An interview with Surrey Business School’s Paul Schoonenberg

NEWS January 22, 2019

A postgraduate placement scheme has recently been introduced to benefit businesses willing to take on students, many of which come with vast expertise, to support the UK economy. We spoke to Paul to discover more about how the scheme works and how Surrey Research Park tenant companies might be able to take part.

Could you tell us a little bit about the postgraduate placement scheme?

The postgraduate placement scheme provides opportunities to businesses by offering access to our pool of outstanding Master’s level talent at Surrey Business School. We have recently introduced a 3-6-month placement to five key MSc programmes. Our students bring expertise from five core business areas with placements taking place from July to December each year. The scheme builds on over 40 years of University of Surrey placements success, ensuring that businesses benefit from working with vibrant talent from across the globe.

How can the scheme benefit Surrey Research Park businesses?

The proximity of Surrey Business School to the Research Park ensures a readily available pipeline of talent from across our MSc programmes for Park tenants. Students have skills across areas as diverse as business analytics, human resource management, operations and digital supply chain, retail and marketing. Surrey MSc students are not only graduates, but many also have existing work experience to bring to businesses, allied to specialist skills and learning from their programmes. The placement approach ensures flexibility for businesses, while at the same time provides sufficient time to ensure meaningful outcomes for both students and participating businesses.

What skills, abilities and benefits can the students bring to Research Park businesses in particular?

Surrey Business School’s students bring a wide mix of skills to participating companies. This includes an international mindset, problem solving skills and the ability to work across a wide range of business critical areas. Companies can look to select from specialised programmes, benefitting from the updated knowledge that students have in areas as diverse as supply chain, human resources or marketing. Many of our students are fluent in a number of languages, which is of great benefit for companies seeking to expend into new geographical markets.

How does the placement opportunity benefit the students and add to the Surrey business advantage?

As a business school focused on employability of our graduates, we are committed to ensuring that students have the best opportunities available to grow their professional competencies during their transformational period of study at University of Surrey. A period of work experience in a targeted area has enormous benefits for students in developing workplace skills, which will be essential as they develop their careers. Bringing their specialist knowledge to the advantage of participating businesses also ensures that companies benefit from the latest business thinking and that students are applying that thinking to live business challenges.

Is there the potential to work together further once the student has completed their post graduate study?

We welcome companies that wish to maintain the working relationship with students, whether that be through further work experience opportunities or full-time employment. Likewise, in many cases, businesses decide to come back to the Business School to work with our students again.

Can you give us some details and illustrations of successful postgraduate student/ business placements?

Although this is the first year, we have introduced postgraduate placements, the University can draw from various placement successes with local, national and international businesses. Many University of Surrey graduates have started successful careers as a result of placements during their studies. Shorter postgraduate placements provide an opportunity for genuine impact for participating businesses, given the specialised nature of the students and their international outlook. Already, students have secured postgraduate placements with businesses within sectors such as pharmaceuticals, hospitality, catering and professional services. As the scheme develops, we look forward to welcoming companies from across a wide range of industries.

University placements in action

The University of Surrey has a longstanding history in working to provide businesses with graduates for placements. The opportunities not only provide the initial experience for both parties but also leave the door open for further collaboration between the companies and the University.

“Over the years we have built a close working relationship with the University of Surrey,” says Enterprise Rent-A-Car. “Services that the university provide have allowed Enterprise Rent-A-Car to recruit top quality graduates with proven academic ability tied in with the necessary soft skills that are required to be successful in business.”

“The countless opportunities available over my placement have allowed me to branch out and have given me a real understanding of specific areas,” said Gareth Wardhaugh, a Professional Training student who completed his placement at IBM.

For more information on how to get involved with the postgraduate placement scheme, please contact Paul on