Policies and procedures

Policy No.
Teaching And Learning
Authoring Organisational Unit
Academic Secretariat (University Secretariat)
Date Approved
Next Review Date
Approving Body
Executive Director Academic Services & Registrar

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The University of Western Australia

University Policy on: Service learning

Purpose of the policy and summary of issues it addresses:

This policy deals with service learning where students engage with the wider community via an unpaid structured and assessable learning experience in an organisation for community benefit.

The purpose of this policy is to:

  • facilitate a coordinated approach to the introduction of service learning with a view to it becoming an integral part of the University's courses;
  • provide explicit standards for service learning;
  • provide processes to ensure risks are identified and managed; and
  • ensure that service learning meets its objectives,

within the context of maintaining the University's reputation as a university of the highest international standing.


In this policy and any associated procedures,

the University means The University of Western Australia

service learning refers to community engagement activities that are embedded in units of study, being structured and assessed as formal educational experiences

relevant board(s) means a Board of the University relevant to the case in point. The relevant board(s) may include a position or a body of people with authority to carry out the function concerned

community benefit sector refers to not-for-profit organisations or Government agencies which have advancing the welfare of the community as their primary purpose

Policy statement:

1 General principles

1.1 The University supports service learning becoming an integral part of its courses as it provides a range of benefits including:

  • developing an ethical sense of social responsibility in students;
  • encouraging staff to develop partnerships with the community benefit sector;
  • advancing equity and social justice in the community; and
  • enhancing the University's reputation for good citizenship and public spirited leadership.

1.2 Academic staff are expected to consider incorporating service learning into units, where appropriate.

2 Structure and requirements of service learning

2.1 Service learning involves a structured educational experience of community engagement that has the following characteristics.

2.1.1 It forms a substantial part, or the whole, of a unit of study, and the community engagement is explicitly indicated in the approved unit outline, specified learning outcomes and assessment details.

2.1.2 It is shaped by a collaborative partnership between the University and an external organisation to ensure that the service component is beneficial to both the recipient (community members) and the provider (students individually or as a group).

2.1.3 It integrates students' participation in a real-world service experience with guided curriculum-embedded reflection on that experience.

2.1.4 It requires students to produce work that combines academic rigour with practical relevance and is evaluated as part or all of their assessment for the unit.

2.2 Service learning may be offered in an undergraduate or a postgraduate unit.

2.3 The component of service learning may be optional within the unit or may be required of all students undertaking the unit.

2.4 An internship or professional practicum may involve service learning where:

  • the external organisation that hosts the student is a not-for-profit organisation that has community benefit as its main purpose; or
  • assessable work is undertaken for community benefit in an organisation other than a not in a not-for-profit organisation.

3 Approval of service learning units

3.1 The Dean of Coursework Studies, in consultation with a reference group of staff with expertise in service learning, has authority to approve the service learning aspect of a unit, where it fulfils the relevant criteria.

3.2 Approval for an existing service learning unit or the service learning aspect of a unit must be obtained from the Dean of Coursework Studies in an event where the following has changed:

  • external organisation hosting service learning; and
  • nature of the community engagement.


1. Approval of service learning units

1.1 Where the unit coordinator believes that a unit meets the requirements of a service learning unit and would like it recognised as such, the Unit Coordinator must provide the following information ( relevant forms are available at this link):

(a) Unit Code;

(b) Unit Title;

(c) a description of the community engagement that the unit includes, accompanied by a brief justification as to how it qualifies as service learning;

(d) whether the service learning component is optional within the unit, or required of all students undertaking the unit; and

(e) a description detailing how the service learning will be assessed.

1.2 The approval process for proposed service learning units is outlined in the flowchart.

4 Agreement with the external organisation

4.1 All service learning units and units comprising a service learning component must include a customised formal agreement between the relevant external organisation and the University.

4.2 The customised formal agreement must address issues which include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • risk identification and management, including, but not limited to, occupational health and safety and police clearances.
  • responsibility in relation to any costs, which must comply with the University Policy on Incidental Student Fees and Charges;
  • skills and maturity of students;
  • induction and supervision;
  • intellectual property which must comply with the University Policy on Intellectual Property;
  • length of the agreement and review;
  • insurance 1;
  • complaints and appeals, which must be in accordance with the University's policies.

1 The University's insurance covers students on placement.

4.3 The customised formal agreement must be developed and signed by an authorised person from the relevant organisation and an authorised person from the University.

4.4 The development of a customised formal agreement must take place after formal approval of a service learning unit or a unit comprising a service learning component.

4.5 The customised formal agreement must be in place prior to teaching the service learning unit or the unit comprising a service learning component.


2. Development of a customised formal agreement

2.1 Unit coordinator identifies relevant external organisation and initiates dialogue.

2.2 Unit coordinator negotiates terms of agreement for the student placement with external organisation that may host service learning.

2.3 Unit coordinator liaises with UWA Legal Services Office to develop, in consultation with the external organisation, a customised formal agreement.

2.4 The customised formal agreement must be endorsed by the faculty before it is formally signed by an authorised person from the University, normally the head of school or the faculty dean in an event where the head of school is the unit coordinator, and an authorised person from the external organisation.

2.5 Unit coordinator must ensure that a copy of the signed agreement and details of its endorsement by the faculty is forwarded to:

(i) the Office of the Dean of Coursework Studies which maintains a register of all new and existing agreements; and

(ii) Archives and Records Management Services to be TRIMMed.

4.6 For approved service learning units in existence prior to the commencement of this policy, where no customised formal agreement exists or the existing agreement does not address the issues referred to in 4.2, a formal agreement must be developed or the existing agreement modified within three months of approval of this policy.

5 Assessment

5.1 The assessment of a student's work in relation to a service learning unit is the responsibility of the University and must be in accordance with the Assessment Mechanism Statement for the unit.

5.2 A supervisor from an external organisation may provide advice regarding a student's work in relation to a service learning unit.

6 Recording of completion of service learning units

6.1 Completion of a service learning unit must be recorded on a student's academic transcript.


3. Recording service learning units in academic transcripts

3.1 Units approved as service learning units must be flagged as such in the Student Information Management System (SIMS) on advice by Academic Policy Services.

3.2 SIMS is advised by faculties that students have successfully completed service learning units by the procedure set out in the ' how to' guide, which can also be accessed via a link on the staff Connect page.

3.3 Student Administration records successful completion of a service learning unit at the end of the student's academic transcript by using the following statement "[Unit Code] [Unit Name] contained an assessable component of Service Learning".

3.4 Student Administration must ensure that the definition of service learning, as defined in this policy, must appear on the reverse side of the student's academic transcript.

Related forms: (Link)

TRIM File No:


Contact position:

Dean, Coursework Studies

Related Policies or legislation:

University Policy on Student complaint resolution (UP07/98)

University Policy on Incidental student fees and charges (UP07/20)

University Policy on Intellectual property (UP07/49)

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