Each year, we use surveys and other data collection techniques to measure our impacts and gauge the quality of our services. These are summarised in our Annual Review.
In 2019/20 we recruited and supported 2046 UCL student volunteers.
Overall they gave 55,700 hours of time to communities around London.
UCL Students volunteered in 28 London boroughs. By far the most popular was Camden – naturally enough, as this is where UCL is located.
387 students gave 9470 hours of their time in one of the 5 east London Olympic boroughs. This represents 17% of volunteers – down from 23% last year, but up from 13% in 17/18.
Read the full breakdown of volunteering by borough
In our annual student survey we looked at how volunteering connected with students’ academic work. 90% of volunteers said that it had benefitted their studies, most commonly by giving them relevant skills or experience, helping them put their studies into a social context, or enabling them to pass on their academic knowledge to other people.
We also asked volunteers whether they’d developed skills that would be useful in the workplace - 91% said that they had. In addition, 75% of students said they felt that volunteering had improved their wellbeing. These impacts were covered in more depth in our 18/19 and 17/18 surveys.
Experience of volunteering
In our survey, we asked students what they liked, didn’t like and would improve about their volunteering. These open questions were then analysed to give us a picture of the joys and challenges of volunteering, and to help us find ways to improve students’ experiences.
By far the most popular type of response about what they liked related to making a difference. Students also enjoyed meeting other people, and learning new skills & knowledge.
Students least liked the time commitment involved, as well as the time and costs involved with travel (though all of our projects pay expenses - clearly not every volunteer is aware of this).
As in previous years, Women, undergraduates, and international students from outside the EU/EEA were more likely to volunteer.
The following groups of students were also more likely to volunteer:
- Students with disabilities.
- UK students of non-white ethnic origin.
- International students of Indian ethnic origin.
- UK Undergraduates from neighbourhoods with lower participation rates in higher education.
At a faculty level, we were most successful at engaging Laws and Medical Sciences, which is in line with previous years. Population Health Sciences, Life Sciences, and Social & Historical Sciences all had above average rates of involvement too.
Some faculties have more postgraduates than others – and as postgrads were less likely to volunteer in general, this affected their participation rates. If we look just at the percentage of undergrads involved, Brain Sciences and Institute of Education actually had above average participation rates in volunteering.
By the same token, Arts & Humanities and SSESS had higher participation rates just because those faculties have more undergrads.
Impact on UCL
In 2018/19, we provided 80% of academic departments with information about volunteering opportunities relevant to their students’ courses.
We also provide advice and support about volunteering issues in general and can help build links with London’s voluntary & community sector. In 2018/19 we supported 41 colleagues in 38 different departments with 49 distinct requests, such as advice about their own volunteering programmes, publicising UCL activities to the voluntary & community sector.
In addition to this one-to-one support, we co-organised two ‘Creating Connections’ networking events in partnership with UCL Public Engagement Unit, bringing together UCL staff and representatives of community organisations.
In our 2019 survey of our community partners, we asked about the ways in which UCL students had made an impact. 77% said they had strengthened bonds within the community, and 69% said they'd improved the health & wellbeing of others. 56% said our students had improved access to educational opportunities, and 44% said they'd improved access to the labour market.
Organisations generally agreed that UCL volunteers produce work of high quality and have useful skills / knowledge. 65% felt they’d helped diversify their pool of volunteers.
Community Research Initiative for Students
The Community Research Initiative for Students (CRIS) exists to enhance the experience of UCL’s postgraduate (taught) students (PGT) by supporting them to undertake their dissertation in collaboration with a not-for-profit organisation. CRIS formally started on 11 November 2018 when the Community Research Manager took up her post. The rest of 2018/19 focussed on developing the programme infrastructure, establishing links with UCL departments and relevant community organisations, and engaging with a trial cohort of PGT students.
If you'd like to know more about our surveys and reports, please feel free to get in touch.