The following is a generic and simplified picture based on several individuals and various different organisations. Nor are these points fixed: I've observed a student moving from one position to the other during the year.
Closed system students
These tend to take a self-centred view of their placement year. 'It's all about me: my role, my aspirations, my portfolio'. They are focused, confident and assertive, and in the good times would probably be the first to succeed. But these are not good times, and their lack of awareness of the environment facing their employers (and their clients) can pose problems.
The tutor's role is to introduce a note of realism and to point out the dangers of having fixed ambitions in changing circumstances. These students need help seeing the bigger picture and recognising that their best long-term interest may be to get their heads down and show some adaptability. They often find this hard to to as it's at variance with their fixed view of their skills and capabilities.
Open system students
These students are outwardly much less confident of their abilities and have a more flexible view of their role in the placement organisation. This is proving useful in the current climate as they are capable of moving between roles: between pure public relations and marketing, admin, sales, or design activities.
In other words, they exhibit an ability to adapt to their environments – a good survival strategy.
The challenge facing the tutor is to help build their confidence since they lack a fixed view of their core competences. They also need help making the connection between their degree course (public relations) and the wider business role they're performing during their placement.