Statement opposing unpaid research jobs at UCL and Anna Freud Centre – please sign

The Anna Freud Centre is advertising 2-3 full- or part-time research assistant internships based at University College London (UCL) and lasting 6 months. The advert is aimed at graduates and current undergraduate students. The advert can be found at and includes a detailed job description: the interns will be doing skilled work contributing to a clinical research project and dealing directly with participating patients. However the positions are advertised as completely unpaid aside from travel expenses.

It is completely unacceptable that academic researchers, or indeed anyone, should be expected to work for free. In a period of austerity and high unemployment, with access to postgraduate degrees increasingly limited, competitive and expensive, and academic career prospects appearing poorer and poorer, it is particularly exploitative to offer unpaid work to early career researchers in the knowledge that they will feel compelled to accept it to remain competitive in degree applications and the job market. The practice also encourages and legitimises the continued underfunding of research, and discriminates between researchers. UCU has previously spoken out against other unpaid research positions.

Not everyone can afford to work for free for 6 months. Making research positions unpaid will only worsen the social inequalities in academia and education – not only in terms of class, but also the diversity of individuals who can access these careers. This is not only discriminatory, but will ultimately damage research itself by limiting contributions to only the most privileged members of society.

Academic and clinical research of this type saves and improves lives and is incredibly important. However it is unethical and unsustainable for it to proceed on the back of unpaid labour. We urge UCL and the Anna Freud Centre to re-offer these positions with salaries appropriate to the skilled work and hours demanded, and to issue a public promise to pay all their workers appropriately in the future.

Please comment here or email to add your signature to this open statement – remember to let us know if you are a trade or student union rep, or hold any other relevant position you would like listed. Please also share this statement on social media and in your academic institutions.

You can contact the Anna Freud Centre at and UCL’s Provost at to let them know about your opposition to unpaid work. We urge you to do so politely!

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