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Learning through Engagement - Service Learning

What is service learning?

Service learning is a method of teaching and learning that combines service to the community with the acquisition of academic, methodological, and social skills (learning). In service learning projects, students perform work that benefits the community. They learn how to draw connections between relevant theoretical content and what they learn in their practical work. The students are guided along this learning experience and have the opportunity to reflect upon it in a structured manner. One of the key criteria is that the projects should yield added value for the (partner) organizations involved, the participating students, academic teaching, and the community (cf. Bartsch 2009, Berthold et al. 2010). In this way, service learning combines academic learning and social responsibility (cf. Küppers 2009).

The initiatives presented below stimulate students’ personal development and the development of their social skills, and they also give students the opportunity to carry out their own projects in a goal-oriented manner under academic supervision. In addition to the social aspects of these programs, many of them also place great emphasis on sustainability.

Sources cited:

Berthold, C., Meyer-Guckel, V. & Rohe, W. (2010): Mission Gesellschaft. Engagement und Selbstverständnis der Hochschulen: Ziele, Konzepte, internationale Praxis. Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, Essen.

Bartsch, G.; Reiß, K. (2009): Do it! Learn it! Spread it! Service Learning für Studierende. Mehrwert-Agentur für soziales Lernen gGmbH. Stuttgart.

Küppers, H. (2009): Warum soziale Verantwortung lehren. In: Raus aus dem Elfenbeinturm? Entwicklungen in Service Learning und bürgerschaftlichem Engagement an deutschen Hochschulen. Weinheim und Basel, Beltz Verlag.

Service learning at WU – an overview

WU’s range of service learning activities reflects the inherently holistic nature of higher education. The curricula include activities like project seminars and cooperation programs that facilitate knowledge transfer between the students and partners from the fields of public management, the nonprofit sector, and the business community. These activities are complemented for instance by extracurricular initiatives intended to strengthen social inclusion, such as the “Volunteering@WU – Lernen macht Schule” project.

Social skills, interdisciplinary knowledge, and team spirit know no borders: The SDG Internship Programme gives WU students the opportunity to put their theoretical skills into practice during an international internship where they work to promote and develop sustainable projects in the field of development cooperation.

Cooperation programs with other Austrian universities like the Sustainability Challenge open up new ways of tapping the potential of synergy effects across different universities.

WU’s portfolio of service learning activities ranges from purely WU-focused projects and group work to national and international programs.

Service learning – examples of extracurricular activities available at WU

Changemaker Program / Skills Academy

„Lernen macht Schule“ (Volunteering@WU)


SDG Internship Programme (Volunteering@WU)

Sustainability Challenge

Service learning – Examples of activities from WU curricula

Project seminars in the Specialization in Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Specialization in Entrepreneurship and Innovation (Bachelor’s Program in Business, Economics and Social Sciences, Bachelor’s Program in Business Law)

Practical project in Course V of the Specialization in Diversity Management

Specialization in Diversity Management (Bachelor’s Program in Business, Economics and Social Sciences, Bachelor’s Program in Business Law)

Project seminar (Course III) in the Specialization in Public and Nonprofit Management

Specialization in Public and Nonprofit Management (Bachelor’s Program in Business, Economics and Social Sciences, Bachelor’s Program in Business Law)

Service Learning I + II (Courses in the Master’s Program in Socio-Ecological Economics and Policy)

Master’s Program in Socio-Ecological Economics and Policy
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