Internships and the graduate labour market: How upper-middle-class students ‘get ahead’

Ewan Thomas Mansell WRIGHT, Benjamin Joseph MULVEY

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Internships have become an important means to enhance career prospects in an increasingly congested graduate labour market. This article used positional conflict theory to explore how university students from different social class backgrounds experience internships, and the implications for inequalities in post-graduation employment. One-hundred interviews were conducted with final-year undergraduates from three different class fractions at a Russell Group university (n = 50) and a Post-1992 university (n = 50) in England. This research design enabled the exploration of differences between the most socio-economically privileged students and others, independent of university attended. The findings demonstrated how upper-middle-class students at both universities were better able to mobilise family resources to progressively ‘stack’ multiple and ‘high-status’ internships, resultantly pulling away from their peers in preparing for the graduate labour market. It is argued that internships have emerged as a class strategy to ‘get ahead’ beyond the well-established mechanisms of elite universities and prestigious fields of study. Copyright © 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-356
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
Issue number3
Early online date03 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


Wright, E., & Mulvey, B. (2021). Internships and the graduate labour market: How upper-middle-class students ‘get ahead’. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 42(3), 339-356. doi: 10.1080/01425692.2021.1886051


  • Higher education
  • Graduate labour market
  • Internships
  • Social class
  • PG student publication


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