A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet; Uncovering the hidden Service-Learning in UK Higher Education’s pedagogical Practice


It is commonly recognised in the United Kingdom (UK) Higher Education (HE) sector that the United States has dominated the practice of applying and articulating Service-Learning as a pedagogical approach for several decades (see Bringle and Hatcher, 1996; Morton and Troppe, 1996; Eyler and Giles, 1999; Furco and Billig, 2002; Butin, 2003). The use of Service-Learning as a pedagogical approach is an emerging field in the UK, responding to strategic agendas such as assessment of academic impact within the Research Excellence Framework and the civic role of universities. The first Service-Learning/Community Based Learning network meeting was held in May 2020 bringing together practitioners and researchers from across 20 UK institutions. The new network immediately identified the need to articulate key terminology and definitions aligned to examples of practice, to enable Service-Learning to be more widely adopted, embedded and evaluated in a national context. This chapter addresses this need by aiming to explore if, and how, courses delivered at a case study UK HE institution align with the concept of Service-Learning. An online survey was used with teaching staff at De Montfort University in the English midlands, building upon eighteen months of staff engagement activity to promote the concept of Service-Learning. The European Observatory of Service Learning in Higher Education (EOSLHE) definition was employed to analyse responses. Analysis of the data identified strong interest in Service-Learning and of using real-world learning activities within taught courses, but found relatively few programmes that fully meet the EOSLHE definition. Service-Learning practices were found to be present across a wide range of programmes, not only those that have a more obviously applied or community-facing focus. The data also highlighted some factors affecting take-up, such as whether providing or assessing service is viewed as most pedagogically appropriate within particular courses. The data revealed many cases where a shift from real-world learning that doesn’t engage with the community towards adoption of the mutually beneficial approach of Service-Learning could be achieved through relatively small-scale changes to activities or assessments. Thus, the chapter argues that ‘Service-Learning’, or whatever we name the ‘rose’, is likely to be present within many HE institutions, and can bring rich and immediate benefits to the student, the university and the community, however hidden they are and whatever name they are given.



Service Learning, pedagogy, civic engagement, higher education, experiential learning


Thomson, S., Reeves, A., Charlton, M. (2022) A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet; Uncovering the hidden Service-Learning in UK Higher Education’s pedagogical Practice. In: eds. Patrick Blessinger and Enakshi Sengupta, Role of Education and Pedagogical Approach in Service Learning.


Research Institute

Institute for Research in Criminology, Community, Education and Social Justice