Exploring Impacts of Volunteering on University Students in London - John Braime (UCL) and Minna Ruohonen (Imperial)
During the academic year 2009/10, volunteering departments at a group of eight London based universities joined forces in order to measure the impact of volunteering on university students.
A total of 1,039 participants completed the online survey. Our findings included:
Volunteers perceived an increase in their personal development in several areas, including greater self-confidence (84%), interest in 'trying new things' (83%) and self-discipline (71%).
Participants felt that their transferable skills increased as a result of volunteering. Most students felt that their communication (90%), interpersonal (87%) and team working (71%) skills improved through volunteering.
Half of all participants (50%) felt that volunteering had benefited their learning in one way or another. Slightly fewer students (45%) had been able to put their academic learning into practice through volunteering, though this is still a significant figure given that most of the volunteering considered in this survey is extra-curricular.
Volunteering offers students an opportunity to gain an insight into different working environments, and to develop transferable and specialist skills for future employment. The majority of students felt that their general employability had increased and that they had acquired skills required by future employers (67%). A high number of students (80%) also felt confident in using their volunteering experience in job applications and interviews.
Over half of the students (57%) felt that volunteering had increased their 'sense of being part of my university' whereas their 'sense of being part of the local community' increased even more (75%). The vast majority of students (89%) felt that volunteering improved their opportunities to meet people from different backgrounds and 77% felt that their understanding of different cultures had increased.
All of the participating institutions have some form of dedicated volunteering provision. Our survey showed that, overall, these services are well-regarded by both volunteers and non-volunteers.
Why students volunteer
Students find out about volunteering in a variety of ways - whilst campus events like Freshers' Fairs proved most popular overall, there was a fair degree of variation across the eight universities. Students volunteer for a range of reasons, with individuals being motivated by a combination of factors, including 'wanting to make a difference', 'I enjoy volunteering', 'to learn new skills', and 'to enhance my CV'.
'Bursting the Bubble' - National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement
Student volunteers make a significant contribution:
- 63 per cent of students have taken part in formal volunteering since starting university
- Volunteer-involving organisations place great value on higher education students
A desire to make a difference
- 95 per cent of students who volunteer are motivated by a desire to improve things or help people
A plurality of routes
- 38 per cent of student volunteers are introduced to volunteering through their university or students' union
- 48 per cent of volunteers give their time to formal volunteering activities that benefit the wider community but without receiving any support from their university
Challenges in volunteer management
- Students who receive support for their volunteering from their university are more satisfied with the experience of volunteering and derive greater personal development benefits
- Senior university staff express a strong commitment to volunteering, but volunteering services are hampered by a lack of secure funding and a relatively low profile
High expectations, high rewards
- Student volunteers report many positive impacts on their own personal development, skills and employability
- 51 per cent of recent graduates under 30 years old who are in paid work say that volunteering helped them to secure employment
- Students identified the opportunity to burst out of the student 'bubble' as one of the most valued aspects of volunteering
Barriers to participation
- The major barrier to volunteering reported by students is lack of time owing to study pressures
- Linking volunteering to academic subjects or careers might encourage more students to volunteer