Finding the right fit: Enhancing the academic-industry link in the sector for Nutrition undergraduates – a pilot study
Academic learning experience prepares students for professional life, enriches their scientific-evidence knowledge, whereas laboratory practicals upskill their experiences applying theory into “real world” scenarios. As most undergraduate programmes are not offering placement year, students rely heavily on their initiatives and networking to maximise their continuous professional development (CPD). This study evaluated the supporting mechanisms between academia and industry/ sector and examined staff and students’ perceptions of existing academia-industry collaborations. An online survey was designed to record perceptions of undergraduate’s nutrition students. This was followed by focus groups to establish students’ perceptions of the relevant professional organisations and their related experiences outside academia. Captured students’ feedback together with the nutrition teaching academics responses in individual semi-structured interviews have portrayed the current academic-industry links, the perceived challenges/barriers and probed sensible roadmap. Six themes uncovered the need for extra nutrition-related work experiences, while the students’ perceptions reflected their learning through course progression, awareness of external opportunities and underpinned that graduate readiness improved progressively with years spent in study. The Academics’ interviews recognized the limited academic-industry collaborations and underpinned many barriers faced; more “top-down” support was identified as a strategy to enhance external links. The study provides a clear lens into the present academic-industry links within the nutrition programmes and ascertained the perceived challenges experienced by students and academics. Collaborations and centralised university communications shall promote a better university experience. Equally, staff-student partnerships will facilitate a new approach to understand both staff and students’ perspectives and enhance learning experiences within the sector.
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