Volunteering During Times of Crisis: An Increasing Number of Students Earn Academic Credit for Volunteering

An effort that pays off: Many JKU students are volunteering in addition to their studies.

Simon Dorrer; Credit: Baumgartner-dieziwi
Simon Dorrer; Credit: Baumgartner-dieziwi

Particularly in times of crisis, social involvement and volunteering are important to support social cohesion. Students at the JKU can earn academic credit for their volunteer work, which includes firefighting, working for emergency & rescue services, and/or helping combat the pandemic. Supported by the independent State Volunteer Center, the offer is becoming increasingly popular and since its launch in 2020, the number of credit transfer has increased nine-fold.

Limited initially to volunteer work with rescue and fire departments, since the start of the pandemic, students can also earn academic credit for volunteer work to combat Covid-19. Since then, other volunteer activities have been added to the list and students can earn up to 4 ECTS credits, an offer that many students are happy to take advantage of.

Stefan Koch, Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs at the JKU, remarked: "A university is not just a place of higher education; individual personal growth is just as important. The JKU is proud that many of its students actively volunteer and help make our lives better. We also want to acknowledge that."

Students in All Majors
Whereas at the start in 2020 students could only earn 5 credits for volunteer work, during the 2022 Summer Semester students earned close to 50 (credits to combat the pandemic: over 50, Fire and Rescue just under 70). Students in Artificial Intelligence are frontrunner when it comes to volunteering, however other student volunteers major in law, medicine, and business.

JKU students volunteer in many ways, including helping refugees, working at women's shelters, tutoring school students, and helping the homeless.

Introducing Our Volunteers

Renate Fuka, 34, studies social economy. She volunteers at the Tafel Wels and the Team Herzkraft Kinderfreunde.

The Wels native remarked: "I am the type of person who has been volunteering since I was a teen, working mostly with children and young people. I jumped at the opportunity to get academic credit toward my degree in the form of ECTS credits and in recognition of my many years of volunteering. Finally, a 'reward' for the countless hours of volunteer work which, of course, was always very rewarding in itself. But the bottom line is that everyone needs that little incentive once in a while and the academic credit came at an opportune time. I had always wanted to see about working in a soup kitchen but couldn’t jump that last hurdle. Without the academic credit, who knows if I would have overcome my reservations."

Simon Dorrer, 22, studies Electronics and Information Technology at the JKU and volunteers at Lebenshilfe NÖ.

The young man from Ennsbach in Lower Austria added: "I find volunteering in a social capacity during the summer balances out my everyday academic life. I can continue to grow socially and emotionally. I enjoy helping residents at Lebenshilfe Wohnhaus and supporting their activities as much as possible."