In the diverse landscape of student internships, partnerships between universities and employers provide a wide range of good practice and high-quality work experience opportunities. Placer, an innovative app offering work experience and graduate job opportunities to students in Higher Education (HE), makes it easier to find these.

Despite this diverse landscape, high quality student internships share some simple common features:

1. Challenging and Relevant

Fundamentally, a high-quality internship opportunity provides a challenge that brings you out of your comfort zone and encourages you to learn new skills. This is not to say that students should have unreasonable burdens placed upon them. If internships are taken alongside your study, there should be a reasonable balance of academic and internship workloads. It is also important that your prior learning and technical skills are at an appropriate level for the projects/activities you are undertaking.

A high-quality internship opportunity is relevant, either to your course, or to your future career goals. Quality in student internships is achieved via successful accommodation of the purposes of the subject discipline, the industry of the internship opportunity, and your career goals. For individual students and across different courses, what constitutes a challenging or relevant internship will be highly variable.

2. Engaging and Motivating

From a student’s perspective, individual motivation is crucial to ensure a high-quality internship. Student motivation is of course linked to an opportunity’s perceived relevance - ideally there should be a good match between your interests and the type of projects/activities available.

Once on an internship, employers also have an important role to play in supporting motivation. One way to harness motivation is to give students personal responsibility or ownership of particular pieces of work, again linking to the importance of challenging the student. Motivated students in return show enthusiasm and become indistinguishable from full-time employees.

3. Real opportunities provided by the employer

A feature of high-quality internships is that the student is conducting real work for the employer, at an appropriate level for the individual student. You are trusted as a member of staff like any other, with responsibility and genuine opportunities to support the business’ goals.

You are undertaking a role that is of genuine benefit to the employer, and corresponding support and demand for this from your employer is crucial. Internships support you to learn about the world of work in a direct way.

4. Closely monitored and reflected upon

Your university also has a role to play in the delivery of a high-quality student internship. Many HE institutions support employers through their own recruitment or job vacancy websites, while support to students is given around understanding their needs for an internship and in CV building and interview preparation.

A high-quality internship is carefully managed by the employer. In particular, your employer must take steps to support a transition from university life to working life, and to ensure that you understand your duties and company procedures.

Of fundamental importance for a successful internship is the process of reflection. Your university should debrief you by encouraging written or oral reflection on your experience; this will support you to recognise and value the learning you have experienced. Once you are able to recognise these improved skills or knowledge, you are better equipped to articulate this in future job applications or interviews after graduation.

Making it easier to find a high-quality internship

Placer is a partnership of the National Centre for Universities and Business, Jisc and Unite Students. Using the latest technology, through employer dashboards and student screens, Placer connects students with employers offering quality work experience and graduate opportunities from a variety of businesses, large and small, across all sectors.

The Placer concept is unique and is revolutionising work experience for students in the UK. If you would like to find out more, please visit: