Don’t leave ‘internships’ until after graduation

Work placements while studying could help employers prepare candidates for recruitment, says Nicola Dandridge.

Universities and employers should work together to improve access to work placements and internships for undergraduates in a bid to ensure new graduates are better prepared for the world of work, Chief Executive of the Office for Students, Nicola Dandridge, told a conference today.

Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency shows that 22 per cent of graduates are not in graduate employment six months after graduation and even at three and a half years, 15 per cent of graduates are not employed in highly skilled jobs.

Many graduates also find themselves undertaking internships, which when they are unpaid are less accessible to those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Speaking today at the National Graduate Recruitment Conference, Nicola Dandridge said:

'Research shows that graduates need to take up every opportunity available to them during their time at university to help to improve their employability and to get a rewarding job.

'Many employers are now offering degree apprenticeships and this is important and welcome. But we also need more work placement opportunities, and more employers and universities and other higher education providers to work together to offer suitable placements to undergraduates.

'It cannot be right that so many students – especially those in courses with little vocational element and those without the right networks – have no access to good work placements and or holiday internships while they are studying.

'This means they are more likely to face a cycle of internships – too often unpaid – after they graduate before they are able to get lasting graduate employment.

'The Industrial Strategy calls for the Office for Students to encourage even greater collaboration between universities and business.

'We want to work with you to find new ways to support students into suitable graduate employment.

'Almost 50 per cent of students studied and went onto their first employment in their home region. We are building a picture of regional employer demand for graduates, graduate mobility and graduate outcomes and have found that outcomes are worse for young, first degree graduates if they stay local. 

'The Office for Students aims to enable a genuinely informed choice of academic and technical routes into higher education for students from all backgrounds and at different points in their lives.

'But the numbers of students from the most disadvantaged groups entering professional jobs is lower than it should be given their qualifications. An important reason for this can be a lack of contacts and relevant employment experience.

'Our focus on graduate outcomes therefore has to particularly focus on the experience of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

'As employers, we all have a responsibility to increase equality of opportunity and, working with higher education providers, we must redouble our efforts to improve equality and diversity in recruitment.'


  1. The Office for Students is the independent regulator for higher education in England. Our aim is to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers.
  2. See Shadbolt and Wakeham reports on computer science degree accreditation and graduate employability and science, technology, engineering and maths degree provision and graduate employability.

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