Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Participation in paid, unpaid and 'hidden' internships at six months after graduation: are some graduates excluded?

Graduate internships are thought to provide valuable workplace experience and are seen as a means by which individuals can gain advantage in a congested graduate labour market. However, there is growing evidence to suggest that not all internships are so instrumental in improving the employability of interns and there are concerns that some graduates may struggle to secure the best opportunities.
Recent research using data from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey appears to suggest that the while the practice of internships may be growing the proportion that are unpaid may be declining. However, such studies do not take into account ‘hidden internships’ (i.e. those reported as ‘voluntary’ jobs) and/or do not properly account for item non-response to questions about pay in the DLHE.
Using the most recent data available from the DLHE this research employed a more robust methodology, developed during the author’s PhD research, for estimating participation in paid and unpaid internships after graduation including hidden internships. The analysis will help to understand the extent of the practice at this important stage of graduates early careers and will help answer the question as to whether unpaid internships are really declining and whether some groups are excluded from accessing internships.

The aims of the research were to:

1. estimate the true extent of engagement in graduate internships six months after graduation (including ‘hidden’ internships);
2. more accurately estimate the extent to which internships are paid or unpaid;
3. identify industries and occupations where internships are most prevalent;
4. investigate the question of whether some groups are disadvantaged in accessing internships.

The project was funded through a Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) ‘Member Awards’ grant.

Project Team:

Wil Hunt (Principal Investigator)

Project Duration:

December 2018 - December 2019

Project Funder: