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Experience of students in cooperative education – A case study of Singapore’s work-study degree programme
The increase in the number of adults returning to complete their university education as ‘non-traditional students’ brings more attention to the challenges of a standard degree format. This paper examines the experiences of seven non-traditional students undergoing a cooperative education programme in Singapore, where students would alternate spending a few days in a week at a university while working full-time for the remaining days, in relation to the challenges and opportunities of the programme. Using qualitative thematic analysis, we discovered four themes greatly affected by the programme design – motivations for enrolling, transferability of knowledge, work–study balance and coping mechanisms. Overall, some obstacles hindering adults from continuing education were addressed by this cooperative education programme. The strong integration of work and study roles ensured that adults did not need to leave their job before starting university, reducing time and money-related pressures while increasing their commitment level to education. Additionally, rigid institutional practices were mitigated by the flexibility given by teaching faculty and work supervisors. We suggested several improvements to better suit the rising number of adults wanting to attain a degree. With the research results and recommendations proposed herein, this paper is useful to various universities willing to adopt cooperative education.