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Enrich your studies with Community Service Learning

Last updated on 30 August 2023
Make impact by working on real-world challenges, while developing essential skills for your future career. VU Amsterdam offers various Community Service Learning courses that take your learning experience beyond the classroom, into society.

Community Service Learning (CSL) is a form of education that connects students with actors in society, such as citizens' initiatives, non-profits, local organisations, or policy makers. Together, you will address (part of) a real-world challenge.

Most Bachelor's and Master's programmes at VU Amsterdam offer CSL courses, so yours probably does too! 

Why participate in a CSL course?

✓ Make a difference | Address real-world challenges and contribute to society, already before your graduate. 

✓ Apply knowledge in practice | Combine theoretical learning in the classroom, with applying your knowledge to real cases in society.

✓ Acquire new skills | Develop important competencies for your future career, such as critical thinking, problem solving, leadership and cultural understanding. 

✓ Explore different viewpoints | Become aware of your own perspective, and that of others. Reflect on the similarities, differences and frictions between these viewpoints, and look for possibilities to integrate them.

✓ Expand your network | Build connections with organisations, citizens' initiatives and fellow students.

Join a Community Service Learning course

  • What does a CSL course entail?

    The topics and activities differ per course, but you could dive into questions like: What are the various causes of loneliness in a particular city district? How to make public transport better accessible? How to stimulate recycling to foster a circular economy?

    You may study these type of questions through interviews, group discussions, questionnaires, or other methods. Ultimately, this could result in the joint development of an app, intervention, recommendation, action plan, evaluation, or another product that will be put to use by the societal partner.

  • How to enrol in a CSL course?

    VU Amsterdam offers a wide range of Community Service Learning courses across various disciplines. Most Bachelor's and Master's programmes offer CSL courses or electives. Contact your course coordinator or the CSL team to explore the possibilities within your study programme.

    There are also dedicated CSL education programmes that are open to all students:

    Bachelor's minor: Global Health
    In this minor, you will address issues related to migration, food security or mental health care. In this, you will collaborate with local, national or international societal organisations for a period of five months. The relatively long-term involvement give you the opportunity to achieve real impact.

    Master's elective: Interdisciplinary Community Service Learning
    In this course, you will work on a complex societal challenges, such as the energy transition, urban food system transformation and accessibility of public spaces. You will collaborate with societal organisations and students from different academic disciplines, and learn how to integrate knowledge from all different perspectives.

  • Examples of CSL courses

    Discover a small selection of VU's Community Service Learning courses below:

    Marketing Sustainable Innovations
    Students of the minor Sustainability and Innovation develop a marketing plan for a societal partner regarding a sustainable innovation. At the end of the course, they present their findings and the marketing plan.

    Professional Sociology Skills (PVS1 and PVS2)
    In these courses, second-year sociology students recently developed four possible future scenarios for post-COVID Amsterdam. The municipality use these to test existing and new policies to determine how well the city is prepared for each of the scenarios.

    Governing Global Challenges
    Second-year political science students collaborate with different levels of governmental bodies (a ministry, municipality, NGO and advocacy organisations) to address global challenges, such as the unintended effects of international development aid on governance, loneliness during the pandemic, and the controversial issue of having dual nationality.

    Analysis of Governmental Policy
    First-year Master's students in Management, Policy Analysis and Entrepreneurship learn how to give policy advice on a complex societal issue based on interdisciplinary research. They write a policy recommendation report on a challenging topic, such as loneliness or alcoholism.

    Management of Sustainable Innovation
    First-year Master's students in Digital Business and Innovation devise new ways to promote sustainable innovations for businesses. This could include platforms that help facilitate more sustainable energy solutions, local food distribution or urban mobility.

    VU Amsterdam offers many more CSL courses. Contact your course coordinator or the CSL team to explore the possibilities within your study programme.

How do students experience CSL?

"Community Service Learning made me aware of the complexity of societal issues. Through this experience, I feel well prepared for my future job."

"I feel more self-assured and have confidence to deal with people who are different from me."

"Something really gets done based on your insights and results. That is very motivating."

"Now I understand what I can actually do with the knowledge we acquire during lectures."

Example of a CSL course addressing loneliness

In this (subtitled) video, first-year Health Sciences students explain their Community Service Learning project, addressing loneliness among young people in Amsterdam New West. How did they experience this interaction?

"We were surprised how open and vulnerable people talked to us!"

"The project was really fun, because we got to work with a real client so early in our studies."

Questions? Or want to follow a CSL course?

Let's explore the possibilities together

Athena Institute, Faculty of Science
Science building (W&N), 5th floor, wing C


Dr. Eduardo Muniz Pereira Urias
  • Dr. Sarju Sing Rai
  • Assistant professor of competencies development through public engagement
Dr. Sarju Sing Rai