As a civic institution and one of the largest organisations with charitable status in the city, the University of Glasgow and its staff and students can create distinct social impact by partnering with the third sector.

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About Glasgow’s third sector

The third sector is broadly defined as organisations that sit outside of the market and the state and range from UK-wide organisations with large budgets to social enterprises and small community organisations run by a small number of staff or volunteers.

In Glasgow, almost 60% of charities are small-to-medium sized with operating budgets under £100,000, and of these, 68% have operating budgets under £25,000 annually (Sector stats, SCVO, 2020).

The sector played a major role in the response to the COVID-19 crisis and will continue to serve as a vital partner in communities as Scotland undertakes both economic and social recovery.

Glasgow University links with the third sector

The University of Glasgow and its people can engage with the sector as a key partner in its civic engagement mission through research and knowledge exchange, learning and teaching and volunteering.

Engagement with the third sector provides benefits to organisations by bringing expertise to bear in solving pressing problems and addressing longer term issues in collaboration with third sector partners.

Importantly, our engagement strives to be low or no-cost to the organisations and the expertise provided (including real solutions and recommendations) seeks to be responsive to the needs of the organisation.

Working with the third sector – benefits for research

Benefits to academic research come from working with real clients to solve problems, which can be used both as research data (e.g. action research projects) and evidencing impact of one’s research.

Closer engagement with the third sector can also help maintain a close touch with practice and create more applied learning for students in the production and development of teaching materials or connections for consultancy-based courses.

Working with the third sector – benefits to students

Benefits to students include gaining experience working with real clients to solve problems, work-related learning opportunities to apply course topics and skills, and building connections with potential organisations for collaborative dissertations at undergraduate or postgraduate level.

Third sector engagement offers students opportunities for invaluable professional and personal development.


The following projects provide ways to make connections between third sector organisations and Glasgow University staff and students.

Student internships

The Internship Hub is a dedicated team sourcing and facilitating internship opportunities that are exclusive to University of Glasgow students.

In this blog, postgraduate student Iona Campbell, describes the benefits of taking part in an internship with third sector organisation, Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Scotland as part of the Find a Solution programme: Why interning in the third sector might be right for you

Collaborative research

The Collaborative Dissertations team in the College of Social Sciences helps to organise student research conducted in partnership with an external organisation for their dissertation. We recognise that many organisations need good quality research and that our students are keen to conduct research which has relevance to the real organisational challenges.

Students or organisations interested in getting involved, please contact the  Student Experience & Partnership Lead – Skills & Development.  

Policy and practice collaborations

Connections with Practice (CwP) is a project of the Adam Smith Business School that seeks to connect businesses and organisations (including third sector organisations) with academics and students for consultancy projects, research and more.

  • Third sector organisations which want to connect with business school students and academics, please contact the CwP team.

The University of Glasgow’s Public and Community Engagement team works with researchers to support projects to improve engagement with community partners for mutual benefit. This includes a new network of staff and students, the #UofGEngage Forum.

  • University of Glasgow staff can keep up to date with engagement opportunities, funding and training by joining the engagement mailing list (VPN required).
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The Collaborative was a project of academics in the College of Social Sciences that aimed to connect local third sector organisations with academics at the University of Glasgow and their students to work collaboratively on pro-bono projects to improve their organisation. The pilot phase of The Collaborative has now concluded.

However, any third sector organisation which would like to be connected or stay connected to this project, please contact Dr Paula Karlsson-Brown.

Volunteering opportunities

GU Volunteering is provided by the Student Representative Council for all Glasgow University students, giving them the chance to undertake a wide range of volunteering opportunities both on and off campus, and to provide a valuable link and input into the local community.

Related resources

See all of Policy Scotland’s third sector resources