This sheet contains details of some of the numerous opportunities available for students to become involved in civic engagement activities.  The majority are statutory based and, as such, involve functions and responsibilities governed by law.  Though many appointments require no specific qualifications, training, etc. an essential pre-requisite for all these positions is a real interest/passion in the relevant area.

This list should not be seen as exhaustive nor conclusive.

General Roles

The Centre for Public Appointments

There are numerous public bodies, committees, agencies, QUANGOs etc. within central and local government that require lay (non-specialist) members.  This site lists the current vacancies by specialism, level of commitment and location.  Students can register and automatically be emailed updates of current vacancies.

School/College Governors

Schools. colleges, etc. regularly require interested persons from the local community to act as school governors (often referred to as Foundation or Community governors).  Local Authorities keep lists of such vacancies; though this should not preclude making direct enquires to individual institutions (especially Academies, Free and Independent schools/colleges).  HE students are particularly sought given their recent experience within the secondary and tertiary sectors.

Army Reserves

The Army Reserve (previously known as the Territorial Force, Territorial Army (TA) and the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve (TAVR)) is the active-duty volunteer reserve force and an integrated element of the British Army.  Fully paid training is provided and there is a minimum commitment of 19 days service a year.  Reserves maybe required to operate abroad. Applications can be made to become a solider or a commissioned officer.

There is also the Royal Navel Reserves ( ) and the Royal Auxiliary Airforce (RAuxAF) ( ) operating in a similar way for the navy and air force respectively.

Research (Medical) Ethics Committees (RECs)

RECs determine whether medical research should be permitted based on ethical considerations and the best interests of patients.  They are attached to medical school, laboratories, teaching hospitals and health authorities. Committees are made up of medical professionals, statisticians, lawyers, ethicists and lay persons. Applicants should have an interest in healthcare, medicine, science, law, bioethics or theology.

Conservation Volunteers

There are numerous bodies concerned with issues of conservation, sustainability and historical preservation. Many of the bodies require volunteers in a number of roles from dealing with the public in a stately home to archiving historical materials, maintaining ancient stone walls and protecting endangered species.  Some of these bodies also operate abroad.  The level of commitment depends upon the organisation though most are very flexible as to the number of hours and days.

The National Trust

The biggest organisation within the area of historical conservation is the National Trust with over 2 million members and responsibility for around 500 historical properties.  They are always keen to receive applications for volunteers covering a wide variety of roles including management.

Charity Volunteer

There are numerous charitable organisations many in desperate need of volunteers to undertake a wide variety of duties. Roles can be general or specialised, e.g. accounts, HR, logistics, legal, sustainability, etc.

Money Advisors

Money advisors provide help, guidance and assistance for individuals with financial problems.  An interest in financial and economic matters is highly desirable.

NHS Non-Executive Public Appointments

All NHS Trusts require volunteers to sit on committees, boards and panels covering a wide variety of health and care related areas.

Community Service Volunteers

For Law Students (though not exclusively)

Police Specials (Special Constables)

Special Constables are part-time, unpaid volunteers assisting full time officers within each statutory police force within the United Kingdom and some Crown dependencies. Officers are known as special constables (all hold the office of constable no matter what their grade/rank) or informally, as specials.  There is a minimum hourly commitment per month (usually 16hpm) and officers have the same legal powers, e.g. arrest, as full time officers. Applicants should be healthy, possess resilience and have an interest in criminal justice.

Independent Custody Visitors (ICV)

ICV are responsible for ensuring that persons held in police custody are treated in the manner prescribed by law, e.g. the provision of meals, access to lawyers, etc.  They have the authority to visit police custody suites at any time to observe conditions, etc. Full training is provided.  Applicants should have an interest in human rights and criminal justice.

Citizens Advice Bureau

CABs provide advice, information and guidance to the general public in a wide variety of areas including: welfare benefits, immigration, housing, employment and social issues.  There are over 23000 volunteers, all receive full training and support.  The level of commitment required is flexible.  Some volunteers are trained to represent clients in tribunals and at hears (such as pupil expulsions, benefit appeals, etc.).

Lay Magistrates (Justice of the Peace (JP))

Lay magistrates sit and preside over the Magistrates Court.  They conduct proceedings, determine the verdict and pass sentence for summary (minor) criminal offences within their jurisdiction. Applicants do not need to be legally qualified for this role. Each case is usually heard by 3 magistrates, including the chair (a magistrate with specialised training.) The only conditions are:  aged 18 – 65, possess maturity, of good character (no convictions, has not been made bankrupt, etc.) and live locally to the court.  The HMCS is particularly keen on appointing younger persons to the Bench as, presently, magistrates tend to be skewed towards older generations.  The minimum commitment is 13 days (or 26 half days) a year.  Full training is provided on criminal law and court procedure.  Magistrates have the post-nominals JP after their name.

A McKenzie Friend

All litigants are entitled to have help and assistance from another third party whether legally qualified or not (though there are exceptional circumstances when a judge can bar persons, not directly connected with the case, from being in court.)  A McKenzie Friend (first recognised in the family law case of McKenzie v McKenzie [1970]) is a lay person (unqualified in law) who assists a litigant in person (LIP) (person without a lawyer) conduct their court case. They can provide advice on: court procedure, questions to rise, issues to plead, etc. Such persons may or may not be known to the LIP but are usually people with specialist knowledge in the relevant area or with experience in court/tribunal conduct and procedure. The role can involve a fee and/or expenses though many provide a free service (note: such roles do not have professional indemnity insurance). There are no formal qualifications need for this position though McKenzie Friends DO NOT act as a lawyer for the LIP nor an agent.  They have no right to represent their client in court (though there are exceptions at the court’s discretion) nor sign legal documents on their behalf. There are many websites that provide McKenzie Friends for a fee.

Note: A McKenzie Friend is not the same as a legal guardian, next friend or an amicus curiae.

The Court Service Practice Direction on McKenzie Friends is in the link below:

Many organisations train and provide McKenzie Friends to assist in their work.  For example, The National Centre for Domestic Violence:

A register of professional McKenzie Friends is provided by the Society of Professional McKenzie Friends


A “trustee” is a person who is legally responsible for assets, such as money or property, held in a “trust”. A “trust” is a legal arrangement used to protect assets, e.g. buildings or money for the benefit of the “beneficiaries” to the trust. Such assets are referred to as “trust property”. Trustees are legally responsible for the assets held in the trust and are required to manage the trust and carry out the wishes of the person whose assets were placed into trust. All charities require Trustees.  Applicants should select charities, etc. in areas they have an interest in such as medicine, child services, poverty, overseas developments, sustainability and education. Some financial awareness and an ability to read accounts would be beneficial.

Other Useful Sites

The following sites provide details of general volunteer appointments as governors, trustees, committee officers, advisors, etc. Searches can be made by specialisation and location.