Alan Irwin's welcome article on Citizen Service (THES, July 21) promotes the virtues of students using their degree-level knowledge for the benefit of the under-resourced local community.
From the success of two Nuffield-funded pilot projects in Merseyside and Northern Ireland he argues that this form of service learning can not only contribute to community benefit, but can also underpin academic excellence.
Since 1984, other initiatives have explored the implications of applied learning in the community and come to similar conclusions, notably Community Enterprise in Higher Education, promoted by CSV Education and piloted at Coventry University and Research Exchange (now Community Exchange) in Manchester.
More recently universities have developed modules where students are assesses on their application of knowledge to community needs. Despite the positive outcomes, there is still resistance in parts of higher education to such service learning, although a growing number of colleges and universities are expressing an interest. Around a quarter of higher education institutions now participate in a network (Scene - student community education network) which supports this student-community partnership and is evolving as a lobby group to promote its advantages to policy-makers, industrialists and the community/voluntary sector.
Further details of this network are available from the undersigned.
Student Community Education in Higher Education
237 Pentonville Road