Three’s a Crowd: Does including an employer in the learning relationship affect learner freedom?

Stephanie Meyer

University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Carmarthen Campus, Carmarthen SA31 3EP;

5th May 2017


The traditional learning relationship exists between two parties: the learner and the learning institution. Work-based learning is unique in that it brings a third actor, the learner’s employer, into the relationship. This study has examined the ways in which introducing an employer (third actor) affects learners’ engagement with their education, focusing on their perceptions of freedom, control, agency, value, ownership, and choice within their studies. The study draws from several areas of Higher Education Research – learner engagement theory and its applications to programme design, the nature of the learning relationship between HEIs and mature students, and the relatively new field of work-based learning at HE level – and has utilised student voices from both work-based learning and more traditional HE studies to make progress in designing and implementing work-based learning in ways that are effective and engaging, meeting the needs of students as well as HEIs and employers.