• student volunteering;
  • higher education;
  • social justice;
  • social capital

Abstract:  This paper addresses student volunteering as an important socio-cultural trend which is generally taken for granted and un-interrogated. We explore tensions inherent in the practice and articulation of higher education student volunteering, via biographical narratives of contrasting student volunteers and employ Rose's (1993, Feminism and Geography: The Limits of Geographical Knowledge, University of Minnesota Press) theory of “paradoxical space” to unpick and understand these narratives, as this has proven a generative approach to re-conceptualising students’ engagement with universities and communities. Building on this theoretical approach, we propose a new conceptual framework to analyse students’ learning and understanding of social justice through volunteering. This framework contrasts reproductive altruism, or volunteering which reproduces social inequalities, with a deconstructive form that provides students with resources to recognise and challenge power relations and inequality in society.