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UCL Policy on Work Experience Placements

Work Experience Placements


This policy applies to all staff arranging or involved in work experience placements and must be read before a placement is arranged. For the purposes of this policy, references to a ‘student’ means a student on a work experience placement with UCL and not a student registered with UCL. Work experience is defined as ‘a placement on employer’s premises in which a student carries out a particular task or duty, or a range of tasks or duties, more or less as would an employee, but with the emphasis on the learning aspects of the experience1.’  Work experience is part of the student’s education; it is not employment and there must be no payment for tasks or duties performed or expenses paid by UCL.

Work experience placements provide participants with a general understanding of a work setting over a short period of time. Internships  are more appropriate for individuals who demonstrate commitment to a particular career and wish to undertake placements in a particular field or discipline. Interns are normally over 18 years old. 


1. Work experience is governed by the Education Act 1996, as amended by the School Standards & Framework Act 1998. The main features of work experience placements are:

Voluntary work placements are aimed at students at college or university. For the purposes of this policy, work experience and voluntary work placements will be referred to as 'work experience placements'.

2. Although UCL does not manage a centralised work experience programme, it supports the philosophy of assisting the development of skills and attitudes needed to succeed in the workplace. This is consistent with UCL’s Widening Participation programme, which aims to foster an interest in university life and study amongst young people. Work experience placements must be clearly defined and structured, and normally last no longer than three months. UCL is supportive of staff encouraging their own children to undertake a work experience placement through the procedure outlined; it does not however, advocate staff bringing their own children to the workplace on an informal, unplanned basis.

3. UCL does not support unpaid work outside structured work experience placements or internships. Where requests arise which do not fall within the scope of these placements, a department may consider offering informal visits e.g. to an individual who is considering a career change and who wants to gain a better understanding of a particular discipline. 

Arranging a placement

4. Those who wish to pursue a work experience placement at UCL will normally do so via their school, college or higher education institution (or parent/ guardian in the case of home schooled children), who should contact the prospective host department directly. Some students may have obtained paid bursaries from external foundations to conduct a work placement in a specialist discipline. Where students or parents/ guardians make direct contact with UCL, confirmation of all arrangements should be formalised through the respective school, college or higher education institution (except in the case of home schooled children).

5.  The host department will be responsible on behalf of UCL for making all arrangements prior to, during, and following the placement and for ensuring that this policy is followed.

The department will need to consider:

Work Placement Agreement

6. Work experience placements must be planned to ensure the placement is of benefit to the student by engaging him/ her in a range of meaningful tasks. In advance of the placement, Appendix A should be completed and sent to the school, college or higher education institution and the student undertaking work experience.

Criminal Record checks

7.1 There are limited circumstances where government guidelines2 recommend DBS (formerly CRB) checks in employment settings for work experience. DBS checks may be required where staff have sole day to day responsibility for work experience students as part of their job description or where staff have regular (once a week or more) unsupervised access (i.e. caring, training or supervising) to:

Students identified by their school/college as vulnerable for educational, medical, behavioural or home circumstance reasons

Placements which include a residential element

Students on placements lasting more than 15 days over an extended time-frame, especially where these involve: regular lone working with an employer over long periods (i.e. anything over half a day at a time); placements located in particularly isolated environments; and placements involving a high degree of travelling.

When deciding whether a DBS check is necessary in the above circumstances, the department should make an assessment of the overall potential risks posed to the student taking into account any systems in place to minimise these risks.

7.2 UCL students aged 18 or over who work with work experience students under 18 will not require a DBS check due to the ‘peer exemption’ under government guidelines3 .

7.3 Please discuss the process of DBS checking with your HR Employment Contract Administration contact if you believe a DBS check is required, and to clarify the level of DBS disclosure required (which depends on the nature of the contact with the child, young person or vulnerable adult).

7.4 Staff who work with a person under 18 as part of a work placement or otherwise, must regardless of the requirement to have a DBS, comply with the UCL Guidelines for Working with Children and Vulnerable Adults (see ) and UCL Child Protection (Safeguarding) Policy

Duration of placement

8. The duration of the placement must be agreed by the host UCL department, the school/ college and the individual undertaking the placement (with parent/ guardian input). The placement will normally be for one/ two weeks but must be no longer than three months in duration, and for no more than 36 and-a-half hours per week. Work experience students should not spend unnecessarily long or unsocial hours, or more than five consecutive days out of seven on their placement at UCL. A minimum of thirty minutes break should be provided for every four hours worked.

School/ LEA approval

9. Schools/ Local Education Authorities may need to grant permission to UCL to accept students on work placements and this may take a number of weeks to organise. The school, college or higher education institution may arrange for a teacher or other member of staff to visit prior to the placement to discuss the work placement, and they may want to conduct their own risk assessment. In addition, the school, college or higher education institute may ask for a final written report to assess various aspects of the student’s performance.

Health and Safety

10. Before a placement can be agreed, a health and safety risk assessment must be undertaken by the department; identifying measures to be taken to control or eliminate risks (see ). This includes consideration of special arrangements for work experience students with disabilities or special needs.

11. Health and safety induction is essential for work experience placements, and work experience students must receive a full health and safety briefing from the Departmental Safety Officer or Safety Representative before they undertake any work on their first day. The Work Experience Induction Checklist should be used to record the safety induction (see link below) and completed on the student’s first day by his/ her supervisor. Young people under the age of 18 should be made aware of restrictions on activities they can undertake, as outlined in the Safety Services Guidance on Young People. For further details see  

Public Liability

12. UCL’s public liability insurance policy covers those on work experience placements. The department hosting the work experience placement must forward the name of the sponsoring school, college or higher education institution, duration of the placement and brief description of the work placement duties to the Insurance Manager, Financial Accounting, Finance Division.

IS Access

13. Access to IS systems will not normally be granted as a matter of course to work placement students due to the administrative burden and risks involved. If however the nature of the work requires systems access, the work experience student may be given a temporary visitor IS account. Departmental Administrators (or other departmental staff, as nominated by the Head of the Department) should use the UCL Services System to request and revoke access to UCL services for visitors. Some departments i.e. Finance will always require work placement students to be granted IS access due to the nature of the work involved. The costs incurred in setting up and closing the account will be chargeable to the host work placement department. The UCL Information Security Policy should be provided to individuals granted IS access and their work must be closely monitored.

Data Protection

14. Work placement students must be informed of their responsibilities to maintain confidentiality of UCL data and information. The department should ensure they meet their responsibilities for student data under the Data Protection Policy (see ). Records to be maintained for work placements include; the risk assessment, any training provided, an induction checklist and work plan and these should be retained for 12 months but no longer.

Temporary Visitors Card

15. Arrangements must be made to obtain a temporary visitors card for the work experience student (see
16. UCL staff may seek advice about work experience placements or this policy from their HR Consultancy contact (see

HR Policy and Planning
Updated August 2010

Appendix A - Work Experience Agreement
Please download the agreement by clicking on the link below.

Download Work Experience Agreement

1The Department for Children, Schools, and Families definition of work experience

2Safeguarding young people on Work-Related Learning including Work Experience (2010), The Department for Children, Schools and Families  

3Regulated Activity in Higher Education – Interim Guidance, The Department for Children, Schools and Families