FARMER (the Forum for Archives and Records Management in Education and Research) has taken account of the current debate on volunteers and interns and of the various views expressed. FARMER has never taken a view on the rights or wrongs of unpaid work and feels that this is something which should be monitored (if at all) by the ARA. Therefore we are glad that the matter is being taken to the ARA Board.
Nevertheless, there have been some comments which imply that the professional programmes have stipulated requirements regarding pre-course experience which may fuel the market for unpaid work, to which as Chair of FARMER I would like to respond. As previously stated on this list (3 June 2011), all the programmes recognise the benefit to the student of having a clear idea of what work in our professional area entails before embarking on study, but we are always more interested in the quality of that experience rather than the absolute quantity. This is the explicit position of the FARMER Guidelines, first published in 2003, which represent the common expectations of all the accredited programmes regarding what we hope applicants will have achieved and positions marketed at would-be applicants would offer.
Revised guidelines are currently being agreed by FARMER and will be advertised on this list once available. The purpose of revision is to create one set of guidelines for applicants and another for organisations hoping to offer relevant experience and to clarify the guidance provided, rather than to make any radical changes to content. The revised guidelines will reiterate that none of the programmes has any absolute requirement regarding the length or nature of pre-course experience. What we are looking for is applicants who are able to make informed decisions about their own portfolio of experience and of the value or otherwise of whatever work might be available to them, whether paid or unpaid.
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