Research Synthesis: Student Volunteering - background, policy and context.
This Research Synthesis explores a broad range of areas, including:
- a review of some of the key literature on volunteering
- mapping the policy landscape, with particular reference to student volunteering
- identifying themes in how universities are constructing or managing volunteering
- reviewing the perceived benefits of student volunteering
- reviewing the perceived barriers to student volunteering
- mapping learning-linked volunteering and exploring emergent themes
- reviewing the service learning model from the USA
- listing useful toolkits to evaluate student volunteering and training resources to support activity
The research uncovered a vast variety in the nature of student volunteering activities across the UK and how those activities were managed and constructed. There are a number of factors that contribute to this diversity, many of which are inter-linked. These include for example, the courses offered, the history of student-led community action within the host institution, where volunteering provision was based, and the strategic mission and priorities of the institution.
Within this diversity it was clear that there was a broad range of positive attributes linked to volunteering activity but many of these benefits were taken for granted by staff within institutions, and that there lacks a secure evidence base demonstrating impact to key stakeholders. The data suggests that part of the reason behind this lack is to do with the availability of resources for collecting data in a systemic manner. It also suggests that there might be wider issues around how volunteering is defined and measured across institutions.
It is evident from the research that there exists a well developed student volunteering network. However there remain a number of significant gaps in our understanding. In order to begin to tackle these gaps and to promote growth within the sector, it is crucial to develop a clear understanding of the various models of student volunteering and the inter-relations between these. This will assist us in our other tasks of building more positive engagement with wider policy around volunteering, and in collecting a rich evidence base to support future development and to demonstrate the impact of student volunteering.
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