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C. Project aim, objectives and methods


The aim of the project is to improve student retention in pre-registration therapeutic radiography programmes. Its goals are:

  • to reduce attrition during the first year of study from academic year 2013/14;
  • to achieve a year on year improvement in student retention from 2014;
  • to produce an increase in students’ satisfaction with their practice placement experience as reported in the 2013 Society and College of Radiographers’ student survey.


The nature of the study was an audit of current practices and perceptions of those practices in practice learning placements in radiotherapy centres in England.  Face to face meetings with radiotherapy service staff were held. As such, the study was categorised as part service evaluation and part audit.  Accordingly, there was no requirement for it to be scrutinised by a UK Research Ethics Committee. Nevertheless, the study was carried out such that the rights, safety, dignity and well-being of all participants in the study were upheld.


A mixed methodology comprising quantitative and qualitative data gathering with a range of stakeholders, including radiotherapy service managers (RSMs), education providers and current students, was developed with the following objectives:

  • to evaluate compliance with a range of nationally recognised quality standards5,6,7,8 for placement learning by Radiotherapy Departments in England;
  • to gain an understanding of the drivers and barriers impacting on placement quality and the student experience;
  • to propose actions for improvement.


Between April and October 2012, data was collected and triangulated from the following sources:

  • online audit of radiotherapy service managers in England to assess compliance with nationally recognised quality standards, using Survey Monkey™ (N=50);
  • visits to 10 radiotherapy centres, 20% of the sample, to verify and validate compliance by testing selected evidence, clarifying responses and interviewing an opportunistic range of staff and students;
  • telephone interviews with HEI leads for pre-registration programmes (N=10);
  • a dissemination workshop for radiotherapy service managers, radiotherapy centre leads for student education and HEI programme leaders;
  • student conference for cohort representatives from all pre-registration programmes offered by HEIs.


At each stage, data was summarised, analysed and returned to the participants for verification and validation. Seven substantive themes emerged; Managing Placement Capacity, Ensuring Effective Partnership Working with the HEI, Promoting Security and Belonging, Selection and Preparation of Students, Student Support and Assessment, Creating a Stronger Learning Culture in Departments and Managing Staff and Student Expectations.


Overall compliance with standards for placement learning have been RAG-rated (red, amber, green rated) and further analysis undertaken to produce a table demonstrating the mean score by theme for each Radiotherapy Centre in England. This is appended to this summary. Please note: the raw data in this table was provided by individual Radiotherapy Service Managers and represents their perceptions of compliance with the audit statements.


From the themes, initial draft recommendations were developed at the dissemination workshop and validated subsequently with all stakeholders. These were further refined at the student conference and considered by the Project Manager and Steering Group in order to develop robust and comprehensive recommendations.

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