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1 Oct 2014

Loughborough academic set to investigate David Cameron’s flagship volunteer scheme

A Loughborough University academic is set to investigate the impact one of Prime Minister David Cameron’s flagship Big Society projects is having on society and young people.

Dr Sarah Mills will spend three years researching the National Citizen Service, a volunteer scheme launched in 2011 which is expected to have attracted 100,000 youngsters by the end of 2014.

The project is called ‘A rite of passage? National Citizen Service and the Geographies of Youth Citizenship', and is being funded by a prestigious Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Future Research Leaders award of £249,630.

Mr Cameron launched his vision for the ‘Big Society’ when the Coalition government came to power in 2010. He said it was about empowering communities, redistributing power and fostering a culture of volunteerism.

NCS, a voluntary scheme for 16 and 17-year-olds delivered through a range of charities, private sector partnerships and youth organisations, is a key plank of this vision.

It involves a series of social action projects, volunteering in the local community and a residential camp.

Dr Mills, a lecturer in the Department of Geography, says the Big Society rhetoric has waned but it is still driving policy.

She will examine the government’s motivations behind NCS, how the voluntary sector has engaged with it, and young people’s experiences of the programme.

She said: “One aim of the research is to understand why the government has placed such a big emphasis on young people volunteering through NCS.

“I’ll also be asking, ‘what do the voluntary organisations that deliver NCS think about it? What do young people actually experience, and what impact has it had on their lives?’”

Dr Mills’ research will involve analysing recent government policies, an online survey with NCS graduates, and interviews with NCS participants and voluntary organisations that run the scheme.

The project will also follow a group of young people on their ‘journey’ through NCS and this will be portrayed in an online animated video at the end of the project.

Professor Myra Nimmo, Loughborough University’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research, said: “These ESRC awards are incredibly competitive and this is a fantastic achievement – developing research leaders is a key part of our strategy at Loughborough University.

“However the praise must go to the quality of the work undertaken by Sarah and the environment created by her colleagues.

 “Dr Mills’ project is an excellent example of research which both contributes to our academic understanding of the area but has an immediate impact through exploring the lives of young people today and improving policies that shape their experiences, and those of the next generation.”

The project starts on 1 October 2014 and is funded by ESRC grant no. ES/L009315/1.

Notes for editors

Article reference number: PR 14/173

  1. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

    It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, putting it among the best universities in the world, and was named Sports University of the Year 2013-14 by The Times and Sunday Times. Loughborough is ranked in the top fifteen of UK universities and has been voted England's Best Student Experience for six years running in the Times Higher Education league. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

    In 2015 the University will open an additional academic campus in London’s new innovation quarter. Loughborough University in London, based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, will offer postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities.

  2. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funds research into the big social and economic questions facing us today. We also develop and train the UK’s future social scientists. Our research informs public policies and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. Most importantly, it makes a real difference to all our lives. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government. In 2015 the ESRC celebrates its 50th anniversary. www.esrc.ac.uk
     
  3. For more on Dr Mills’ research, visit: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/geography/staff/mills-s.html

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