Bursting the Bubble: Students, Volunteering and the Community

  • How many students volunteer, and what do they do?
  • Why do students volunteer? 
  • What benefits can volunteering have, for students, universities and communities?
  • What are the challenges in volunteer management in universities?

These and other questions are explored in

Bursting the Bubble:  Students, Volunteering and the Community. 

This research was conducted by Georgina Brewis, Jennifer Russell and Clare Holdsworth of the Institute of Volunteering Research for the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement, as part of its vinspired students project.

The research used quantitative and qualitative methods including online surveys with over 5000 students and graduates.  It also used interviews, and focus groups with a range of stakeholders.  The research team used a participatory methodology, working with student peer-researchers in the six case study HEIs, so that students were active participants in the research itself.

The six HEIs case studies were:

  • University of East London
  • Keele University
  • University of Gloucestershire
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Oxford
  • University of West of England

They were selected to represent the diversity of HEIs in England, allowing us to generalise from case study findings to the Higher Education Sector as a whole.


Research Summary (PDF, 2MB)      

The Full Report (PDF, 2MB)


We also have a range of resources available regarding the methodology and impact of adopting a peer-led research methodology

Engagement Guides:

Peer-led Qualitative Research on Student Volunteering

Asking Survey Questions about Volunteering

Using Focus Groups for Research

Participatory Mapping

Case Studies:

We'd appreciate your feedback and comments on Bursting the Bubble.

Please do contact us with your comments or questions.