A sandwich course isn’t a tasty ham and cheese concoction; it doesn’t taste better buttered; and it almost always comes without mayo. A sandwich course is a (completely non-edible) three, four or five year undergraduate degree with a work placement integrated into the course.
What is a sandwich course?
The name derives from the fact that the course includes a placement year which is ‘sandwiched’ in the middle of the degree.
Sandwich courses are more common amongst business-related subjects, but can also be found in a variety of other subjects, such as engineering, computer science, maths and a handful of humanities disciplines. Some companies run sandwich courses in partnership with universities, where the placement year is spent working at that specific company.
You can also get ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ sandwich courses. Imagine thickly cut slices of ‘giraffe’ bread with lashings of mustard and beef, compared to dainty cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Actually don’t. Essentially, the difference is that ‘thin’ courses tend to involve shorter work placements (i.e. between two and six months), while ‘thick’ courses incorporate a placement that lasts the whole year.
Advantages of a sandwich course
- The most obvious advantage is that you get to do a placement with a company, build up your work experience, enhance your employability, and establish contacts in your chosen industry.
- Research conducted by ASET showed that students on sandwich degrees were more likely to achieve a better grade in their degree than non-placement students; perhaps due to the 'increased confidence, motivation and professionalism' engendered by the placement.
- You’ll either get a tuition fee waiver or a reduction in your tuition fees during your placement year. Unfortunately, you aren’t legally entitled to payment during your placement. However, plenty of companies do pay their placement students, even if it’s only usually between £10,000 and £17,000 a year.
- Some sandwich courses are run by companies in partnership with a university. You’ll get to do placements at that specific company and it’ll increase your chances of getting a job with them when you graduate. Of course, you’ll need to make sure you’re interested in working for the company in the first place.
Disadvantages of a sandwich course
- One disadvantage of sandwich courses is that they are dominated by business, engineering and science subjects. Consequently, tons of students don’t get the same opportunity to boost their employability.
- Sandwich courses are not offered by every university in the UK. Consequently, there are a limited number of options to choose from.
- An alternative option would be to check out if you can do an Erasmus work placement as part of your course, as more universities will offer this opportunity.
- Often the responsibility to get a placement lies solely with the student. Therefore, making all of the necessary arrangements can be stressful.
- There's also the slightly more 'soft' disadvantage in that a sandwich course puts you a year out of sync with many of your friends at university who are on three-year courses, which makes life a little bit tougher in your 'fourth' year.