Higher Education

, Volume 72, Issue 6, pp 703–721 | Cite as

Stairway to employment? Internships in higher education

  • Patrícia Silva
  • Betina Lopes
  • Marco Costa
  • Dina Seabra
  • Ana I. Melo
  • Elisabeth Brito
  • Gonçalo Paiva DiasEmail author


This article aims to shed light on the current debate regarding the role of internships in higher education in graduates’ employability. In specific, it analyses empirical data on a large-scale study of Portuguese first-cycle study programmes, in order to explore indicators of the professional value of internships in the employability of higher education graduates. Results demonstrate that study programmes that include internships tend to significantly enhance graduates’ employability, particularly within the universe of polytechnic and public higher education institutions. Besides the instrumental value of internships, the impact of the nature and structure of the internship on the percentage of unemployed graduates are also discussed. Mandatory internships and the inclusion of multiple, shorter internships throughout the degree are negatively associated with unemployment levels. Results indicate work-based learning can be used as a successful strategy to bridge theoretical knowledge and practice and enhance graduate employability. These findings provide important insights for the evaluation and/or the design of internship programmes in higher education.


Graduate employability Employment Higher education Internships Portugal First-cycle degrees 



Research reported in this article was financed by the project “Impact of internships on graduates’ employability”, funded through the National Strategic Reference Framework (QREN) and co-financed by the European Social Fund (ESF).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrícia Silva
    • 1
    • 2
  • Betina Lopes
    • 1
  • Marco Costa
    • 1
    • 3
  • Dina Seabra
    • 1
    • 3
  • Ana I. Melo
    • 1
    • 4
  • Elisabeth Brito
    • 1
    • 5
  • Gonçalo Paiva Dias
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Technology and Management of Águeda (ESTGA)University of AveiroÁguedaPortugal
  2. 2.Research Unit on Governance Competitiveness and Public Policies (GOVCOPP)University of AveiroAveiroPortugal
  3. 3.Center for Research & Development in Mathematics and Applications (CIDMA)University of AveiroAveiroPortugal
  4. 4.Center for Research in Higher Education Policies (CIPES)MatozinhosPortugal
  5. 5.Center for Health Technology and Services Research (CINTESIS)University of AveiroAveiroPortugal

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