Opinion: Cease this injustice

I was outraged to find out yesterday in my copy of The Times that the University of Edinburgh, my alma mater, has been selling off internships with Members of Scottish Parliament (MSPs) for an eye-popping £5,750.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly would love the opportunity to undertake such work, but at such a price I cannot. This is disadvantage defined, as those who can afford it can have such an educating experience.

The internship involves completing “three academic courses which are classroom based, followed by a research project supervised by a member of the Scottish Parliament and an academic from the Institute of Governance.”

Here’s an excerpt of one lucky student:

“I just can’t get over how much my perspective has changed in a mere 15 weeks … I had the most wonderful experience and coming here was the best decision I ever made.” – Naser Javaid, supervised by Jamie McGrigor, MSP

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg recently made a statement on internships, saying that his aim was to make career progression less dependent on “who your father’s friends are”.

Clegg teamed up with Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, to write this on the subject for The Daily Telegraph:

“We want a society in which success is based on what you know, not who you know or which family you are born into,” they write. “So our social mobility drive is aimed at helping the majority of people to move up the rungs of the ladder of opportunity.”

It is encouraging to see a Conservative politician champion social mobility, as IDS has consistently bemoaned the pomp and unfairness that can exist with his party. “This is mobility for the middle, not just the bottom,” they add.

We must ignore the calls of hypocrisy on Clegg, though, as it is simply not the point of the matter. The point is allowing anyone, regardless of background, fulfil their potential. Allowing people to buy internships is totally unfair.

All the time I am deterred from applying for internships which I know I could potentially get onto because they only pay travel expenses or meal expenses. There must be enforced legislation on paying interns the National Minimum Wage, and less dancing around the issue. Lib Dems, help cease this injustice.

Jonathan Baldie is the editor of The Pryer

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4 Comments

  • Jonathon Staples 21st May '11 - 2:59pm

    A few months ago, IIRC, HMRC cleared up the law regarding payment of interns – if the position is not entirely voluntary (i.e. no set hours, volunteer can come and go at any time without penalty etc) then as far as HMRC are concerned it’s a job, and as such minimum wage laws apply.

    Other than that, great article – I’m highly disturbed at the idea of lucrative internships being sold off in this way.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 21st May '11 - 5:54pm

    And which MSPs are playing ball with this?

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