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Win, win, win? A critical perspective on student volunteering


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This seminar was the third in a series of seminars focusing on volunteering in a fair society organised by IVR in partnership with the ESRC and Birkbeck University. This event explored how individuals and communities can most effectively make their voices heard.

Adam O'Boyle from Student Hubs discusses student volunteering.

Past presentations from the Institute of Volunteering Research website can be found at the following location -

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Win, win, win? A critical perspective on student volunteering

  1. 1. Win, Win, Win? A critical perspective on student volunteering Adam O’Boyle, Student Hubs Economic and Social Research Council, Institute for Volunteering Research!and Birkbeck, University of London Policy Seminar March 2011
  2. 2. About us Student Hubs works across the UK to transform student involvement in social action. We seek to act as a catalyst, empowering students to become active members of their community by promoting social action, social entrepreneurship and citizenship. We have a growing network of ‘Hubs’ in universities that increase student involvement in social action and ensure these efforts are effective and sustainable. We currently work in the universities of Bristol, Cambridge, Oxford, Oxford Brookes and Southampton – with a membership of over 14,000 students, 100 student groups and 20 national NGOs. At a national level, we also run the UK’s leading student conferences on international development, social entrepreneurship, climate change and community volunteering. Vision A flourishing community of socially aware and socially active students who make a positive difference at home and abroad, both during their time at university and in their future careers.
  3. 3. Introduction • Contemporary research • Historical research • Separate but linked analysis for national and local levels • Myths? • A vision of the future • Impact • Shaping the landscape • Where are we now and where are we going next? Recent Policy Background • Higher Education Funding Council for England. Ringfenced funding and then not. • v • NCCPE • Overall a time of growth and success? More research needed.
  4. 4. Infrastructure Background • Student Christian Movement (1900-1920) • NUS and SCANUS (1920-1980) • SCARP and SCADU (1978-2000) (Home Office support) • Student Volunteering England (2000-2007) (Home Office support) • Further and Higher Education Team, Volunteering England (2007-11) Contemporary Context • Big Society and public spending cuts • University funding - fees, widening participation. Changing demands of students • Public Engagement - Reality or mirage? • International view - American Universities • Constantly shifting social need
  5. 5. Delegates at the Oxford Climate Forum - Europe’s largest student conference on climate change November 2010 Myths?
  6. 6. A happy customer of Oxford-based student community project, Kids Adventure February 2010 Vision
  7. 7. •Driving purpose •Student or community need? •The view about social change/justice we are taking. See: Impact •Spade a spade. Not zero sum game but there is still a dominant motivation? •Student motivations. CV myth? •A lack of ambition? American models. But US myth? Leadership for this from where? •Local vs International. Changing social needs •Holistic models - volunteering, social action, citizenship •Students and Youths •Need to engage with them separately •Focus of analysis is on undergraduate students •Too rich? Too privileged? The most important of investments in volunteering?
  8. 8. Staff and student volunteers get together at a training day shared across the Hub network September 2009
  9. 9. Immediate: •University, Students, Community. Win, win, win? See: Brewis and Holdsworth. •Need for more critical perspective and better learning •Importance of social education •Group projects over individual placements? •Employability agenda, Radicalism and 5 forms of volunteering: Support, Service, Action, Study, Self-help. •Again, reflection needed •Strengths and weaknesses of service learning •Being student and community led •More research into different support models and the student and community experience Future: •Reproductive vs Deconstructive. Empowering communities. See: Holdsworth and Quinn •Embedding within a currently non-existent lifecycle. National Citizen Service, 6th form, Graduates, Volunteer Centres. Alumni.
  10. 10. Young carers enjoy baking with student volunteers from Magdalen College, Oxford March 2010 Landscape
  11. 11. •All research stresses the importance of specialist national infrastructure. Networking especially. Recent roundtable. What are future models? •Local provision, national support? Messiness a strength and weakness. •Staff development. M+E, R+D •Scale and Sustainability - locally and nationally •Better frontline links •Best-practice and efficiency •Subsidiarity. Possible? Problematic? •Funding: especially for national infrastructure •Endowment? •It’s not free •More alumni support •Universities: Short-term benefits vs a risky funding relationship and chance of mission drift? Are student motivations just not understood properly? •Necessity for student leadership - where are we now? More cost effective too! •Harder balance to strike •Student leaders are more interested than we think
  12. 12. Staff and student volunteers man the Oxford Hub Freshers Fair stall October 2009
  13. 13. • Educatiing and leading good citizens for the good/big society. Audacious goals. Cultural change is possible? • Effective, Sustainable, Efficient • More debate and research needed. Tracking survey • University or student driven? A generational shift. • Sustaining the sector’s current impact • Local case must always be made • Importance of wider stakeholder engagement • What will be the next stage of development nationally? Learning from past? • Critical perspectives at a local and national level • Responding to a changing context. The student consumer? Research needed
  14. 14. Student Hubs, The Old Music Hall, 106 -108 Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1JE +44 (0) 1865 403 352 a: t: e: w: Contact