Graduate Prospects – supposedly the “official” graduate careers website, recommended as the go-to resource for students and graduates by every university in the UK – is promoting unpaid internships to its users, Graduate Fog can exclusively reveal.

Several postings have appeared for international internship schemes where students and graduates pay over £3,000 to agencies which organise lengthy unpaid work placements for them abroad. In the last month, Prospects has advertised internships with:

CRCC Asia, which “introduces motivated students and recent graduates to business culture in Beijing and Shanghai”. For £3,195 interns can go and work in the far east for two months. Their internships are listed on Prospects as “full-time” and “unpaid”.

StandOut Internships, which “provides customised internships in Sydney and Hong Kong all year round for gap year travellers, university students and graduates”. The company boasts: “We place applicants in roles that allow them to do meaningful tasks for a company — not photocopying or making coffee!”. An 11-week internship costs £3,000 (including accommodation, but not flights). Again, Prospects lists these internships as “full-time” and “unpaid”.

Career Journey International, which “works with elite companies to provide top quality international internships in India.” Interns pay from £1,599 to do a “high profile client-facing role”. Prospects lists these internships as “part-time” and “full-time” and “unpaid”.

Graduate Fog wrote in June last year about the boom in companies offering desperate graduates unpaid internships abroad, for large fees. We were shocked when some of you told us you’d paid up to £8,000 to work for nothing in another country (and no, it wasn’t for a charity). We see this is a deeply worrying trend.

That said, there is no suggestion that any of these agencies is doing anything illegal (as the internships happen on foreign soil, we assume they are not subject to the British minimum wage law, which state that all workers must be paid at least £6.08 an hour, if they’re over 21). Nor is Prospects doing anything illegal in promoting these opportunities to their young users.

But even if it isn’t legally dodgy, isn’t it ethically questionable that the “official” graduate careers advice website it working so closely with these companies? And, we assume, taking a fee for promoting these internships to their users? Don’t they have a moral obligation not to encourage an industry which profits from young people’s desperation? We have written to Prospects to ask for an explanation for these adverts and will keep you updated when they respond.

The postings are also surprising as Prospects is affiliated to the National Council of Work Experience, an organisation which claims it ” was established to encourage and support the development of quality standards across all forms of work experience, disseminate good practice regarding work placements and encourage more employers to provide placement opportunities” – but which Graduate Fog and Intern Aware rarely encounter on the interns’ rights circuit.

We have written before about our concerns that Prospects is not behaving responsibly, given its monopoly of the careers space, the result of its cosy relationship with careers services and its .ac.uk web address, which it shouldn’t really have but which gives it an enormous advantage over its competitors, in the eyes of Google.

But the question that’s really bugging us is: Why exactly are university careers services continuing to recommend Prospects to their students and graduates, when there are many much better resources out there? It is our belief that the relationship between Prospects and the university careers services has been far too cosy for far too long – and that is a large part of the reason why good careers advice simply isn’t getting through to young people. Don’t students and graduates have the right to assume that their university careers advisers – and the “official” graduate careers advice website – has their best interests at heart? If that is not the case, we need to change it – and fast.

Or does it have a moral obligation towards its users, not to promote opportunities which prey on young people’s desperation? If you’re a career adviser, do you agree that your relationship with Prospects is too cosy, stifles competition – and doesn’t always put the best interests of your students and graduates first?

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