Rather than trying to secure a university place that year through clearing or entering into our difficult job market, students are taking advantage of the opportunity to travel abroad and do some philanthropic work.
“We have seen a significant increase in the number of students choosing to volunteer this year,” said Dr. Peter Slowe, Projects Abroad’s managing director and former economic policy advisor to Tony Blair.
Although the age range of Project Abroad volunteers is between 16 and 75, the majority of volunteers are students who have chosen to take gap years. These students and other volunteers choose from a variety of placements in diverse fields from conservation to human rights, archaeology to child care and even taking part in missions to rescue child slaves.
According to Slowe, there has been a 30% increase in Project Abroad’s volunteer placements alone, a number that he predicts will rise in the coming years because of the diverse opportunities and the short placement periods that fit well into holiday periods.
He attributed the increase to two factors: first, a record 700,000 applicants vying for 480,000 university places meant a lot of students did not get admitted this year.
“So now they are wondering what to do with themselves, especially when employment prospects are grim. Philanthropic volunteering in the developing world is an excellent alternative,” Slowe said.
The second factor Slowe cited that the university fee increases to as much as 2012 per year was a strong motivator for many students to take a sabbatical earlier than planned to decide what it is they want to do with their futures.
Students who came to us were disappointed at first about getting shut out of university. Then they saw Projects Abroad as a wonderful opportunity to broaden their horizons by visiting new places, meeting new people, learning new skills and helping others,” Slowe said.