Unpaid internships and the arts
Sir, – Your article on the ethics of unpaid internships (“State museums criticised for unpaid interns”, News, September 24th) made no reference to the important role such internships play in educational programmes.
As someone who has been directing the MA programme in cultural policy and arts management at UCD for 12 years, I know that the opportunity to take up an eight-week internship with a cultural organisation is hugely valued by our students and is one of the main attractions of the programme.
From the student’s perspective, an internship provides an invaluable networking opportunity and frequently leads directly to employment. Unpaid internships of short duration with clear educational guidelines and boundaries are widely recognised as an ethically acceptable means of adding enhanced employability to an educational experience.
Still, there is no room for complacency. Between fees, living-costs and soaring rents, most students nowadays struggle financially. In my view, organisations that benefit from the additional labour and often high-performance skills of interns should consider providing stipends to help with commuting and other costs, and also to acknowledge the value of their contribution in modest financial terms.– Yours, etc,
Department of Art
History and Cultural Policy,
University College Dublin,