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.