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The Gap Year – An endangered species?

11th August 2010 Print
Gap Year travel

Recent news that leading universities are vetoing gap years or capping the number of applicants who can take a year out threatens to cast a dark cloud over next week's A-Level results.

Justin Francis, Managing Director of acknowledges that in an increasingly competitive applicant market, it is important to show universities that a Gap Year is being spent doing something worthwhile.

But Francis firmly believes that an outright cap or, worse, a ban on deferred entry for potential Gap Year travellers undermines the benefits of a productive Gap Year where part of the time might be spent doing valuable volunteering work.

“Universities are supposed to produce well-rounded and educated young people who will become good citizens. It seems contradictory for some of them to be actively deterring deferred entries and Gap Years which give students so much opportunity to develop.”

The Gap Year had already evolved beyond the stereotype of full moon parties and island-hopping in Asia, with more students now opting to spend time in communities, teaching or working on a conservation project. But with noticing a growth in the market for shorter two-week volunteering trips it could be that the change in university policy is endangering the Gap Year and driving students to seek out shorter volunteer opportunities. has over 350 volunteer travel options with programmes starting at just two weeks. Here are a few that should keep any prospective university happy:

Teaching English in Rajasthan:
Volunteers who join this programme will spend their days teaching underprivileged children some basic English and maths during the week. At weekends there will be workshops about the local Indian culture - cooking, arts and crafts, dance and Hindi classes. 4-12 weeks.

Volunteer and learn Spanish in Guatemala
Living with a local family in Antigua and with 20 hours of one-on-one Spanish classes you’ll combine work on rural projects with learning a language. You will assist in building energy efficient stoves for cleaner air and less wood consumption, leading to greatly improved living standards and decreasing rate of deforestation. 1-4 weeks.

Volunteering in Thailand, wildlife rescue centre
The centre's aim is to save wild animals and their habitat from destruction by rehabilitating captive or domesticated animals, Housing over 200 rescued animals including gibbons, lorises, bears, a crocodile and a tiger daily tasks include assisting the caretakers with feeding, building, cleaning and maintaining housing for the animals, and giving talks to tourists. 2-12 weeks.

Gap Year Expedition in Kenya
This expedition supports a variety of ongoing community and wildlife programmes – from teaching and building school projects to marine and elephant conservation. There are also opportunities for personal challenges like learning to dive or climbing Mount Kenya. 4-12 weeks.

Coach rugby in Ghana
As a volunteer you will coach rugby in schools in and around Cape Coast, working alongside the coach of the Junior National Rugby team, to help develop the sport in the region. Willing volunteers must be prepared to help bring Rugby to this sports-mad country! 2-12 weeks

Volunteer at a polo school in Argentina
Hone your polo skills whilst learning the secrets of polo horse breeding and training at an estancia 80 minutes from Buenos Aires. A family-run business it has all the facilities required for keeping 50 + polo ponies in breeding and training. You’ll help the gauchos with training, exercising, feeding and cleaning as well as learn Spanish. 2-12 weeks.

To find out more, visit:

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Gap Year travel