From their arrival at UCU all students are encouraged to engage with our local, regional and national communities, as well as those further afield. With active support from the Student Association, its many committees and teams, and also from UCU staff, this engagement is becoming more widespread and diverse each year.

Town and Gown

Town and Gown strives to promote the values of a global citizen through civic engagement and social work and strengthen ties between UCU and the city of Utrecht and its communities. Town and Gown can provide funding for student projects or connect students with the existing running projects.

Past projects

The student committee for ecological and sustainability initiatives, EcologiCoset up UCU’s own ‘Taste Before You Waste’ project group. Now part of a larger network of ‘TB4UW’ groups, these students gather unwanted food from local shops, restaurants and our own campus, then re-distribute it free of charge in the center of Utrecht or take it to a local soup kitchen.

Enactus UCU’ builds new social enterprises in partnership with external parties both locally and abroad. The students have raised funds and brokered relationships to establish the first of two planned fish farms in Gachie, Kenya, generating income and greater self-sustainability for the nearby Red Hill Baraka School.

UCWorld, the college’s own NGO, trained a group of UCU students in the design and management of crowdfunding campaigns. This group then volunteered for 5 weeks with project partner, Injoca, a humanitarian NGO based in Honduras, and successfully ran an online crowdfunding effort for one of the NGO's projects.

UCU Red Hill Baraka School
Enactus tries to set up a fish form for the Red Hill Baraka School

Survey

A UCU survey in December 2014 showed that individual students, as well as small groups, also engage in a huge variety of voluntary community outreach at their own initiative, often without any central co-ordination. This activity includes: volunteering for ‘Stichting Present’ which supports vulnerable people in their practical, household or personal  matters throughout the Netherlands; voluntarily teaching local disadvantaged children to swim; providing advice to patients’ families through the Dutch healthcare charity Human Concern;  acting as Board member for Red Cross Utrecht.

Around 60% of the students’ civic engagement takes place in Utrecht, with the most popular activity centering around children, followed by the environment, the disabled and the elderly.

35% of respondents volunteer once per week, and 26% do it once per month, with others engaging less regularly or on a one-off basis. When asked about motivation for getting involved in community outreach, the majority of respondents said it was ‘important to give back to society’ and also it was ‘simply enjoyable’. Others found the work valuable preparation for later in life.

The survey showed that 58% of respondents engage in volunteering or community outreach of some kind. Of the remaining respondents, over 90% said they would actually like to get involved but lack the time and/or information to do so. In response, UCU’s Humanitarian Committee and UCWorld (the college’s own NGO) have offered to centralize some of the most helpful information about local community engagement for students, together with some UCU staff.

Building on succes

The Student Association’s previous successes in civic engagement have grown into established parts of UCU life. 

For example, the Cultural Cookery project is now a yearly event, where a team of 15-20 students voluntarily take total management of a local restaurant in Utrecht. Everything is student-led including the menu, cooking, serving and entertainment, and profits made are donated to a different charity each year.

Many other individual students and campus groups continue to get involved with communities ‘outside the gates’: BicyCo and other committees have helped arrange a special cycle ride from Middelburg to Utrecht, bringing, students, staff, local businesses, neighbours and friends onto campus for a festive reception in anticipation of the Tour de France starting in Utrecht in 2015 year and MarathonCo continues to raise money for charities by participating in races.