Internship company criticised for illicitly recruiting students in lectures

The American internship company, Southwestern, has come under pressure after inappropriately recruiting potential students for their summer internship programme in lectures (Thumbnail credit The Southwestern internship programme have been recruiting in lectures without Departmental permission. Photo: University of York)

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The American internship company, Southwestern, has come under pressure after inappropriately recruiting potential students for their summer internship programme in lectures.

The company approached students at the start of lectures, in subjects such as Politics and English , without the permission of the relevant department.

Companies offering opportunities to students are usually confined to career fairs. However, it is very unusual for them to be allowed to directly go to students at the start of lectures.

Jess Stone, a first-year Politics student, stated: "I don't think that they should have been able to come straight into lectures, the lecturer seemed to have no idea what the company was about.

"And if she was university approved that was a massive mistake on the University's behalf, even if purely down to the fact that the company's so controversial."

Southwestern is a company that offers students internships selling educational books door-to-door over the summer with many students doing upwards of 78 hours a week.

Lana Bambridge, the Southwestern District Sales Manager for northern universities like Manchester, Glasgow and York described how she had permission from the Careers Service, stating:

"I spoke to the Careers Office and they said it was okay for me to go into lectures. I really believe the transferable skill gained in our programme can be used in every field upon graduation."

However, a spokesman for the University commented: "The University has a firm policy on companies promoting themselves on campus. There is a presumption against companies using teaching time to promote their activities unless they relate directly to the curriculum, and only then with departmental approval.

"On this occasion, the company concerned acknowledged that they did not follow the agreed procedure and that departmental approval had not been sought. We have had a conversation with senior representatives of the company and they have undertaken to abide by the University's policy in the future."

Southwestern has also come under criticism for their recruiting methods and actions at other Universities in the UK.

"The company concerned acknowledged they did not follow the agreed procedure... approval had not been sought"
University Spokesperson

Durham University banned the company from its campus several years ago after many students came back with bad experiences or felt that the way it had been sold to them was misrepresentative and misleading.

The company has also fallen out of favour with Bristol University and in recent months at the University of Edinburgh where a ban was passed at their student association's AGM last year.

Oscar Wimhurst, a second-year Politics student who went to America described how it his experience had been "really valuable thing I did last summer."

"A lot of it is a little less glamorous than you thought but it is the same as any business recruiting." He added that, "it wasn't for everyone."

Though, the website 'Southwestern Company Truth' describes details of students who have felt ripped off by the company. Many overseas students have commented about the initial outlay that is expected and is not paid for by Southwestern.

Although Wimhurst said he had to pay the flights and accommodation himself, he said that he, "managed to earn enough to cover costs."

Bambridge added: "If there were any miscommunications between myself myself and the University, I will work to rectify that as I continue to interview students on campus."

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