Modern universities which are embedded and respected within local communities will be distinctive, sustainable and of greater appeal to all stakeholders.
An organisation like Volunteering Matters, which facilitates volunteering projects across the UK, is perfectly placed to work with universities to promote the wider advantages of volunteering and the mutually beneficial impacts on the local community and students. Through developing collaborative volunteering projects, we can respond effectively to the challenges we all face.

Our students spend on average 24,000 hours volunteering over the academic year and survey feedback shows nearly 70% said volunteering helped to make them feel more part of the wider London community. At the same time, 86% felt it would have a positive impact in terms of increasing their employability.

Higher Education institutions have a unique opportunity and responsibility to contribute to society and create public benefit through research, teaching and learning. In an increasingly competitive sector, our students, staff, local and global communities, industry partners and other stakeholders have rising expectations which we need meet in order to remain true to our values and stay ambitious.

.At the University of Westminster we want our students to have a distinctive learning experience. To help create this, our curriculum is shaped around five key ‘Graduate Attributes’ – areas of personal and professional development in which Westminster students will excel upon graduating. These attributes will support our students to become highly employable, globally engaged and socially responsible.

This academic year, our work experience fairs were attended by a total of over 1000 Westminster students. They were able to search for volunteering opportunities that suited their interests and goals, both personal and professional. It was also a chance for them to hear inspiring volunteering stories from fellow students highlighting the impact that volunteering can have locally, nationally and internationally.

Organisations like Volunteering Matters are key to universities connecting with local communities; listening and understanding the issues that affect people’s daily lives to enable us to collaborate and innovate, whether that be through research, the use of our space, the expertise of our staff or the energy and passion of our students. Dovetailing with volunteering charities and organisations like Volunteering Matters while being present and active within local communities, enables us to break down both real and imaginary barriers so that the local community know who we are, where we are and that there are doors open to them.

Andy Norris is Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at the University of Westminster.

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