Asia Pacific Education Review

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 573–593 | Cite as

Service learning in higher education: a systematic literature review

  • Maimoona SalamEmail author
  • Dayang Nurfatimah Awang Iskandar
  • Dayang Hanani Abang Ibrahim
  • Muhammad Shoaib Farooq


In the last few years, adoption of service learning in higher educational institutions has emerged as a modern teaching and learning strategy. This study is aimed to offer a systematic literature review of service learning implementation in higher education. There is a lack of research on the role of service learning in higher education sector. Moreover, a comprehensive systematic literature review of service learning in higher education is also overlooked in previous studies. Therefore, this study covers an in-depth systematic literature review, which reflects the utilisation approach and outcomes of service learning in higher education. By employing a rigorous exploratory approach, this study offers four major findings: (1) Acceptance and use of service learning in different academic disciplines, which covers a detailed discussion of up to what extent service learning pedagogy practice exists in each discipline. (2) Emerging issues regarding the integration of service learning in different academic disciplines. (3) Comparative analysis of previous service learning frameworks, which includes theoretical foundation, main findings and limitations of each framework. (4) Potential benefits of service learning for all participants. Service learning presents diverse benefits for all stakeholders; we identified the list of potential outcomes in the light of emerging service learning literature. These findings show that service learning is frequently employed in some academic disciplines, i.e. medical and nursing sciences; business and economics; computer science and information system; social studies; teacher education; linguistic and environmental disciplines. Moreover, comparison of previous service learning frameworks revealed that most of them are subject-oriented, specifically focused on institutionalising and practical aspects.


Service learning Service learning framework Higher education Experiential learning Literature review 



Authors wish to thank all the anonymous reviewers for their insightful, thoughtful and constructive comments on the earlier drafts of this manuscript. Same acknowledgment and gratitude goes to the worthy editor(s) of Asia Pacific Education Review for helping in refining this manuscript to its current form. This study is a part of PhD dissertation of Maimoona Salam, the corresponding author, under the supervision of Dr. Dayang Nurfatimah Awang Iskandar and Dr. Dayang Hanani Abang Ibrahim, which is submitted to Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, Malaysia. Therefore, she wants to acknowledge and thank them for their continuous selfless support at UNIMAS. Further, during the revision phases of this study, Dr. Muhammad Shoaib Farooq significantly helped.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Education Research Institute, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Computer Science and Information TechnologyUniversiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS)KuchingMalaysia
  2. 2.Institute of Business and Management, University of Engineering and TechnologyLahorePakistan

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