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Improving internship practices

At the University of Oxford, our objective is to ensure that all professional internships facilitated through our Internship Office are high quality, and offer our students opportunities to develop skills and gain experience to help them transition from education to work. We want all internship applicants to feel confident that their internship experience will be the best they can expect and of a good standard, regardless of job function, sector and country.

Our mission, therefore, is for all internship hosts to provide good quality placements that are remunerated correctly for the work they expect interns to undertake.

The Internship Office at the University of Oxford supports Transparency At Work – the European Commission-funded initiate to promote work transparency for those undertaking internships.

To help internship hosts offer high quality internships, we suggest that they follow the six Quality Indicators below.

Quality indicators

1 – Remuneration

Internship hosts should:

  • Commit to remunerating their interns at least 80% of the cost of the intern’s subsistence (the amount required for interns to keep themselves)*

*If unable to provide this level of remuneration, internship hosts should consider two options:

  1. reducing the hours that an intern is expected to work and to provide them with other opportunities, such as learning a language, paid work, or training.
  2. offering benefits in kind, eg, free housing, free/discounted food, transport.

In the UK, private sector employers have to abide by minimum wage legislation. The UK Government webpages have a useful guide to the minimum wage policy.  International internship hosts will have to comply with local employment legislation; they should also provide remuneration similar to equivalent entry level roles within the industry.

Internship Office Policy on Voluntary Placements

Through the Micro-Internship Programme, the Internship Office facilitates voluntary work experience placements with reimbursement of local travel and lunch expenses on submission of receipts. Due to the voluntary nature of micro-internships, their maximum duration is 5 days. If, following the micro-internship, the hosts wish to engage interns to undertake work or undertake a full internship, this arrangement should be made directly between hosts and interns. Hosts should remunerate students at the minimum wage or above for this separate arrangement; the UK Government webpages provided useful information on minimum wage policy and employment rights for interns.

2 – Offer & Contract

Internship hosts should:

  • Offer a clear description of the projects and tasks that the intern is expected to perform. If they have to be revised subsequently, it should be in agreement with the intern.

3 – Learning & Content

As far as reasonably practicable, internship hosts should:

  • Indicate what skills the intern could acquire during their internship
  • Assign challenging tasks and projects with a high degree of responsibility
  • Make sure that the intern is provided with formal and informal training so that they are able to undertake the projects and tasks to which they are assigned
  • Limit the assignment of unskilled tasks

4 – Supervision

Internship hosts should:

  • Assign a supervisor to each intern, with a ratio not exceeding 3 interns to 1 supervisor
  • Organise an introductory meeting with the intern to discuss mutual expectations, as well as learning and professional objectives of the internship
  • Organise regular sessions at least once a week where the supervisor tracks the intern’s progress, gives feedback or provides support
  • Structure the intern’s tasks within a work plan & a timeline (which can be revised with the intern)

5 – Organisation Culture & Work Environment

Internship hosts should:

  • Schedule some time to introduce the intern to colleagues and the new work place including facilities and health and safety procedures; explain the organisation’s objectives and values
  • Acknowledge and value the intern’s contribution and achievements (e.g., public acknowledgement, name on publication, bonuses etc.)
  • Provide each intern with an appropriate work station (desk, computer, software, etc.)
  • Make the intern feel part of the team (include them in team building activities and celebrations)

6 – Career Development & Employment

  • Provide the intern with a reference letter detailing the work undertaken/completed, the skills and experience acquired
  • Organise one or more meetings between the intern and the management of the organisation to discuss their future career prospects and potential support
  • Help the intern develop a strong professional network by fostering their participation in meetings, interactions and projects with clients & partners, as well as networking events

7 – Practical Help

Supporting interns is particularly important when they are not native to your country or city. If you are able to provide advice on finding accommodation, travelling around, and medical or safety issues that might arise, this is greatly appreciated by students. What’s more, helping interns to settle in increases the likelihood of the internship succeeding, as interns will inevitably feel more safe and secure as they arrive in a new location. Some hosts provide accommodation as part of the remuneration package, others simply sign post students to cheap, good quality and safe accommodation.  Also, if the intern requires a visa to work in your country they will undoubtedly turn to you for guidance.  It is useful to put together an induction pack that you can distribute to interns as soon as they have been selected so they can get on and arrange all the logistics with your guidance.

What makes a good internship project?

Internships come in all shapes and sizes.  They can be as short as one week or as long as three months.  They could involve working in international finance companies in China, teaching law in a Ugandan prison, building toilets in Cambodia, or designing education projects for Oxford-based charities.  While all these internships projects may seem very different, good projects share some common elements:

Challenging and engaging– the very best internship projects enable interns to get really involved. The more demanding the project, the more students will invest themselves in the professional or research experience.  Oxford students also love to use their own initiative and apply their intellectual knowledge and creativity, so do ask them to suggest how projects can be developed.

Genuine contribution – the best internships allow students to feel they are making a positive contribution to the organisation.  A key question all organisations should ask is whether the work you are asking the intern to undertake is a valuable and useful contribution to the organisation.  Are there tangible outcomes? It’s helpful to remember that internships are much more than simply work experience.

Learning and development opportunity – a good internship project offers interns the opportunity to learn professional/transferrable skills, and allows for personal development. Good internships offer students the opportunity to improve the following skills:

  • Business Awareness
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Initiative
  • Leadership
  • Planning
  • Self-Management
  • Teamwork

More information can be found here: www.careers.ox.ac.uk/develop-your-skills/

Duration – students accomplish a lot during an internship, even if the timeframe is short. The question to ask is whether the duration is suitable for the project in question.  6-10 weeks internships are probably the most popular…

Please see our list of examples of good internship projects (and ones, which attract many applications…).

Host roles & responsibilities

The Summer Internship Programme

The host organisation on the Summer Internship Programme has the responsibility to:

  • Provide an accurate and reasonably detailed description of the internship project(s) offered, including an overview of the duties and skills required of the ideal candidate(s)
  • The internships should only be for Oxford students who apply through the programme. You may advertise similar internships elsewhere, but those entered into the programme should be set aside with the intention of taking students from Oxford.
  • Select intern(s) from the pool of applicants who apply through the programme.  Telephone (or face-to-face) interviews should be conducted, and direct contact established with potential interns. Reasonable travel expenses must be provided for face-to-face interviews.
  • Provide the internship project as described (or an appropriate alternative project, subject to prior discussion with the Internship Office and the student(s))
  • Provide intern(s) with an appropriate work-space and equipment necessary to carry out the internship project work
  • Designate a point of contact within the organisation, who will discuss practical arrangements with the intern before their arrival, supervise the intern(s), and act as the primary contact for communications with the University of Oxford
  • Provide the intern(s) with a stipend and/or other assistance (for example, accommodation), as agreed with the Internship Office prior to the start of the internship
  • Comply with local health and safety obligations in relation to the internship(s)
  • Provide assurance that your organisation’s insurance will cover potential liability that may arise from the internship(s)
  • Where necessary, sponsor the student for a visa covering the duration of the placement
  • Provide feedback to the University of Oxford by evaluating the intern(s) at the end of the placement
  • Make any necessary and reasonable adjustments to accommodate interns in the case of disability or additional needs, in accordance with the the Equality Act 2010 and the University of Oxford Equality Policy.

Crankstart Internship Programme (formerly known as the Moritz-Heyman Internship Programme)

The host organisation on the Crankstart Internship Programme has the following responsibilities:

  • Provide an accurate and reasonably detailed description of the internship project(s) offered, including an overview of the duties and skills required of the ideal candidate(s)
  • Select intern(s) from the pool of applicants who apply through the programme.  Telephone (or face-to-face) interviews should be conducted, and direct contact established with potential interns. Reasonable travel expenses must be provided for face-to-face interviews.
  • Provide the internship project as described (or an appropriate alternative project subject to prior discussion with the University and the student(s))
  • Provide intern(s) with an appropriate work-space and equipment necessary to carry out the internship project work
  • Designate a point of contact within the organisation, who will discuss practical arrangements with the intern before their arrival, supervise the intern(s), and act as the primary contact for communications with the University of Oxford
  • Provide the intern(s) with a stipend and/or other assistance (for example, accommodation), as agreed with the Internship Office prior to the start of the internship
  • Comply with UK health and safety legislation in relation to the internship(s)
  • Provide assurance that your organisation’s insurance will cover potential liability that may arise from the internship(s)
  • Provide feedback to the University of Oxford by evaluating the intern(s) at the end of the placement.
  • Make any necessary and reasonable adjustments to accommodate interns in the case of disability or additional needs, in accordance with the the Equality Act 2010 and the University of Oxford Equality Policy.

Micro-Internship Programme

The host organisation on the Micro-Internship Programme has the following responsibilities:

  • Provide an accurate and reasonably detailed description of the internship project(s) offered and the duties associated with it (them), including an overview of the skills required by the ideal candidate(s)
  • The internships should only be for Oxford students and/or research staff who apply through the programme. You may advertise similar internships elsewhere, but those entered into the programme should be set aside with the intention of taking interns from Oxford.
  • Select intern(s) from the pool of applicants who apply through the programme.  Telephone (or face-to-face) interviews should be conducted, and direct contact established with potential interns. Reasonable travel expenses must be provided for face-to-face interviews.
  • Provide the internship project as described (or an appropriate alternative project subject to prior discussion with the Internship Office and the student(s)/research staff)
  • Provide intern(s) with an appropriate work-space and equipment necessary to carry out the internship project work
  • Designate a point of contact within the organisation, who will discuss practical arrangements with the intern before their arrival, supervise the intern(s), and act as the primary contact for communications with the University of Oxford
  • Provide the intern(s) with a stipend and/or other assistance (for example, accommodation), as agreed with the Internship Office prior to the start of the internship. For micro-internships this must be local travel expenses (within the relevant city) and lunch expenses for the duration of the internship. All expenses are reimbursed only on submission of receipts.
  • Comply with local health and safety obligations in relation to the internship(s)
  • Provide assurance that your organisation’s insurance will cover potential liability that may arise from the internship(s)
  • Where necessary, sponsor the intern for a visa covering the duration of the placement
  • Provide feedback to the University of Oxford by evaluating the intern(s) at the end of the placement.
  • Make any necessary and reasonable adjustments to accommodate interns in the case of disability or additional needs, in accordance with the Equality Act 2010 and the University of Oxford Equality Policy.
  • All micro-internships must be limited to a maximum of 5 days. Any further relationship between external (outside of the University of Oxford) hosts and interns should be arranged separately and directly between host and intern; it is expected that students would be remunerated if engaged on a full internship or to undertake work. Hosts within the University of Oxford must contact the Internship Office before offering any role or full internship to a micro-intern.
  • Please note that it is the responsibility of the host organisation to ensure that it complies with employment law in engaging the micro-intern including (where applicable) the payment of National Minimum Wage. We assume, if the micro-internship is advertised as unpaid, that the host organisation has done an appropriate assessment and concluded that the opportunity can lawfully be offered on an unpaid basis.
  • University departments who are offering unpaid micro-internships should ensure that they provide the micro-intern with a volunteer agreement (template agreement available from the Careers’ Service) and only reimburse travel expenses and reasonable lunch costs on submission of receipts from the micro-intern. No other payments or benefits should be offered.
This information was last updated on 02 September 2019.
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