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HEFCE commissioned Oakleigh Consulting and the Careers Research Advisory Centre to undertake a research project to evaluate opportunities for higher education (HE) students to undertake high-quality work experience and to recommend how these can be increased. The research investigated how HE and its partners can increase the uptake of high-quality work experience by students and graduates, including broadening the range of employers that offer placement opportunities. The report also examines the early impact and outcomes of the HEFCE-funded graduate and undergraduate internships with professional organisations during 2010-11, which were initiated in response to the recession and the then Government’s work on access to the professions.

The report finds that:

  • Both schemes increased the total number of internship opportunities available.
  • The schemes widened the range of graduates and students applying for internships.
  • Both schemes increased the number of employers engaging with HE.
  • There was no evidence of overlap or substitution with other internship offers.
  • Students and graduates reported strong development of employability skills and an increase in confidence directly attributable to their internship experience.
  • The schemes raised the profile of internships as an important means of support available to students via employability strategies and access agreements.
  • Both schemes enabled greater collaboration between careers services and academic departments.
  • The subsidy enabled universities and colleges to test various delivery models, depending on their own expertise, capacity and capability.

However, expectations were raised among employers about the long-term availability of further financial support.

The report advises that more could be done to inform the participants – universities, students and employers – of the benefits of internships, particularly in the context of the current reforms to teaching funding, which are expected to increase students' and institutions' focus on graduate employability. This will be a priority for HEFCE, working with Government and partner organisations, in the coming years.


Report and Appendices A, B and C

Download the Increasing opportunities for high quality higher education work experience as PDF (1,717 KB)Download the Increasing opportunities for high quality higher education work experience as MS Word (2,184 KB)


Appendices D to I, which give full results of the surveys on which the report was based, are available on request from Matt Jennings (tel 0118 931 7157, e-mail