More and more students are volunteering to work in local communities as part of their degree programmes, according to a report by the recently launched Council for Citizenship and Learning in the Community. There are now more than 90 institutions accrediting community-based learning.
John Annette, CCLC chairman and assistant dean of social sciences at Middlesex University, said that more of Britain's universities need to acknowledge the value of voluntary work, as recommended by the Dearing report.
"Citizenship is going to be part of the school curriculum in 2002, so it will have a direct impact on universities. Students seem to benefit from linking their traditional academic knowledge with working in local communities," he said.
Working in partnership with the national charity Community Service Volunteers, the CCLC will provide a focus for institutions already assessing community work.
Irene Hall, project manager of CoBaLT, a community learning partnership between the universities of Liverpool, Birmingham and Liverpool Hope University College, said students had a "real sense of achievement" from working on local projects.
"They have to work their socks off. We match up students who need a final-year project with the research needs of a community group - and so far it has always worked very well," she said.
CoBaLT students replace their final-year dissertations with a report which normally accounts for two out of the eight modules taken in the final year.
Jackson Li, 20, a third-year psychology and sociology student at Liverpool Hope, is researching the impact volunteer schemes have on the attitudes of student nurses at a local hospital.
"This is definitely better than a normal module," he said. "You are learning all the time, although the workload is quite heavy. You have to learn to allocate the project time outside lectures and we don't get any special, treatment when it comes to course deadlines. But I would recommend it to anybody."