Following the removal of part time work rights for Tier 4 students in the publicly funded further education sector in 2015, Edinburgh College used a UKCISA grant to launch ‘Volunteer for Success’. This project differentiated between voluntary work and volunteering and enabled international students to still gain from extra skills and confidence from volunteering in different organisations.
34 international students took part in the first year. Since then offering volunteering opportunities has been an integral part of their international student welcome.
We spoke to Kris Lozanov about the project and how it has changed students’ lives for good – as well as the local community.
“While international students at our college could no longer take part in paid work, we wanted to give them the opportunity to gain experience and confidence from volunteering outside of the classroom.
“Creating Volunteer for Success has had a huge impact on our international students. Volunteering at different organisations means that they’re exposed to a wealth of regional accents – and not just Scottish ones! This has changed their lives by improving their English language skills as well as boosting their confidence.”
The team at Edinburgh College specifically looked for volunteering opportunities rather than voluntary work, which meant that most of the opportunities were ad-hoc one day events with local charities. Throughout the year, international students took part in 67 volunteering opportunities. These opportunities included fundraising, running events and helping at local charity shops.
As well as the benefits to students, local charities also reported benefits including students helping and assisting customers in their native language, as well as having the impact of having enthusiastic and willing volunteers from diverse backgrounds sharing ideas and excitement for their causes.
Would you like to run a similar initiative?
Kris told us:
“We’d like to see other colleges and universities adopting similar programmes. It’s incredibly beneficial to international students as well as the wider community. It can take a bit of time to build relationships with local organisations but once you’ve made that initial contact it’ll be very rewarding - and cost-effective to run.”
You can read the report of the project in our resource bank.