Slave labour

March 15, 2012

Sir Tim Wilson's Review of Business-University Collaboration raises the prospect of a generation of students suffering the exploitation of unpaid internships under the guise that they need more work experience. The review's proposal of 10- to 12-week internships as part of undergraduate courses opens the door to unscrupulous employers using a merry-go-round of free students on short placements to undercut minimum wage laws. Will universities have the resources to monitor such placements?

Wilson's "pragmatic" attitude towards the prevalence of the hidden army of unpaid internships ("Spend Offa cash on interns, Wilson says", 1 March) - rife in politics, media, the creative industry and other sectors - is ominous. The Wilson review's equivocation on such issues is clear when it admits that unpaid internships for graduates are controversial, but ignores the main reason why.

Let's be clear. Exploiting ex-students by using them as workers but calling them unpaid interns is likely to contravene minimum wage legislation and is therefore unlawful. Too many commentators have muddied the waters by suggesting that it is a matter of choice whether employers offer paid or unpaid internships. The principle that anyone working for an employer should be paid for it must be defended.

Peter Scott, Department of human resource and marketing management, University of Portsmouth

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Worried man wiping forehead
Two academics explain how to beat some of the typical anxieties associated with a doctoral degree
A group of flamingos and a Marabou stork

A right-wing philosopher in Texas tells John Gill how a minority of students can shut down debates and intimidate lecturers – and why he backs Trump

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, ‘soft power’ concerns and local politics help explain its policy