS, SUPA);
  • Attending local networking events;
  • Utilising social media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter;
  • Hosting subject/sector/PGT themed events to network with external organisations;
  • Prospects Types of work section

In general, it is always better to have a named contact when approaching an employer organisation. Where there is an existing relationship, it is also important to know the history.

As part of initial contact (whether it is face to face, via email, post, telephone or at an event), some basic background material  such as the MMM information flyer should be given to make sure organisations are aware of the student learning outcomes for a masters project and the difference between a WBP and work experience placements. Background material may include an information letter with programme-specific details such as course content, project framework and timelines; and a Project Proposal Form. A list of previous project titles and case studies‌ of successful WBPs may be useful. 

  1. Negotiations
  2. Resources for Engaging With Employer Organisations

The WBP coordinator should make contact with the organisation at an early stage to refine the project into something relevant to all parties. When negotiating possible project ideas, keep in mind students’ interests and the required learning outcomes.

Topics which could be covered in initial discussions include:

There are many different ways to approach organisations. All methods require some kind of promotional material, which explains who you are, what you are offering, its value and how the organisation can engage with you. Such materials may take the form of:

Current law states that students working as part of a UK-based further or higher education course are not required to be paid if their placement with the organisation does not exceed one year.[1] However, it is important to emphasise that WBPs is not a way of organisations engaging with unpaid students and students’ learning outcomes are equally as important as organisations’ desired outputs. It is expected that an organisation covers all other work-related expenses.

Resources for Engaging With Employer Organisations

There are many different ways to approach organisations. All methods require some kind of promotional material, which explains who you are, what you are offering, its value and how the organisation can engage with you. Such materials may take the form of:

  • Speculative letters or emails;
  • Programme brochure;
  • Case studies of previous projects;
  • A list of previous projects.

Evidence from MMM has shown that different institutions and departments use different methodologies with varying results. The following poster, presented at the Scottish Enhancement Themes conference in June 2013, gives examples and outcomes from the three MMM partners. Following the poster are samples of material currently in use.

Engaging students

Engaging students in the concept of WBPs is equally as important as engaging organisations.

It is recommended that as a starting point, there should be a paragraph about WBPs in the programme and/or dissertation handbook with any relevant information about timelines, the process and assessment. This should also be covered as part of the programme induction.

Encouraging students to source projects

Students can be encouraged to source their own projects if they have existing links or there are organisations which they are especially keen to work with. However, it should be emphasised that the WBP coordinator should be kept informed of progress and all projects need to be approved before they can be undertaken. It is the responsibility of the WBP coordinator to ensure that any student sourced project meets the criteria required for a WBP. Quick Guides-Sourcing a WBP OLD, contains guidelines for sourcing projects in a format that can be given to students as a handout. Your careers service can also provide useful resources and support to students wishing to source their own project.


  • Give students a copy of Quick Guides-Sourcing a WBP OLD.
  • Provide students access to programme specific background material to pass on to organisations (see ‎Approaching Organisations);
  • Brief students on answers to common questions such as those relating to salary payment;
  • Ask students to check with the WBP coordinator before contacting any organisation to make sure that there is not an existing link;
  • Emphasise that students are contacting organisations on their own behalf and not on behalf of the University;
  • Encourage students to engage in the support and resources provided by your careers service.

Confirming and collating project opportunities

In order to facilitate the conversion of negotiations into a project proposal, it is recommended that organisations are given a project proposal form with an appropriate deadline for submission. An example of a template form can be found in Project Proposal Form. This is a basic skeleton and can be adapted to the needs of the programme. Organisations should be encouraged to provide as much detail as possible to ensure:

  • Any specific requirements are identified and noted such as a disclosure check or security clearance;
  • The proposal meets the academic criteria of the programme;
  • All responsibilities regarding travel/accommodation expenses are clear, if appropriate;
  • A main point of contact has been appointed within the organisation;
  • Agreement and a timeline of the next steps, especially in relation to student selection;
  • Issues relating to Intellectual Property (IP) and confidentiality have been adequately covered;
  • Any specific outputs required by the organisation (e.g. an executive summary) have been identified.

Keeping a record of communication

It is extremely useful if all information relating to WBPs is recorded and available for reporting in a manner which can be easily accessed and updated. This includes details of all organisations who have been contacted, not just those who offer projects, providing a reference for future years. By doing this:

  • Employers, projects and students can be easily linked;
  • All linked and relevant information is in one place, easily accessible by anyone who needs it;
  • Communication year on year is simpler as there is a full employer history outlining previous interactions;
  • Administration can be streamlined by ordering and sorting information using queries and reports;
  • Comparisons can be made between different years and programmes.


[2] Tier 4 Policy Guidance version 04/2013

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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