Internship Best Practice | The Careers Service Internship Best Practice – Oxford University Careers Service
Oxford logo
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 and Micro-Placement Programme for Research Staff

The host organisation on the Micro-Internship Programme and the Micro-Placement Programme for Research Staff have the following responsibilities:

  • Provide an accurate and reasonably detailed description of the internship/placement project(s) offered and the duties associated with it (them), including an overview of the skills required by the ideal candidate(s)
  • The internships/placements should only be for Oxford students and/or research staff who apply through the programmes. You may advertise similar internships/placements elsewhere, but those entered into the programme should be set aside with the intention of taking participants from Oxford.
  • Select participants(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 placement project as described (or an appropriate alternative project subject to prior discussion with the Internship Office and the student(s)/research staff)
  • Provide participants(s) with an appropriate work-space and equipment necessary to carry out the placement project work
  • Designate a point of contact within the organisation, who will discuss practical arrangements with the participant before their arrival, supervise the participant(s), and act as the primary contact for communications with the University of Oxford.
  • Provide the participant(s) with a stipend and/or other assistance (for example, accommodation), as agreed with the Internship Office prior to the start of the internship/placement. For micro-internships and micro-placements this must be local travel expenses (within the relevant city) and lunch expenses for the duration of the internship/placement. All expenses are reimbursed only on submission of receipts.
  • Comply with local health and safety obligations in relation to the internship/placement(s)
  • Provide assurance that your organisation’s insurance will cover potential liability that may arise from the internship(s)/placement(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 participant(s) at the end of the placement.
  • Make any necessary and reasonable adjustments to accommodate the participants 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 and micro-placements 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 participant; it is expected that students or research staff would be remunerated if engaged on a full internship/placement or to undertake work. Hosts within the University of Oxford must contact the Internship Office before offering any role or full internship to a participant.
  • Please note that the Micro-Internship Programme is open to all matriculated students, including those who have suspended their studies for the time being. More information can be found on students who have suspended their studies here.
  • Please note that it is the responsibility of the host organisation to ensure that it complies with employment law in engaging the participant including (where applicable) the payment of National Minimum Wage. We assume, if the micro-internship or micro-placement 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 or micro-placements should ensure that they provide the participant 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 16 October 2019.
Loading... Please wait
Recent blogs about Internship Best Practice

Closing Soon: Micro-Placements for Research Staff

Blogged by Joe O'Connor on 22/10/2019.

Closing Soon: Micro-Placements for Research Staff – personal development opportunities  for university-employed research staff

The deadline for this term’s Micro-Placements Programme for Research Staff is Monday 28 October at midday. Micro-placements are 2-5 day voluntary work experience placements facilitated by the University of Oxford and which are intended to give you experience in a new sector, enable you to practice a number of employability skills, and also offer an engaging and interesting project.

This term’s placements include research into the impact of AirBnb on Oxford’s homelessness problem for a local charity, working with a tech spinout on data visualization and analysis of their battery technology, and helping the Oxford Martin School develop policies which enable them to practice what they preach on organizational environmental impact.

You can find the full list of available placements here, or on CareerConnect.

If you are interested in the programme but none of the placements are right for you, please contact Joe O’Connor at research-placements@careers.ox.ac.uk, so that he can record this and include your feedback in the review of the pilot.

Free resources for legal careers!

Blogged by Juliet Tomlinson on 22/10/2019.

The Careers Service has now taken delivery of the following resources; these are very much aimed at students who wish to pursue careers as solicitors or barristers and they will provide advice and guidance which will aid your research.  They contain information on work experience, legal education providers, training contracts and pupillages, law firms and chambers and much more.  Just drop by to 56 Banbury Road and collect your free copies.

We have available:

The LawCareers.net Handbook, the Lex 100, TargetJobs Vac Schemes and Mini Pupillages and TargetJobs Law, All About Law n.b.Nota Bene and the Chambers Student Guide 2020.

These guides will also be available at the Law Fair on 9 November but some of them are heavy so you may much prefer to have your copy in advance!

Start-up Visa Endorsement Application – Information Session

Blogged by Brianna Thompson on 16/10/2019.

This information session (with the Student Visa and Immigration Office and Endorsement Panel Chair) is an opportunity to better understand what the endorsement panel at Oxford are looking for, and the process of making your application. We strongly advise anyone thinking of making an application for endorsement to attend.

When: 7 November 2019, 9:15-10:00
Where: The Careers Service, 56 Banbury Road
TO BOOK A PLACE at this discussion contact brianna.thompson@careers.ox.ac.uk with your name and, if applicable, the course and year(s) of study at the University of Oxford.

We are keen to support entrepreneurial activity at all levels and encourage people from any discipline and with any sort of business idea to apply.

More information can be found on our visas page or you can sign up to our Start-up Visa mailing list.

Business Career Alternatives to Management Consultancy – come along to the Oxford Careers Fair to find out more…

Blogged by Lara Hayward on 16/10/2019.

Many students in Oxford feel that they hear a lot about management consultancy and not enough about other options. If you are interested in having a high impact business career, whilst exploring entrepreneurship, social impact and business with purpose, this keynote talk is for you.

Cambridge graduate and successful businessman, Will Gardner, will speak about his career working for companies like Unilever and Mars, and how he has ended up championing purposeful business and supporting leaders in making their businesses purpose and value driven.

Will’s talk will take place from 12:30-13:15 at the Oxford University Careers Fair at the Exams Schools on Saturday, 19 October.

 About Will Gardner

Will developed his passion for Purposeful Business when he led the co-creation and rollout of Unilever’s ‘Crafting Brands for Life’ Way of Marketing – inspiring and equipping Unilever’s global community of 6,000 marketers to put social Purpose at the heart of the company’s brands.

He subsequently started up and led Collectively.org, a digital media and collaboration business focused on accelerating the shift to sustainable ways of living and consumption. Born from discussions at the World Economic Forum, partners included Unilever, Google, M&S, BT and Salesforce.

Will served for six years as Trustee for Sightsavers, the leading international NGO tackling avoidable blindness. He’s a B Leader, a Vistage speaker, an RSA Fellow and an Ambassador for the Positive Innovation Club.

An experienced strategist, marketer and change leader, Will believes that purposeful business is the key to unleash the full potential of employees, customers, and partners to do extraordinary things for people, planet and profit. It takes logic and magic to do it brilliantly: the logic of a well-crafted strategy and disciplined execution; the magic of compelling storytelling to draw people in and inspire them to action.

For further information see: https://willgardner.co/

Interested in a career in music? Don’t miss BBC Music Introducing Live

Blogged by Lara Hayward on 16/10/2019.

When: 31 October – 2 November 2019
Where: Tobacco Dock, London

Are you an aspiring music artist? Looking for a career in music on the artistic or the business side? How about music journalism? Learn from industry experts and leading artists at BBC Music Introducing Live 19’

This is one of the most comprehensive music career events available, that also enables you to network with industry professionals across all aspects of the music business. For further details, check out the programme online here.

For further advice on careers in Music & Radio see our sector page.

This page displays current related blog posts. If none display, you can still stay up-to-date with our newsletter sent regularly to all Oxford students.

Older posts can be found in our archive of past blogs.