Self-sourced work or volunteering opportunities
Internships, work experience, and volunteering activities, are all great ways to enhance your practical work skills, increase your sector knowledge, help inform future career choices, and increase your employability.
The University of Glasgow recognises the importance of gaining practical real-world experience and, through the Internship Hub, facilitates more than 350 internship opportunities each academic year.
Many of our students source their own opportunities, however, whether in Scotland or further afield. Such opportunities include summer jobs, work experience, volunteering programmes, and structured internships.
The purpose of this page is to provide some useful advice about things to think about, and to explain the role of the University of Glasgow, in self-sourced work experience opportunities.
The role of the University of Glasgow
Where you have sourced the opportunity yourself, the University of Glasgow’s involvement will generally be very limited (for example, confirming that you are a student of the University of Glasgow - see Section 3 (Internship Agreements) below). The relationship will be between you and the provider of the opportunity.
This page is intended to help highlight some of the things to think about when considering an opportunity. However, every opportunity will be different and the guidance here is only intended to be general in nature.
The University of Glasgow will not have vetted the potential employer, conducted any health and safety, insurance or other risk assessments, or provided you with any advice specific to your potential opportunity. This will be the case whether or not the University of Glasgow has provided you with any financial support. Please note therefore that the University of Glasgow will not be liable to you for any loss or harm you may suffer during any self-sourced opportunity and, similarly, will not be responsible to the provider of the opportunity for your acts or omissions. It is important that you take appropriate steps to satisfy yourself about the nature of the opportunity and any risks that you might be exposed to.
Some things to think about
a. Plan ahead - do your research
You’ve probably already thought long and hard about what you want to do and where you want to do it. You will want to be sure that you are going to get the most from the experience. The more you know about the opportunity, the more you will be able to get out of it. So, do as much research as you can before you start and make sure you ask all the questions you need answers to before accepting an offer.
If you have any specific requirements (for example, any health issues or disability) you will no doubt wish to discuss with your prospective employer to ensure that your needs and expectations can be met and any reasonable adjustments that may be required can be provided.
If you plan to live and work outside the UK there may be additional things to consider. For example:
- Where are you going to live, what will that cost, and what is the process for securing accommodation?
- Do you have sufficient language skills? Will you be able to communicate fluently and effectively in the workplace and in social and everyday situations?
- Are there cultural issues or local customs to be aware of?
- Do you need a visa or other authorisation to work in the country you are travelling to? What is the process and cost of obtaining that? What requirements do you need to fulfil to ensure that the is maintained?
If you intend to travel and work overseas, you should note that protections that are available by law in the UK (for example, protection of certain employee rights, and compliance with workplace health and safety requirements) may not be the same in the country that you are travelling to. Try and find this out before you go.
If you will be expected to sign a contract, you should ask to see this before you start (particularly if you are going to work overseas). This will usually set out both your rights and your obligations, so it’s important to read this carefully.
In addition to describing the role, setting out where you are expected to work, your hours, any pay associated with the role, and how the contract may be ended, the contract may also deal with things like your liability if you cause any damage (whether or not accidental) and the employer’s liability to you if you suffer harm.
If there is anything in the contract that you don’t understand or are unsure about, you should speak to friends, family or your careers adviser. You may consider taking legal advice.
c. Is your opportunity paid or unpaid?
You will wish to clarify with your host employer whether the opportunity you are considering is paid or unpaid. If it’s a paid opportunity, clarify how and when you will be paid.
In certain sectors (e.g. journalism, advertising and the creative industries) there has been a tradition of internships being offered on an unpaid basis. For many students and graduates this can be the only way to get experience of working in their chosen career. This can be particularly difficult for those that cannot afford to support themselves during the internship and so you need to think very carefully before accepting an unpaid internship.
In the UK, your employments rights and eligibility to receive the National Minimum Wage (NMW) are determined by your employment status as either a worker, volunteer or employee. If you are classed as a worker while on placement in the UK, you should be paid at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW). For more information about this, visit the UK Government website (https://www.gov.uk/employment-rights-for-interns).
d. Health and Safety
Health and safety is an important aspect of any workplace. So, take time to find out and familiarise yourself with your host employer’s health and safety policies. As a minimum you might wish to ask about:
- Fire safety and emergency evacuation procedures;
- How to access first aid and emergency assistance;
- Workplace hazards (both generally and specific to the role you will perform) and how to report accidents;
- Use of hazardous equipment, machinery, or dangerous substances; and
- Whether personal protective equipment will be needed, if this is provided, and how to obtain it.
Be sure that you take a note of your responsibilities and ask for a briefing on your first day, if your host employer don't automatically provide one.
If you will be living and working in a new area, you would be advised to talk with your new colleagues, local police and/or tourist information centres about areas that may not be safe to visit. You should also take time to find out where places you would need in an emergency might be, such as doctors’ surgeries, hospitals, and police stations.
Don’t put yourself in a position, or undertake any activities, with which you don’t feel comfortable or for which you aren’t adequately trained or supervised.
You should ensure that appropriate insurance is in place which will cover your travel (if applicable) and the activities you will undertake during your workplace activities.
So, for example, if you will be working overseas you should ensure that you have appropriate travel insurance for the duration of your trip which covers items such as medical expenses, repatriation costs, personal possessions, money cancellation/curtailment, rearrangement of the trip and your own personal liability cover.
We also recommend that you check that your host employer has suitable insurance in place that will cover your workplace activities. There are two key scenarios that you will likely wish confirmation of insurance cover:
i. Cover for the host employer against claims for injury or damage to you during the period of your employment and arising from the negligence of the host employer (e.g. insurance which would provide cover if you were to suffer loss or harm as a result of a health and safety breach, or lack of adequate supervision, by the host employer); and
ii. Cover for you against claims for injury or damage to property accidentally caused by you while undertaking work activities for the host employer.
In the UK, the relevant types of policy are normally called Employer’s Liability and Public Liability insurance. However, they may be called something different overseas (e.g. Workers Compensation, General Liability, Civil Liability Insurance etc.) and so it may be better to seek confirmation that the scenarios above are covered rather than to ask about specific insurance types.
If you have secured an internship outside of the UK, the host employer may wish both you and the University of Glasgow to sign an Internship Agreement with them. This is a legal requirement in some countries. In France this is often known as a Convention de Stage. In Spain, it is commonly referred to as a Convenio de Colaboracion.
For self-sourced internships, the University of Glasgow is not generally able to sign an agreement provided by a host employer. This is because we do not have the resources to have each such agreement legally reviewed (and, in some cases, translated) and negotiated. We do have an approved template agreement which we can sign and so, if an Internship Agreement is required, you should check with the host employer that they are happy to use our template agreement.
The completed Internship Agreements should be sent to Mary MacDonald to be signed on behalf of the university.
Please also note that we can only sign an Internship Agreement if you are and will remain a current registered student for the full duration of the internship. If you are a graduate or will not be a current registered student for the full period of the internship, we cannot sign an Internship Agreement.