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Brunel's occupational therapy students to volunteer up to 15,000 hours in the local community

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MSc Occupational Therapy students

Occupational therapy students at Brunel University London are giving back to the community with their brand-new volunteering modules. The new modules began this academic year, and each student will spend up to 90 hours a year volunteering in places such as schools, charities and care homes.

Brunel’s two occupational therapy courses, the three-year undergraduate BSc programme and the two-year postgraduate MSc programme, have both had volunteering modules added to their courses for the very first time.

Having successfully run the courses for over 10 years, the additional modules were introduced at the start of the current academic year, adding a practical new dimension to Brunel’s occupational therapy training.

The volunteering is in addition to the clinical placements that students will have throughout their training, within the NHS and other healthcare settings.

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       Volunteering: A leisure group led by Brunel's occupational therapy students

As part of their volunteering, students could be supporting children with special educational needs, assisting youth clubs with pastoral care, supporting GP practices with administration or helping charities that engage with elderly people.

In a dynamic shake-up of the programmes, first and second-year BSc students will volunteer 70-90 hours a year, and MSc students will volunteer 35 hours in their first year.

The volunteering hours are built into term-long modules, and students will reflect on their volunteering during class time.

Dr Mellissa Prunty, Divisional Lead for Occupational Therapy, said: “After the pandemic, the department decided that the programmes needed a post-COVID revamp, and the volunteering modules have now been embedded into the curriculum as part of their professional development.

“We wanted to create opportunities for our students to get out into the community, and with the Civic agenda, I felt like it would be good for us to be involved in helping to build capacity, whether it is in nursing homes, pharmacies, schools, sports clubs or charities,” said Dr Prunty.

“Students will volunteer in the same place for each module because we want them to build relationships while learning about communities and culture.”

The occupational therapy courses attract students from overseas who are new to the UK and the British culture, as well as students who have relocated from other parts of the UK.

Having been an international student herself, Dr Prunty knows how daunting it can be to move to another country and is keen for students to feel a part of a community.

“Some of the feedback that we received from clinical placement partners was that our students can sometimes be quiet or shy, and we believe that the volunteering will support them to develop their professional communication skills and soft skills before beginning their clinical placements in the new year,” said Dr Prunty.

“It can be a lot for students if they are from outside the UK, and they are also trying to learn how to be a healthcare professional. Just relocating from a different part of the country to London is a big change, let alone moving from another country.”

Dr Prunty explains that volunteering allows students to learn about the culture around them without also having to learn a clinical role in the process. “By removing the pressure of training, volunteering allows students to learn about people while also supporting organisations, learning about inter-agency working and giving back to the community,” she said.

Around 90 students are currently out volunteering, and another 45 students will be going out in January. Although the majority of students will volunteer in Hillingdon, students who commute from other areas in London are able to volunteer in their home borough. 

Brunel Volunteers – a department within the university that provides Brunel staff and students with local volunteering opportunities – is administrating the volunteering for the occupational therapy programmes and is always looking for new organisations to support.

If you have any volunteering opportunities in Hillingdon or other London boroughs, please visit to register with Brunel Volunteers.

For further information about the Occupational Therapy programmes at Brunel, please visit

Reported by:

Nadine Palmer, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 267090