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Volunteering, choice and control: a case study of higher education student volunteering

Holdsworth, Clare; Brewis, Georgina

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Georgina Brewis


There has been a step change around youth volunteering in the UK in recent years as this once unheralded and taken for granted activity has moved more centre stage, particularly as a key strand of recent Government initiatives directed towards welfare reform, employment and education policies. This article uses the case studies of student volunteering to explore the paradox inherent in articulations of volunteering in policy discourses that emphasise self-responsibility for employability and community cohesion. We review the tensions inherent in escalating the expectation that young people should volunteer through situating volunteering as a conduit of control society, and consider how the promotion of participation destabilises the capacity for sovereign action and choice. Drawing on qualitative research with both HE stakeholders and students, we map out the external policy drivers that universities are reacting to in promoting volunteering, and students' response to these initiatives. Our analysis demonstrates that students resist the expectation that they should volunteer if this is interpreted as devaluing their engagement. Both students and stakeholders recognise that the promotion of volunteering should seek to align institutional practices to promote and support volunteering with young people's own expectations and aspirations.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 14, 2013
Online Publication Date Jul 24, 2013
Journal Journal of Youth Studies
Print ISSN 1367-6261
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 17
Issue 2
Pages 204 - 219
Keywords volunteering; higher education policy; choice; control society
Publisher URL


volunteering control_youth studies_preproof.docx (79 Kb)

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