Volunteering for success: mentoring as a form of student volunteering

Jane Andrews

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceAbstract


Previous studies into student volunteering have shown how formally organized volunteering activities have social, economic and practical benefits for student volunteers and the recipients of their volunteerism (Egerton, 2002; Vernon & Foster, 2002); moreover student volunteering provides the means by which undergraduates are able to acquire and hone transferable skills sought by employers following graduation (Eldridge & Wilson, 2003; Norris et al, 2006). Within the UK Higher Education Sector, a popular mechanism for accessing volunteering is through formally organized student mentoring programmes whereby more ‘senior’ students volunteer to mentor less experienced undergraduates through a particular phase of their academic careers, including the transition from school or college to university.
The value of student mentoring as a pedagogical tool within Higher Education is reflected in the literature (see for example, Bargh & Schul, 1980, Hartman,1990, Woodd, 1997). However, from a volunteering perspective, one of the key issues relates to the generally accepted conceptualisation of volunteering as a formally organized activity, that is un-coerced and for which there is no payment (Davis Smith, 1992, 1998; Sheard, 1995). Although the majority of student mentoring programs discussed in the paper are unpaid and voluntary in nature, in a small number of institutions some of the mentoring programs offered to students provide a minimum wage for mentors. From an ethical perspective, such payments may cause difficulties when considering potential mentors’ motivations and reasons for participating in the program. Additionally, institutions usually only have one or two paid mentoring programs running alongside several voluntary programmes – sometimes resulting in an over-subscription for places as paid mentors to the detriment of unpaid programs.
Furthermore, from an institutional perspective, student mentoring presents a set of particular ethical problems reflecting issues around ‘matching’ mentors and mentees in terms of gender, race, ethnicity and religion. This is found to be the case in some ‘targeted’ mentoring programs whereby a particular demographic group of students are offered access to mentoring in an attempt to improve their chances of academic success.
This paper provides a comparative analysis of the experiences and perceptions of mentors and mentees participating in a wide-range of different mentoring programs.
It also analyzes the institutional challenges and benefits associated with managing
large scale student volunteering programs. In doing so the paper adds to third sector literature by critiquing the distinctive issues surrounding student volunteering and by discussing, in-depth, the management of large groups of student volunteers.
From a public policy perspective, the economic, educational, vocational and social outcomes of student volunteering make this an important subject meriting
investigation. Little is known about the mentoring experiences of student volunteers with regards to the ‘added value’ of participating in campus-based volunteering activities. Furthermore, in light of the current economic downturn, by drawing attention to the contribution that student volunteering plays in equipping
undergraduates with transferable ‘employability’ related skills and competencies
(Andrews & Higson, 2008), this paper makes an important contribution to current
educational and political debates.
In addition to providing the opportunity for students to acquire key transferable skills, the findings suggest that mentoring encourages students to volunteer in other areas of university and community life. The paper concludes by arguing that student mentoring provides a valuable learning experience for student volunteer mentors and for the student and pupil mentees with whom they are placed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010
EventVolunteering counts conference: a research conference on voluntary action - Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 1 Mar 20102 Mar 2010


ConferenceVolunteering counts conference: a research conference on voluntary action
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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