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Volunteering for Graduate Students

Course Description

UCL has the largest volunteering department of any university in London, and one of the biggest in the country. The Volunteering Services Unit – a joint project of UCL and UCL Union – exists to help students get involved in community projects across the capital. The Unit works with over 400 different not-for-profit organisations, and supports around 30 student-led initiatives each year.

Overall, around 1900 students got involved last year, many  of them PhD students.

What can I do?
We’ve a real choice of activities. You could:

  • support children’s learning at a Kings Cross after-school club;
  • conduct research into the needs of older people in Camden;
  • visit someone with learning disabilities once a week to help them live independently;
  • teach IT skills to older people in West Euston;
  • help school students set up small social enterprises;
  • befriend and support refugees and asylum seekers

… or something else completely different. To see ourlatest volunteering vacancies, visit the VSU Website.

Postgraduate Volunteering and Public Engagement Fair

We run seven volunteering fairs throughout the year, including the Postgraduate Volunteering and Public Engagement Fair on Wednesday 26 November. All of our Fairs give you the chance to speak directly to recruiters from London’s community and voluntary sector and find something that will suit your interests, skills and availability.

For more information, visit our Volunteering Fairs webpages.


VSU Student Led Projects

The VSU are also looking for active, creative students who can set up and run their own community action projects. If you’ve an idea that might help others, then please get in touch. The VSU will provide one-to-one staff support, training, community contacts and access to resources to turn your idea into reality. They also administer a small grant scheme that you can apply to for running costs.

Projects have included:

  • Roots & Shoots - UCL students deliver workshops in primary schools on environmental issues
  • Free Hype – Providing marketing and promotional support to local charities
  • Save A Baby’s Life - Basic First Aid awareness for parents, working with community centres across Camden
  • Raspberry Python - Afterschool tutorials on how to use RaspberryPi computers, how to use Linux and how to program in Python. 

Last year, the VSU supported 72 different student projects. For more information, visit the VSU Student Led Projects Websites.

Step Out

If you have a project idea that connects your research with the wider community, the VSU can help there too. The Step Out Programme provides funding and support for UCL postgraduates’ public engagement projects. For more information, visit the VSU Step Out Website.

Students tell the VSU that volunteering has helped them develop new skills and boost their CVs, and help them in finding paid work.

They are there to help you get the most out of volunteering, and so offer an additional training programme to help you develop your skills.

The VSU courses include:

  • Project Leader Training
  • Working with Children
  • Classroom Management
  • Volunteering and Your CV

For further information follow the Course Link below.

Please log your points for these activities via the boxes at the bottom of this page.

Profile of a UCL Volunteer:
Kanchan Das Gupta

Kanchan is in the Third year of his PhD in the Earth Sciences department. He volunteers at the Third Age Project, a centre for elderly people in West Euston.

What do you do as a volunteer?
My principal responsibility is to give introductory lessons on computer & internet applications to elderly people. Additionally, I help the charity users and staff with specific computer/internet related problem and also manage the charity website.

What were your first impressions when you started volunteering?
I was a bit nervous and didn't know what to do. I had no idea about how to run the class, what to teach as there is no course structure. The cultural difference and age gap made it worse. But very quickly I was made to feel totally comfortable there.

How do you feel about it now?
I feel proud and happy now about my volunteering job at Third Age Project. I am very much at ease with everyone at the charity- with users, staff and other volunteers. The whole environment is very comfortable and informal.

What's the best thing about volunteering?
The best thing is the feeling of helping out someone not related to you in anyway. It is really a different experience when someone says "Thank You" and means it! You can see the difference in their face and smile. Then of course you have other advantages like networking with more people from different backgrounds.

And what's the most challenging thing?
The most challenging thing for me was to keep patience while teaching as most people I interact with haven't used computers before at all. Some of them are suffering from age related physical problems and a few have difficulties in communication. So sometimes it is very difficult to pass my thoughts onto them.

How has volunteering changed you?
It made be more patient, taught me how to deal with people from different backgrounds and also helped me to understand the socio-economical conditions faced by people in their third age. Overall it has made me feel better.

What difference do you feel you've made by volunteering?
I think, because of my volunteering, at least a few people will be comfortable in using computers and the internet for some basic applications. They won't get scared now using a "mouse"! Furthermore, the charity website (designed and managed as a part of my volunteering) is helping to encourage more student volunteers to join our charity and generating a bit of funding as well.

Would you recommend the project to anyone else? If so, why?
I would be quite happy to recommend the project to others. The whole working environment is very informal and friendly, with flexible working hours. And then there are nice social gatherings too, celebrating various events from different cultures!

Researcher Development Framework Categories

D3) Engagement and impact

Course Recommended for

This course is particularly relevant to the following groups:

  • 1st Year Research Students
  • 2nd Year Research Students
  • International Students

Course Links



a) Volunteering for up to 50 hours

Description:Once you have completed your training, please log your points here.
Preparatory Work:


b) Volunteering for 50 - 100 hours

Description:Once you have completed your training, please log your points here.
Preparatory Work:


c) Volunteering for over 100 hours

Description:Once you have completed your training, please log your points here.
Preparatory Work:

Page last updated: 23rd April 2015