Group of young people sitting around sorting goods at table

Higher education & the voluntary sector, a vital partnership

Published: 29/05/24 | Categories: Information & support,Volunteering, Author: Ben Lewis

Ahead of gofod3 Ben Lewis, Director of The Open University in Wales, explains why it’s more important than ever that the voluntary and higher education sectors work together.

For more than fifty years, The Open University has been working in partnership to grow opportunities and enable learning. Like education, volunteering and the voluntary sector are crucial to growing and enhancing our communities, economy, and national life.

Many important public services upon which we all depend are either supported, or delivered entirely, by the voluntary sector. At times of economic challenge, the voluntary sector becomes even more important, and yet so often comes under even greater pressure.


That’s why The Open University in Wales is very happy this year to be a Gold sponsor of WCVA’s gofod3, having been involved with the event since its inception in 2017. We continue to be proud of our developing relationship not only with WCVA as the national voice of the voluntary sector, but also with so many county voluntary councils and individual organisations in the voluntary sector across our country.

Through these partnerships, together we are opening up new opportunities to those working and volunteering in those organisations, as well as service users and beneficiaries. Those opportunities give people the chance to expand their knowledge, develop new skills, and realise their potential.


Our flexible distance learning enables people to fit their studies around their various other commitments, be they volunteering, employment, caring responsibilities, or anything else. It is that flexibility for which we are so well known that has made us Wales’ largest provider of part-time undergraduate higher education.

We are, of course, uniquely positioned as the only university which operates across and serves the whole of Wales. We are also part of the much wider Open University, which works across all four nations of the UK. Our combination of scale and national focus makes it possible for us to work with so many organisations and partners around Wales, and to support the voluntary sector across the country.


We have over 16,000 students across Wales and have seen more and more students choosing to study with us since the reform of the student finance system six years ago. We are proud that almost half of our students come from some of our country’s most underprivileged communities, and that more than two thirds are in full or part-time work alongside their studies.

Making it possible for everyone in Wales – regardless of background or circumstances – to benefit from the transformative impact of what higher education has to offer is vital to the future success of our country and of our communities. It is crucial not only to our economic development, but also, importantly, to the well-being of our citizens.


Our Get Ahead With Volunteering programme, in which WCVA is a partner, is one of the ways we are doing this. Now in its second phase, the programme has been shaped by and for the voluntary sector. It provides volunteers with the opportunity to improve their skills and knowledge so that they get the most out of volunteering.

We are looking forward to discussing the programme at gofod3. The feedback and ideas we gather during the event will help shape the next phase of the programme, which I’m pleased to say is already in development. We continue to be grateful for the support and involvement of WCVA and others in this work.


If you are interested in learning more about how the OU can help you, your organisation, and your volunteers, please do go and speak to my colleagues who will be attending gofod3 and will be very happy to speak with you. On behalf of all my colleagues at The Open University in Wales, I wish everyone attending gofod3 a successful day.

You can find out more about gofod3 and sign up to The Open University in Wales’ session – How The Open University in Wales can help develop volunteers – by visiting