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Study Overview

Improving the employability of University graduates through effective internship programs: The impact of HEST’s internship Approach
Study is 3ie funded:
Study ID:
Initial Registration Date:
Last Update Date:
Study Status:
In Development

Uganda is grappling with challenges of high unemployment rates among university graduates of over 32% which will affect Uganda’s long-term vision of 2040. The Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) implemented the Higher Education, Science, and Technology (HEST) project whose tracer study revealed that 77% of the graduates who got internship placement through the project got gainful employment. This study could not measure the attribution of the project’s intervention since its implementation design did not provide for a suitable comparison group. Therefore, to strengthen the MoES’ intention to scale up the HEST internship approach, there is a need to provide evidence of attribution through a rigorous evaluation by answering the questions (i) Does the HEST approach increase the employability of university graduates? (ii) Does the HEST approach increase the satisfaction of University graduates and the industry?

An experimental research design with one treatment arm which will receive the HEST internship approach where the study participants were matched with placement, received training on soft skills, given stipend and received a formal contract among others and one control arm which will receive only one day orientation. A prospective randomized controlled trial (RCT) will be conducted where Final year students will be randomly assigned to either arms. Data will be collected from both the students and the industry in two phases (before and at the end) of the internship period. The outcomes that will be observed are the change in employability, knowledge, work-based skilled, satisfaction and motivation.

Key words: Employability, Internships, Placements, Randomized Controlled Trials, treatment arm, control arm, HEST

Registration Citation:
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Principal Investigator(s)

Name of First PI:
Omala Kizito Saint
Makerere University
Name of Second PI:
Asiimwe John Bosco
Makerere University

Study Sponsor

Hewllet Foundation
Study Sponsor Location:

Research Partner

Name of Partner Institution:
Ministry of Education and Sports, Office of the Prime Minister, Makerere University, Uganda Manufacturers Association
Type of Organization:
Government agency (eg., statistics office, Ministry of Health)

Intervention Overview


The Ugandan government through funding by the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) implemented the “Support to Higher Education, Science, and Technology (HEST) project”. The HEST project was implemented by the Ministry of Education, and Sports (MoES) and nine Benefiting Institutions/Universities 

The project's primary objective was to ensure that the graduates from the universities are equipped with knowledge and skills that fit the demands of the employers and reduce the unemployment rates.  The project consisted of four components with Component III focusing on “Improving quality and relevance of HEST in public institutions''. 

The unique characteristics about the HEST internship approach regarding placement of university graduates included: (1) compensation to the students and their university supervisors and in some instances to the industry; (2) Students matched to industry (3) the duration of the internship was known to both the student and the host company (4)  a formal contract provided.  

Notably, the MoES and UMA strongly believe that the approach of the HEST internship program is effective in improving the employability of interns, and this is based on a tracer study that reported 77% students who were on placement transitioned into gainful employment.   
Additionally, both the MoES and UMA recommended a scale-up of this approach of placement at the end of the final year of a degree program in contrast to the current form, where university students take their work placement in their penultimate year. However, it is worthwhile to ascertain the causal inference of the internship approach to better employability of university graduates.

Theory of Change:

The HEST approach that allows for financial assistance, quality placements, training in soft skills and work-based skills and provides the required supervision leads to increased knowledge of interns on workplace and life skills, satisfaction, and their ability to perform the assigned tasks ultimately increasing their employability and their ability to be self-employed.

The HEST increases students' interest and satisfaction with internship programs by meeting the demands for internships such as financial needs (transport, accommodation); students get the required supervision and proper placements in the companies. Ultimately, students are more likely to be more satisfied and willing to network with their work colleagues. Also with the proper matching of students to industry and with proper supervision and training received from industry, students are more likely to have a better understanding of the job requirements and acquire the required skills needed for their subsequent employment and self-employment.

Under the HEST approach, students are attached to organizations in line with their field of study, and if they excel, they are most likely to be retained or hired by the same organizations or those in a similar industry since they would have gained social capital during their internship through interacting and working with players in a specific industry. On the contrary, students who follow the usual approach and so have to search for internship placements may end up in organizations and in roles that are not in line with their field of study just for the sake of meeting university requirements regarding internship and also have marks for filed attachment. Therefore, upon completion of the internship, host organizations most likely won’t employ them.

Multiple Treatment Arms Evaluated?

Implementing Agency

Name of Organization:
Makerere University
Type of Organization:
Research Institution/University

Program Funder

Name of Organization:
Hewllet Foundation
Type of Organization:
NGO (International)

Intervention Timing

Intervention or Program Started at time of Registration?
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Evaluation Method

Evaluation Method Overview

Primary (or First) Evaluation Method:
Randomized control trial
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Additional Evaluation Method (If Any):
Other (specify)
Other (not Listed) Method:
Qualitative Methods

Method Details

Details of Evaluation Approach:
Outcomes (Endpoints):

The primary outcome of the study is increase in employability (workplace and life-based skills)

intermediate outcomes are increase in satisfaction and motivation, increased knowledge, better performance at work, extended internship periods

Unit of Analysis:
University graduates


H01: The HEST internship approach increases university graduates’ workplace and life-based skills compared to those on the current internship approach.

H02:  The HEST internship approach increases the employability of university graduates compared to those on the current internship approach.  

Research Questions

  1. Does the HEST approach increase the satisfaction and motivation of University graduates
  2. What is the level of Satisfaction of the Industry with the HEST internship approach?
Unit of Intervention or Assignment:
Number of Clusters in Sample:
one group
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Size of Treatment, Control, or Comparison Subsamples:
The sample will contain 400 students in each arm. This led to a total target sample size of 800 students

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Outcomes Data

The research team will conduct two rounds of surveys. Phase one will be done before the implementation of the HEST programme which will involve conducting a baseline survey Questions will be about identification data, the demographic and socio-economic information and questions on the type of capacity gaps in the given student. Phase two will be the final evaluation. Data will be collected using KoboCollect.
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Treatment Assignment Data

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Data Analysis

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Study Materials

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Registration Category

Registration Category:
Prospective, Category 1: Data for measuring impacts have not been collected

Completion Overview

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Preliminary Report:
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Data Availability

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Other Materials

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Study Stopped