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Last Updated: Monday, 19 March 2007, 18:21 GMT
Academic credits for volunteering
Taking notes in a lecture
Volunteering could contribute to a degree
University students could be given credits towards their degrees for time spent volunteering, says a government policy review.

The proposal in Prime Minister Tony Blair's public service review aims to make students "more rounded".

The Russell Group of prestigious universities welcomed the move saying they already strongly encourage their staff and students to volunteer.

It said it was happy to consider ways of recognising such efforts.

'Vital role'

The group's director general Dr Wendy Piatt said: "Russell Group universities are committed to considering any further steps which will enable students and staff to contribute their time and energy to helping in the community.

"We are happy to think of ways of more formally recognising volunteering work undertaken by students during their time at university."

She added: "We think that our universities can play a vital role in raising the aspirations of students from non-traditional backgrounds and supporting community projects and local charities."

Some universities already offer academic credits in exchange for student volunteering.

Newcastle University, for example, runs a scheme along with Northumbria University which encourages students to go into 450 different schools locally to raise aspirations in exchange for academic credits.

Many Russell Group universities support community action projects by providing a small grant fund and training for project leaders and several institutions already give students credits for volunteering.

Others allow all university staff to take an additional day of paid leave each year to enable staff to participate in volunteering activities.

Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said: "We would need to consider carefully this idea and talk through with universities.

"But clearly practical experience, including volunteering activity, can offer skills and experience which might be relevant to a student's degree."

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