Debates set ball rolling for foundation of a university for the voluntary sector

The possibility of establishing a third sector university, which could include voluntary work and human rights faculties, will be examined in a series of debates open to everyone working in the sector.

PrimeTimers, a social enterprise set up to help voluntary organisations grow, is organising five events - which it is calling colloquia - to debate the possibility of establishing a university for civil society.

The debates will cover topics that include lifelong learning, charities as learning organisations, the experience of other countries and the feasibility of setting up such a university.

They will be led by sociologist Martin Albrow, who is professor emeritus of the University of Wales and a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics.

He said the aim of the proposed institution would be to enable people of all ages to be trained and receive accreditation in areas such as voluntary work, human rights and active citizenship. It would also help unite existing sector-related training, he said.

"It would be a network of existing provision," said Albrow, who is also honorary vice-president of the British Sociological Association. "There is a lot out there, but it's not linked together."

He added that the establishment of such a university would attract people to work in the third sector and raise standards.

The first debate will take place on 3 December at the LSE. Four further debates are scheduled between January and April next year. Each debate is open to about 50 people. For details, email

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