Internship and placement schemes for researchers: a guide for institutions

Thinking of setting up a scheme for your institution, faculty or department? This section, based on discussions with those already managing schemes for researchers, addresses a range of considerations.

Whether the institution plans to set up a large-scale programme for researchers, enhance or expand its existing programme for this group, or to manage a handful of work experience placements, we hope that you will find these pages useful. If you are already experienced in setting up and managing placements, they may be useful as the basis for discussion with colleagues setting up a derivative or related programme.

Why placements?

Working outside the academic environment, even for a short time, can complement academic development and better prepare individuals for the future. Participants experience professional life in a new context, develop their commercial awareness and business-facing skills and may develop a better understanding of the impact of research. See more of the benefits of professional placements for all involved.

Institutions will be increasingly required to integrate professional experience into research careers. Because of the importance placed on obtaining societal value from investment in research training - through transfer of knowledge and skills - research funders, national governments and professional associations are likely to issue related policies or guidelines. The UK position is given as an example.

Why set up a formal scheme?

While it’s possible for researchers to organise placements on an informal basis, there can be advantages to a formal scheme. Reasons to consider establishing a formal scheme include:

  • A scheme can hit several targets including skills development, development of contacts outside academia, knowledge transfer and demonstrating the value of research skills
  • A formal scheme can help to embed participation in professional placements into institutional culture for researchers
  • It could enable you to reach out to specific groups with development opportunities, for example women
  • Professional placements outside academia might be a requirement of some funding (such as for doctoral candidates) and offering comparable opportunities to all staff and students might be required by institutional policy
  • A formal scheme can add value to the opportunity, e.g. by providing training and encouraging reflection
  • Developing a clear process to support researcher placements can reduce risk and cost and is likely to result in a successful and smoother experience for everyone involved and to offer safe, supported opportunities.

We acknowledge valuable contributions from members of our UK network in sharing their practice and experience and in offering feedback during the development of these materials.