Placement spotlight: UKRI policy internship

I recently finished a UKRI Policy internship, during which I worked in a civil service department for three months. I had seen the scheme advertised through the OOC newsletter and, as a historian of death and corpse disposal, I decided to apply to the Department for Work and Pensions.

You’d be forgiven for not understanding the connection between death and the DWP. Essentially, one of the department’s provisions is to help people pay for funerals. This involves communicating with people across the country about the practical problems they’re facing after someone dies, as well as investigating what funerals should consist of and how much they should cost – not easy questions to answer!

As an intern in the DWP, I got to carry out a large research project and present my findings to some senior civil servants. Although I can’t share any details, this involved conducting interviews and statistical analysis, as well as working with a team of people. All things I’m not used to doing as a humanities PhD student!

I also got to see inside the civil service, learning how the type of policy I’m interested in is created and implemented. The opportunity has been impactful for my professional development as well as my understanding of my PhD: it encouraged me to think about how academia communicates with stakeholders, and what sorts of contemporary problems have developed from the history I’m studying.

I’d encourage other OOC students interested in the UKRI policy internship, or a placement in general, to think about how their PhD research relates to the role. Apply for an internship that won’t be a distraction but will offer a new perspective. That way you’ll come back not just with more skills but feeling reinvigorated about your doctorate!