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A conceptual framework to understand student volunteerism


This paper develops a conceptual framework to understand the value of an increasing number of university study programmes that send students to the global south to learn through volunteering. We ask what determines the benefit that these activities bring to the host community. To understand this, we conceptualise these activities as student volunteerism and propose a framework to understand the value of these activities based on a previously developed framework for volunteer tourism. We examine a single case study of a minor programme in a Dutch university, exploring how course design and student selection affect student behaviour as an antecedent step to creating student benefits. We identify six kinds of factors that appear to promote ‘deeper’ (better) contributions and argue that these six factors require further analysis to better realise university contributions to societal development in Global South contexts.

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An earlier version of this paper was presented at the European Higher Education Society conference in Porto, Portugal, September 2017. This work has been supported by COMPETE: POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007043 and FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia within the Project Scope: UID/CEC/00319/2013. The work was also undertaken as part of the “Crossing Borders” First Cycle Minor programme at the University of Twente. The authors would like to thank the host organisation and the interviewees for their candid responses. Any errors or omissions remain the responsibilities of the authors.

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Correspondence to Jorge Cunha.

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Cunha, J., Mensing, R. & Benneworth, P. A conceptual framework to understand student volunteerism. Tert Educ Manag 25, 31–44 (2019).

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  • Student volunteerism
  • Academic volunteering
  • Global south
  • Sustainable development
  • University engagement
  • Knowledge society