Research Output
An investigation of university and employer perceptions of barriers and enablers of work based learning (WBL) partnerships in the tourism sector in Scotland
  The purpose of this study is to enhance understanding of how universities and employers in the Scottish tourism sector collaborate when developing work based learning (WBL) partnerships and the associated barriers and enablers. The findings aim to inform practice on how collaboration in this area can be enhanced.
The impetus for the research arose from the requirement for universities to develop and enhance links with industry, in line with government policies linked to driving graduate employability. WBL is identified as having a key influence on how well graduates are prepared for the world of work. Consequently, effective university/industry WBL partnerships are essential in providing opportunities for university students to develop their employability skills in order to enhance their future graduate employment prospects. The issue of university/industry partnerships is documented in academic literature; however, there is a lack of research with a focus on the particular and complex characteristics of WBL partnerships. Furthermore, this issue in relation to the tourism sector is not well represented in the literature.
The study adopted an interpretivist ontology and an epistemology of phenomenology. A purposive sampling approach was undertaken to identify employees with responsibility for industry liaison in Scottish universities who offer Tourism and Hospitality degree programmes with a WBL offering. This approach was also adopted to select employers from the Scottish tourism sector with experience of developing WBL linkages with Scottish universities.
In-depth semi-structured interviews enabled respondents to provide detailed accounts of their experiences of how WBL partnerships are developed and managed around the themes drawn from the literature: characteristics of successful university-employer partnerships; employer engagement in the WBL relationship; barriers to achieving effective employer/university partnerships; expectations; enablers of positive university/employer relationships and best practice in university/employer relationships.
The main output from this research is a practice- based framework which outlines key elements for effective relationship management of WBL. The framework provides universities and employers with valuable guidelines on how their practice in this area may be enhanced. Key findings indicate the need for an increased level of priority for developing WBL partnerships with clear aims and objectives to be established at the outset; enhanced communication between universities and employers; additional resources for universities in terms of staffing and funding and more flexible WBL opportunities to meet the needs of employers. For employers in the tourism sector, it was found that a more proactive approach to WBL partnerships may be beneficial as part of their recruitment and retention strategies.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    01 July 2020

  • Publication Status:


  • DOI:


  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Waterston, L. An investigation of university and employer perceptions of barriers and enablers of work based learning (WBL) partnerships in the tourism sector in Scotland. (Thesis). Edinburgh Napier University. Retrieved from



work based learning (WBL) partnerships; universities; employers; tourism sector; Scotland

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