BM84: Ensure Quality Internships,Traineeships and Apprenticeships in Europe
Work experience, internships, apprenticeships, traineeships and work placements.
These types of work-based learning are all called different names in different
programmes across Europe. While some are voluntary, others are integrated as
compulsory parts of study programmes, but they are all quality learning experiences
in a workplace, that should offer valuable learning outcomes for students, prepare
them for their career and guide students into finding their desired path. While
education is only a supportive competence of the European Union, traineeships
linked to higher education are composed of two elements: a learning element, and a
labour/work element. While the former is not within the remit of the EU legislation, the
latter is, therefore ESU believes that the EU has the competences to include
traineeships within Higher Education within the broader discussion on internships.
Based on the advocacy of the European Youth Forum (YFJ), the issue of unpaid
and/or poor quality internships and traineeships across Europe has been brought to
the forefront of the agenda of youth issues at the level of the European Union. During
the European Year of Youth and into the Year of Skills, a growing consensus has been
reached towards a bolder regulation at European Union level on banning unpaid
internships, including the creation of a legally binding instrument based on the review
of the European Quality Framework for Traineeships.
ESU welcomes the developments pursued by the European Union and believes that
the principles of a common framework for internships should also apply to student
internships including compensation. At the same time, it needs to be acknowledged
that student internships, traineeships and apprenticeships that are part of study
programmes have certain specificities which necessitate careful evaluation of which
principles of the framework shall be applied to student internships and where
exceptions or diverging solutions are needed.
On average forty-three percent of students have done a form of internship during
their studies, and almost all education, health and welfare students have done workplace learning. Most of these internships are unpaid and a mandatory part of a study programme.
Workplace learning should benefit students and enrich their experience and should
be accessible for all students regardless of background or study programme.
ESU already has adopted policy documents on the subject of internships, such as a
specific Statement on Internships or within the Policy paper on Quality of Higher
Education. The latter mentions that “The use of active learning and linking learning
and teaching with research, allows students to develop transferable skills, such as
analysing, problem solving, critical and reflective thinking, while being a truly
engaged partner in all educational processes. These skills can be further developed
through internships, which offer unique opportunities for students to apply them to
issues beyond the academic realm. Furthermore, internships should comply with
labour standards and be properly retributed.”
However, one persistent barrier in terms of the accessibility of internships is the
overall lack of remuneration, which is unacceptable. Slightly more than half of all
students are combining studies and a paid job . It is difficult however to combine a
paid job and work experience, and this decreases the time students are able to invest
in their education. The costs related to their internships, such as travel, food and
accommodation in a location other than their place of study should be covered.
All learning opportunities should be designed with an intention to achieve a set of
specific learning outcomes and ECTS.
Students on work placements are not employees and should have qualified supervision and mentorship from both their
workplace and higher education institution guiding them to achieve their learning
outcomes. Students should also be consulted regarding the learning outcomes of the
internships, and those learning outcomes should meaningfully contribute to those of
the study programme. Attention should be paid by HEIs to ensure that quality
standards are designed for the internship environment, and that all parties and
especially students have the opportunity to shape their internships experience and
give feedback towards the provider and the HEI. If these standards aren’t met and of
poor quality there should be consequences for the providers. Student safety should
be of the utmost priority. All these should be requirements expected from HEIs in order
Internships-Eurostudent Intelligence Brief 4 2021 to consider the internships well-structured, as provided for in the European Standards
and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESGs).
Furthermore, as students are stakeholders in their learning and should have
representation, this should also apply for internships. All students are represented by
their students’ union; however, they should have the option to choose to join a
The learning environment should be inclusive, and all students should be safe.
Students with disabilities should receive adjustments to ensure they are able to
participate equally. Students should be protected against discrimination, harassment
and gender based violence in workplace learning.
Therefore, ESU believes that:
● Workplace learning should be of good quality and accessible to all.
● Students on work placements are not employees and should have qualified
supervision and mentorship from both their workplace and higher education
institution guiding them to achieve their learning outcomes.
● All educational internships should be included in the ban on unpaid
● Students should be compensated for their time, so that the internship doesn’t
become a financial burden and thus a barrier
● Students should have a clear legal status so that they are covered by work
safety regulations and insurance including health and accident insurance.
● Students should receive support and allowances for illness, both their own and
anyone under their care and should not be penalised.
Adopted at ESU’s 84th Board meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia.