To be a department of high repute with regard to research, application and transmission of knowledge in social sciences to promote social development.

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The role of higher education in economic growth and social and political development cannot be gainsaid. To this end, governments have invested heavily in education. However, for this investment to bear fruit, institutions of higher learning need to position themselves at the cutting edge of knowledge generation, dissemination and training through collaboration with stakeholders in the industry. In this way universities can effectively produce graduates who are relevant in the world of work. It has been observed that since the 1980s, the higher education system in most African countries has become more unsuited to the rapidly changing sociocultural, economic and technological needs of society. Previous studies have focussed either on students’ views or agency views. This inquiry is more holistic as in focusses on students, lecturers and agency managers.

Using the microcosm of the field placement programme for Social work students, this study sought to investigate the effectiveness of the field placement program undertaken by social work students and the extent to which it provides students with the requisite skills and knowledge to perform in the labour market.

Data was collected from third level undergraduate and Diploma students. This was supplemented by key informant discussions with lecturers and agency managers. A total of 17 employment agencies were surveyed.

The study findings show that field work placement is an important and integral part of the social work training program and has the potential to provide students with the opportunity to link theory to practice as it keeps students abreast with the requirements and expectations as well as the changing and emerging trends in the industry. However, as currently administered the social work programme is rather unstructured, uncoordinated and unregulated that its impact and effectiveness cannot possibly be evaluated with any certainty.

The study makes a raft of recommendations to make the programme more effective including engaging stakeholders in the industry in field placement, and restructuring and regulating the administration and supervision of the programme.