Student Consultancy Model
Industry and Community Partner
The University of Groningen, Netherlands
- Engaging multiple disciplines
- Co-designed with industry or community
- Investment elements
- Engages with SMEs
The key enablers include:
- Integrating the consultancy model into the curriculum as a credit-bearing elective unit.
- Linking the unit to the strategic direction of the university and securing senior management support.
- Ensuring the industry partners have buy-in, that there is something “at-stake” for them. They are financially committed to the project, and the projects must produce some “content,” that is, they cannot be theoretical in nature.
- The multidisciplinary approach benefits all stakeholders, students learn to work with other students who present different points of view related to their field of study, and the companies benefit from the various knowledge points the different students bring to the project.
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The Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Groningen, Netherlands, offer students the opportunity to provide small to medium enterprises (SME) consultancy services through an credit-bearing elective unit. All students within the Faculty can enrol in the unit, as well as students from other faculties including Law, Natural Sciences and Communications. This multidisciplinary approach means teams of students from various degrees are assigned to each SME. Further, there is a mix of postgraduate and undergraduate students in each team, with undergraduate students working as Junior Consultants.
In 2017, 200 students provided consultancy to 50 SME industry partners across the four semester year. The industry partners seeking consultancy are required to make a financial contribution as this ensures the industry partners, the university and the students are committed to working together to achieve the specified deliverables of the project. Regional authorities (local government/city council) also contributes financially to the program as part of their commitment to retaining talent and industry within the province.
Impact / outcomes
Students: the student consultancy unit helps students develop a range of skills. What students experience during the unit is that they can make an impact for the company they work with. They get access to management teams and senior professionals within the companies, and the opportunity to present their findings and recommendations to these senior figures. This experience builds students skills, knowledge base, abilities and confidence.
Industry Partners: the SME’s receiving the student consultancy mostly report positive experiences. They gain access to well-trained students who are guided by academics to provide solutions to problems within their company that they might not have the time, resources or expertise to address themselves.
Teaching Staff: the academics working on the consultancy model have actively chosen to be involved, it is not an additional requirement of their role. The consultancy unit provides them with the opportunity to work with motivated students and to engage with innovative enterprises.
Students are formally assessed by both the industry partner and an academic staff member. Students are required to submit a research report and an advise report to the host organisation as well as a reflection report detailing their learning experiences.
The student consultancy unit is evaluated using standard unit evaluation procedures at the University of Groningen.