Work Integrated Learning

An educational approach involving three parties – the student, educational institution, and an external stakeholder

Benefits of WIL Challenges of WIL Guiding Principles of WIL
3 scenes of students in placement work including health and early childhood,

The Southern Cross University Work Integrated Learning (WIL) Framework provides guidance and assistance to staff involved in the design, delivery, administration, and evaluation of WIL. This framework is grounded in the principles of quality assurance in WIL as outlined by the Australian Collaborative Education Network (ACEN) and aligns with TEQSA's WIL Guidance Note. It includes a definition of WIL, an overview of different types of this pedagogical approach, insights into its benefits and challenges, and details on the corresponding WIL Procedure and resources.

What is WIL?

WIL is defined as:

An educational approach involving three parties – the student, educational institution, and an external stakeholder – consisting of authentic work-focused experiences as an intentional component of the curriculum. Students learn through active engagement in purposeful work tasks, which enable the integration of theory with meaningful practice that is relevant to the students’ discipline of study and/or professional development (Zegwaard et al., 2023, p. 38).

The roles and responsibilities of the three WIL parties are outlined in the WIL Procedure.

Work Integrated Learning (WIL) encompasses various approaches that integrate academic learning with practical workplace experiences. Common types of WIL offered by Southern Cross University include:

  • Internships: Structured, supervised work experiences related to a student's field of study
  • Practicums or Field Placements: Short-term, supervised work experiences that provide practical exposure to a specific profession or industry.
  • Clinical Placements: Applied learning experiences in healthcare settings, allowing students to gain hands-on experience in medical, nursing, or allied health fields.
  • Industry Projects: Collaborative projects with external organisations or businesses, where students work on real-world problems or assignments as part of their coursework.
  • Service Learning: Integrating community service with academic learning, allowing students to apply their skills and knowledge to address community needs.
  • Simulations and Case Studies: Virtual or simulated scenarios that replicate real-world work situations, providing a controlled environment for learning and problem-solving.
  • Work-Based Research: Students engage in research projects or studies within a workplace setting, applying academic research skills to practical situations.
  • Entrepreneurship Programs: Initiatives that involve students in creating and developing their own business ventures or projects, fostering an entrepreneurial mindset.

SCU Faculties and Colleges take different WIL approaches to integrate learning with practical experience, in accordance with discipline specific contexts and requirements, however the focus for WIL at SCU is to ensure authentic activities.  

WIL activities can be classified according to authenticity (where activities resemble professional practice) and proximity (occurring in the workplace or with practitioners) (Kaider, Hains-Wesson & Young 2017). Download PDF of figure below

WIL figure see accompanying PDF for details


These types of WIL offer diverse opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience, apply theoretical knowledge in practical settings, and enhance their employability skills.

Work Integrated Learning (WIL) offers numerous benefits to students, universities, and employers. Some key advantages include:

  1. Enhanced Employability Skills: WIL provides students with practical experience, allowing them to develop and hone essential skills such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and adaptability, making them more attractive to employers.
  2. Real-world Application of Knowledge: Students can apply theoretical concepts learned in the classroom to real-world situations, reinforcing their understanding and bridging the gap between academic learning and practical skills.
  3. Industry Connections: WIL programs often involve collaboration with employers and industry professionals, creating valuable networking opportunities for students and increasing their chances of securing employment after graduation.
  4. Improved Job Readiness: By gaining hands-on experience in a workplace setting, students become better prepared for the demands of the job market, understanding industry expectations and workplace dynamics.
  5. Increased Confidence and Independence: WIL experiences empower students to take initiative, make decisions, and work independently, fostering confidence and a sense of autonomy.
  6. Exposure to Diverse Work Environments: Students gain exposure to various industries, job roles, and workplace cultures, helping them make more informed career decisions and adapt to different professional settings.
  7. Positive Impact on Academic Performance: Research indicates that students engaged in WIL often exhibit improved academic performance, as the practical application of knowledge enhances understanding and retention.
  8. Professional Development: WIL provides opportunities for students to develop a professional identity, understand ethical considerations in the workplace, and learn about industry-specific practices and standards.
  9. Soft Skills Development: WIL experiences contribute to the development of soft skills, such as interpersonal skills, time management, and critical thinking, which are highly valued in the workplace.
  10. Contributions to Innovation: Students involved in WIL may bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to workplaces, contributing to the growth and development of businesses and industries.
  11. Institutional Reputation: Successful WIL programs enhance the reputation of universities by showcasing their commitment to producing graduates with practical skills and industry relevance.

While Work Integrated Learning (WIL) offers significant benefits, there are also challenges associated with its implementation. Some common challenges include:

  1. Coordination and Logistics: Coordinating WIL experiences, such as internships or placements, can be logistically challenging, requiring effective communication and collaboration between educational institutions and host organisations.
  2. Matching Students with Suitable Opportunities: Ensuring that students are matched with WIL opportunities that align with their academic goals and interests, as well as the requirements of the workplace, can be a complex task.
  3. Resource Constraints: Universities and employers may face resource limitations, such as insufficient funding, staff, or facilities, which can impact the quality and scale of WIL programs.
  4. Assessment and Evaluation: Determining appropriate and fair methods of assessing students' performance during WIL experiences can be challenging, as traditional assessment methods may not always be applicable in workplace settings.
  5. Equity and Access: Providing equal access to WIL opportunities for all students, regardless of socio-economic background or personal circumstances, can be a challenge. Some students may face barriers, such as financial constraints or geographic location.
  6. Quality Assurance: Maintaining consistent quality in WIL experiences across diverse workplaces and industries can be challenging. Ensuring that all students receive meaningful and relevant learning experiences requires ongoing monitoring and evaluation.
  7. Employer Engagement: Establishing and maintaining partnerships with a variety of employers can be challenging, especially in industries with limited opportunities for WIL or where employers may be hesitant to participate.
  8. Duration and Timing: Aligning the timing and duration of WIL experiences with academic schedules and the needs of employers can be complex. Balancing the length of placements with academic requirements is crucial for a successful integration.
  9. Student Preparedness: Some students may not be adequately prepared for the expectations and demands of a workplace environment, requiring additional support and guidance to maximise the learning experience.
  10. Legal and Ethical Considerations: Navigating legal and ethical issues, such as confidentiality, liability, and compliance with workplace regulations, can be challenging for both educational institutions and host organizations.
WIL Business student with briefcase standing out the front of highrise building

The following domains and standards aim to realise the WIL benefits and address WIL challenges to ensure the provision of high quality WIL experiences directed and supported by Southern Cross University.

Guiding Principles of WIL

WIL is recognised as a complex pedagogical approach consisting of four domains of practice. Each domain requires consideration prior to, during and after a WIL experience (Campbell et al. 2019).

At Southern Cross University we are committed to providing safe environments for all of our stakeholders. As such, we explicitly incorporate the criterion of safety in Student Experience and Stakeholder Agreement domains.

Domains Guiding Principles
Student Experience A quality WIL experience should provide students with a scaffolded, connected, safe and supported pedagogical experience.
Curriculum Design A quality WIL curriculum should contain embedded accessible and transformative learning and assessment within an intended and enacted curriculum. 
Institutional Requirements  Quality WIL activity across institutions should be evidenced by the proper management and reporting around WIL experiences supporting continual improvement. 
Stakeholder Agreement Quality WIL experiences are supported by safe engagement, connection and responsiveness to the dynamic expectations of diverse stakeholders (industry, community, government, higher education sector, professional bodies, and students). 

Guiding principle Before During After
A quality WIL experience should provide students with a scaffolded, connected, safe and supported pedagogical experience. Standard 1.1 Ensure student readiness and preparation for learning in the workplace context.
Standard 1.2 Student WIL experiences are connected to prior and future learning and work.
Standard 1.3 Student WIL experiences align with their learning goals and capabilities.
Standard 1.4 Student WIL experiences are safe and supportive.
Standard 1.5 Student WIL experiences offer scaffolded learning opportunities.
Standard 1.6 Support and guidance is provided for students within the WIL experience.
Standard 1.7 Students receive,
use, and provide feedback on WIL experience to ensure progress towards learning goals.

Guiding principle Before During After
A quality WIL curriculum should contain embedded, accessible and transformative learning and assessment within an intended and enacted curriculum. Standard 2.1 WIL experiences are embedded through a whole of qualification curriculum design underpinned by current research and scholarship.
Standard 2.2 Students and industry are partners in the design of WIL curriculum.
Standard 2.3 WIL curriculum design reflects professional accreditation requirements and ongoing career and employability development.
Standard 2.4 WIL curriculum design provides inclusive, equitable and accessible experiences.
Standard 2.5 WIL assessment design is supported by authentic tasks, aligned with learning goals and graduate outcomes.
Standard 2.6 Student learning gains are measurable against intended outcomes.
Standard 2.7 Benchmarking of WIL assessment and identification of areas for improvement.

Guiding principle Before During After
Quality WIL activity across institutions should be evidenced by the proper management of staff, risk management and reporting around WIL experience. Standard 3.1 Institutions have
shared goals, policies, principles and values about WIL.
Standard 3.2 Institutions have
identifiable leadership and
governance structures for WIL.
Standard 3.3 WIL is supported
by adequate and effective IT and
administrative systems.
Standard 3.4 Institutions provide
targeted professional development for academic and professional staff, and industry and community partners.
Standard 3.5 Enacted legal and
risk management frameworks,
compliance procedures and
Standard 3.6 Provision of funding, resourcing, support, and recognition necessary to achieve WIL strategic goals.
Standard 3.7 Evaluation and tracking of short to long-term WIL outcomes for continuous quality improvement.

Guiding principle Before During After
Quality WIL experiences are supported by safe engagement, connection and responsiveness to the dynamic expectations of diverse stakeholders (industry, community, government, higher education sector, professional bodies, students). Standard 4.1 Diverse stakeholders are active participants across WIL activities.
Standard 4.2 Partner sites are
reviewed for health and safety, and suitability for WIL activities.
Standard 4.3 Institution has effective policies and procedures in place for ongoing quality assurance of stakeholders including partner agreements, financial arrangements, and supervision quality.
Standard 4.4 Institutions undertake site contact and stakeholder communication.
Standard 4.5 Effective and sustainable relationship management including appropriate communication, reward and recognition.
Standard 4.6 Partnership arrangements are regularly reviewed.

WIL Contacts and Resources

Key Contacts

NB: Southern Cross University is an institutional member of the Australian Collaborative Education Network (ACEN). All staff are encouraged to join, using our institutional membership, to receive regular updates regarding WIL related events and professional development opportunities offered by ACEN.

GenAI (CoPilot) was used to draft components of this webpage.


Campbell, M., Russell, L., McAllister, L., Smith, L., Tunny, R., Thomson, K., & Barrett, M. (2019). A framework to support assurance of institution-wide quality in work-integrated learning. Final report. Adelaide, Australia: Australian Collaborative Education Network (ACEN).

Kaider, F., Hains-Wesson, R., & Young, K. (2017). Practical typology of authentic work-integrated learning activities and assessments. Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education, 18(2), 153-165.

Zegwaard, K. E., Pretti, T. J., Rowe, A. D., & Ferns, S. J. (2023, p. 38). Defining work-integrated learning. In K. E. Zegwaard & T. J. Pretti (Eds.), The Routledge international handbook of work-integrated learning (3rd ed., pp. 29-48). Routledge.