Student's perceptions and experiences of co-operative education work programmes.
This study is intended as a contribution to the debate and quality assurance activity which in South Africa is following the South African Qualifications Authority's recommendations that better quality co-operative education work experience be provided for higher education students. This study focuses on the perceptions and experiences of a cohort of Durban Institute of Technology students involved in co-operative education work programmes. Through a process of random sampling twenty students each were selected from the faculties of Arts, Commerce, Engineering Science & Built Environment and Health Sciences. The students comprised both male and female students in various years of study. Questionnaires articulating the research enquiry as well as the purpose of the study and questions to be answered for the study were mailed individually to each selected student. Forty six of the total selected sample of students returned completed questionnaires. The instrument comprised open and closed ended questions. With the aid of a statistical database programme the data was analysed. Findings of the study indicated that students' perceptions and experiences vary from positive to negative. Issues of racial discrimination, inadequate or no salaries and lack of support from mentors and lecturers emerged as concerns articulated by many students. On the contrary students perceived themselves as the greatest beneficiaries of the work programmes. Students also noted the relevance and value of the work programmes in developing the students' and preparing them for the workplace. The recommendations for co-operative education practitioners, in terms of listening to the voices of the students' in this study, is invaluable.