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Governance ruckus over interns

Monday 16th May 2011
Professor David McCrone and Dr Nicola McEwen co-directors of The Insitute of Governance Courtesy: http://www.institute-of-governance.org/

MSPs are in a cash-for-access row over Edinburgh University selling Holyrood internships to students for over £5000 reports "The Herald," pointing out the "mockery” of Parliament’s much-vaunted equal opportunities policy.

The report  comes after UK Conservatives were criticised for selling internships at a fundraising event. Tory supporters paid around £3000 each to ensure their children placements with City hedge funds.

Interning, a practice of working for free to gainexperience, has angry critics saying  middle-classes use connections to fix placements for children, where young people from poorer families cannot afford to work for nothing.

But since 1999, Edinburgh University’s Institute  of Governance has run an undergraduates 15-week placement, which ends with interns completing a research project.

The programme centres around a student getting an MSP internship. Hundreds of students, mostly from the US, have participated, as have dozens of MSPs.

The fee has risen from £3,640 in 1999 to £5,560 last year, and the number of internships doubled in the last decade. The annual financial benefit to the university has risen, from £69,160 to £222,400.

The university’s website says 23 MSPs, spanning the political spectrum, accepted interns from the programme in spring last year.

A spokesman for Edinburgh University said: “This is an academic programme in which we work very closely with MSPs and their staff. The period which students spend in Parliament is an integrated, supported and assessed part of the wider internship programme. Our students are properly trained and informed to work with MSPs.”

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