Vacations and Vocations: Learning from Our Students’ Summer Experience Survey

Vacations and Vocations: Learning from Our Students’ Summer Experience Survey

Picture of Dr Joy Perkins, Rhona Gibson and Dr Zac Hickman

Anecdotal evidence suggests that there are many ways students enhance their employability during the summer vacation period. To discover more about students’ summer activities, and to broaden our knowledge regarding the learning potential from students’ summer endeavours, Careers Service-led research was carried out.

Dr Joy Perkins, Rhona Gibson and Dr Zac Hickman from the Careers and Employability Service report on the findings from this investigation. 


To develop staff understanding of the diverse range of summer activities which are available to students, a survey was devised to address the following questions:

  • What types of summer activities do our students undertake?
  • What employability benefits do students perceive they gain from their summer activities?
  • How do students source their summer opportunities?
  • What institutional provision is needed to help students understand the significance and value of their summer experiences?

To explore students’ attitudes, experiences and perceptions from their summer activities a mixed method research approach was used to gather both quantitative and qualitative data. Five broad summer activity themes (student engagement, opportunity sources & activity analysis, impact, barriers & challenges and institutional recognition) were utilised to collect data via an online survey, focus groups and student-authored vignettes.


Research findings have:

  • Provided benchmark information to use with academic Schools to offer more tailored employability support.
  • Offered insights regarding the challenges students can encounter in securing and undertaking summer activities.
  • Confirmed interest in establishing a credit-bearing course to recognise students’ wider learning.

“It is a really thin line – enhance my chances of employment or focus on my course to get good grades.”

3rd Year Student, School of Social Science


Drawing on the principal findings of the project, has enabled a new academic employability course to be developed. This 15 credit, Work-Related Learning course provides structured reflection opportunities for third year students to analyse their summer learning and skills development.