Dear University College London,
- I would like to know what the difference is between the unpaid internships that the Constitution Unit used to offer and the voluntary work they offer now
- The number of interns and volunteers that the Constitution Unit has had since 2013 and the duration of their work
- Please indicate whether the relevant Research Excellence Framework submissions of Constitution Unit staff made/make clear that volunteers/interns have worked on the research
- Please indicate which of the external funding bodies that have sponsored Constitution Unit projects since 2013 agreed to unpaid interns/volunteers participating in the work
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Dear M. Atkinson,
We have completed the compilation of information in response to your
We can confirm that we do hold information of the description specified in
your request and this information is provided below.
1. I would like to know what the difference is between the unpaid
internships that the Constitution Unit used to offer and the voluntary
work they offer now
The Constitution Unit volunteer scheme was changed in December 2014 to
provide greater clarity on the status of volunteers in line with UCL’s
updated internship and volunteer policy.
The volunteer agreement between participants and the Constitution Unit
specifies that volunteers can decline to participate in activities at any
time and there is no mutuality of obligation. This is also reflected in
practice, as volunteers are not required to be present during fixed hours,
and are free to depart the volunteer programme at any time. Although this
was previously the case with research interns, the new arrangements made
this more explicit.
Many participants on the programme carry out volunteering alongside paid
employment, between periods of university study, or between taught
university programmes and progressing to PhDs. The volunteer programme
gives participants the flexibility to accommodate their research around
their educational or professional commitments.
2. The number of interns and volunteers that the Constitution Unit has
had since 2013 and the duration of their work
Since 1 January 2013, the numbers of volunteers that have participated in
the volunteer programme advertised on the Constitution Unit website has
been as follows:
2013 – 14
2014 – 15
2015 – 15
2016 – 22
2017 – 24
2018 – 15
2019 – 9 (to date)
The advertised duration of the programme is three months. The great
majority of volunteers chose to participate for this period of time. As
indicated above, many volunteers do so alongside work or study
In addition to the above, a small number of retired senior civil and
public servants have volunteered for the Constitution Unit for a longer
period. Over this same period, there have been a total of ten such
3. Please indicate whether the relevant Research Excellence Framework
submissions of Constitution Unit staff made/make clear that
volunteers/interns have worked on the research
It is not a requirement of REF to list background research contributors or
explicitly state whether those contributors are volunteers. Nevertheless,
the Constitution Unit always acknowledges where volunteers contribute to
published outputs, for example in footnotes or acknowledgments pages.
There is one Constitution Unit REF submission case (an edited book) where
retired volunteers made a contribution to authorship of some chapters.
This was fully acknowledged by the people concerned being named as authors
within the book.
4. Please indicate which of the external funding bodies that have
sponsored Constitution Unit projects since 2013 agreed to unpaid
interns/volunteers participating in the work
Delivery of the Constitution Unit’s funded research projects is never
dependent on the contributions of volunteers recruited via its regular
programme. Hence such contributions do not form part of agreements with
funders. Research funding proposals do on the other hand sometimes
indicate other forms of volunteer help, such as contributions from the
Unit's longer-term retired volunteers or from senior figures serving on
project steering committees.
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