The URV, a pioneer in integrating community service with content learning

Every year, students prepare nearly 40 bachelor's and master's degree theses that use the service-learning methodology to respond to the needs of local organisations

10è Mercat de Projectes Socials de la URV.
URV’s 10th Market of Social Projects.

Service learning is an approach to education that combines services in the community with the learning of content, competencies, skills and values. The URV was the first Catalan public university to implement this approach in 2012. Each year, about 40 students from various bachelor’s and master’s degrees prepare their final theses and also take part in subjects that give them practical experience and respond to the real needs of the social, cultural and environmental organisations in the region.

The expertise acquired in this methodology and the successful implementation have made the URV a leader in this field and an example of good practices in the service-learning working group of the Aurora Alliance, one of the networks of European universities promoted by the European Commission with the aim of becoming an inter-university campus.

Just this Thursday the tenth edition of the Social Projects Market was held to put organisations in contact with the students and teaching staff who want to work on or supervise bachelor’s and master’s degree theses and doctoral theses focused on responding to the needs of the organisations. Of the 45 organisations that take part in this university initiative, 16 attended the market and were able to explain first-hand the projects that are available to students. In total, there are 110 projects that students can choose to do as their thesis, all available on the virtual campus, where both students and teachers can register.

El catàleg de projectes d'aprenentatge servei està disponible al campus virtual.
The catalogue of service-learning projects is available on the virtual campus.
“Students feel like they are part of the solution”

Sandra Iglesia, coordinator of the Bachelor’s Degree in Hispanic Language and Literature, and Josep Miró, coordinator of the Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Management at the Terres de l’Ebre Campus, are two of the lecturers who have been involved in service learning for years, and who attended the Social Projects Market to find out about the theses that could be offered to undergraduate students. Both agree that working with an organisation is highly motivating because, as Miró says, “it adds value”. “The students see real needs, experience them, and feel like they are part of the solution,” concludes Iglesia.

In the field of languages, for example, the students have prepared guides for volunteers who teach Spanish to immigrants in order to pass the A2 level, with materials and recommendations for the use of materials in the classroom.

El coordinador del grau de Psicologia, Marc Guasch, al 10è Mercat de Projectes Socials.
The coordinator of the Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, Marc Guasch, at the 10th Social Projects Market.

However, the fields of intervention are highly diverse, so there are opportunities for virtually all disciplines of the University’s degree programmes. In the Social Projects Market, the organisations presented some of the projects they hope to interest students in: for example, workshops for young people with emotional discomfort (Ocell de foc); the exploitation of an outdoor space (Topromi Foundation, which works to give the disabled employment opportunities), or the design of a qualitative study and citizen participation for the interventions of the University Institute of Research into Primary Care (IDIAP Jordi Gol).

Punt de trobada del 10è Mercat de Projectes Socials de la URV.
Meeting point of the URV’s 10th Social Projects Market.

The Social Projects Market has reached its tenth edition this year, and is an example for the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, also a member of the Aurora Alliance. The manager of the service-learning service of this university, Camille Bressers, together with Professor Sarju Sing Rai came to Tarragona to get ideas for implementing the project in the Netherlands. “It is very inspiring to see the work of the URV, which is the leader in service learning,” explains Bressers, “and it is a great opportunity for the students”.

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