- University of Birmingham
- Date first submitted:
- 30 Jul 2009
- Date last modified:
- 30 Jul 2009
- Relationship to RDF:
- Domain A: Knowledge and intellectual abilities
- Domain B: Personal effectiveness
- Personal Qualities
- Professional and career development
- Domain C: Research governance and organisation
- Domain D: Engagement, influence and impact
- Working with others
- Communication and dissemination
- Engagement and impact
- Researcher-led activities
- Personal effectiveness
- Knowledge exchange
- Career development
- Postgraduate researchers
- Doctoral researchers
- Research masters
Rationale, aims and outcomes
What is the rationale for doing this?
How does it fit with institutional strategy?
What are the main features of the provision?
What are the aims and expected outcomes?
Volunteering offers a range of ways to develop skills in a non-traditional setting. It helps to produce rounded researchers with a range of interpersonal skills, and is particularly helpful in developing communication skills, especially among international postgraduates, who use volunteering as a way of gaining more practice in spoken English. This kind of non-traditional approach to skills development enables volunteers to tailor their skills development according to time and need. It also strengthens ties between Birmingham postgraduate researchers and the local community.
The induction and placement of volunteers is carried out by the Guild of Students. The Graduate School promotes volunteering opportunities in our monthly e-newsletter and on our website. We also promote volunteering opportunities at Graduate School events such as our Networking Lunches and Evenings.
Each volunteer and volunteering placement is unique and outcomes will depend on both the volunteer’s own aims, and the aims of the group or charity that they volunteer with. Example outcomes include planning fundraising activities (and thus developing time management and supervisory skills) or mentoring children in schools (developing communication and mentoring skills).
Are there any pre-requisites for engagement, e.g. levels of skill, years of experience, essential pre-activities?
How many participate in each 'activity'?
There are no prerequisites, but volunteers working with children or vulnerable adults have to have a Criminal Records Bureau check, which can be done through the Guild of Students free of charge.
Evaluation: benefits, challenges and next steps
How do you monitor effectiveness?
Who do you seek feedback from?
Do you have benchmarks?
Benefits include the chance to practice and develop skills, particularly communication and personal effectiveness skills, in real world settings. Volunteers also have the opportunity to make a real difference to the local community they are working in, and to network with a wide range of people. Postgraduate researchers often speak of the isolating nature of research and volunteering is also a way to combat this.
One of the main challenges is promoting the benefits of volunteering to Postgraduate researchers- it is not something thought of automatically as a skills development opportunity, and many are concerned that it will be too time-consuming. The Guild of Students promotes three opportunities a month in the Graduate School e-newsletter, focusing on placements that are flexible or only ask for a few hours a month.
Recording and evaluating the postgraduate volunteering experience is also a challenge because of under-recording and difficulties tracking postgraduate volunteers after their initial volunteer induction. The Graduate School is currently liaising with the Guild of Students to improve the record management of postgraduate volunteering.
We hope to raise the visibility of postgraduate volunteering, increase the numbers of postgraduate volunteers, and, with the Guild of Students, improve the recording and evaluation of the Postgraduate volunteering experience. It is linked to the Graduate School’s objective of providing a range of development opportunities, as well as enhancing the development of postgraduate communities at Birmingham.