Catalan Universities Service Learning Network
The Catalan Universities Service Learning Network (Xarxa d’Aprenentatge Servei de les Universitats Catalanes) is a young network created in July 2015 with the aim of exchanging experiences and building knowledge about the promotion, implementation, evaluation and institutionalisation of service learning (SL) in the context of Catalan universities.
The Xarxa ApS(U)CAT is formed by staff from all Catalan universities, and is also open to the organisations with which it runs SL programmes, as well as any interested students. Since its constitution, the Network has met once a year, usually in July. Each meeting brings together anyone interested in debating and examining issues related to service learning at university, while also reaching agreements on what further work needs to be done during the coming academic year. To date, meetings have been held at Pompeu Fabra University (2015), the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (2016), Rovira i Virgili University (2017), University of Girona (2018) and the University of Barcelona (2019).
Service learning is a form of teaching and research that integrates community service and academic learning into a single programme, whereby students are trained while also working on the real needs around them and striving to improve their environment. Learning service is not just a learning strategy to get students to acquire more and better knowledge, although there is obviously an intention to optimise their learning. Neither is it a set of volunteer tasks to raise awareness among students, although it is a good idea to incorporate community support as a dynamic form of education. Service learning is an educational programme that combines learning and community service processes as a single well-articulated project.
An important aspect of SL is its dual nature, partly training and party community service, which can establish a powerful connection between, on the one hand, high quality training with a fundamentally practical dimension and, on the other, the implementation of universities' social responsibility.
In recent years, the number of service learning programmes at the different Catalan universities has increased, and they have also become much more institutionalised. So in this latest phase, there is a need to raise awareness of and consolidate the work being done by the Xarxa ApS(U)CAT, and also to more clearly align this line of work with the 'fourth mission' of universities.
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