By Jen Kelly, Union Liaison Manager, NUS extra
At NUS extra (and indeed, across the student movement as a whole) we care about what students think. From the next political campaign, to whether the shop stocks Coca-Cola, students shape the direction of NUS on a daily basis.
NUS extra is the very epitome of this, with student research and feedback shaping the card and its purpose even before the card existed.
The start of change
In August 2003, while Britain was sweltering under record 40°C temperatures, and hearings for the Hutton enquiry were in full swing, the first steps were being taken towards what would prove to be one of the biggest changes to NUS’ most visible presence in students’ daily lives.
The NUS card was free to both students and unions, with over 2 million cards distributed per academic year by NUS Services via students’ unions across the UK.
At this time, NUS itself was facing significant changes to how it was run and how it would continue to be funded. There was pressure not only to decrease its heavy reliance on affiliation fees (89 per cent of total income came from affiliation fees in 2000) but, from a commercial aspect, to realise more diverse sources of income, over and above the ‘traditional’ licensed trade routes.
Student perceptions of the NUS card: consumer research
Taking this into account, NUS Services commissioned research into students’ lifestyles, spending habits and the perceptions of the NUS card, including what they thought about the benefits, and its financial value. This extensive research consisted of:
• six qualitative focus groups: two with FE students, two with first-year undergraduates and two with other-year undergraduates.
• 801 face-to-face quantitative interviews. These were evenly split between FE and HE, and came from a sample of 40 students’ unions across the country.
From this research, it was established that:
• Almost 90 per cent of students surveyed owned an NUS card.
• The majority of students were prepared to pay for the NUS card as it was (over 80% of FE students), with a smaller number saying they would pay if the card had increased benefits.
• Of those willing to pay for the NUS card, 64 per cent of second-and third-year HE students would be willing to pay between £5 and £10 for the card in its current guise.
• 72 per cent of first-year HE students said that the NUS card was ‘quite’ or ‘very important’ to them.
• The average perceived value of the NUS card was between £150 and £200.
• A great quote from one of the interviews says, simply: “When you have got a card you are a proper student. It shows that you’ve got where you want to be.”
From 2003 to now
This original research shaped the NUS extra card that launched in 13 trial unions in 2005. It cost £10 and gave discounts at Argos, The Body Shop and USC, to name a few. Over 25,000 cards were sold that year – a great achievement when you consider that this was a brand-new product and was also in direct competition with the free NUS card!
The next stage was to take the card national, which involved a huge research exercise including:
• 724 mystery shopper visits to discount partners.
• An online questionnaire for unions to feed back their views.
• More consumer research with cardholders and non-cardholders, including over 1,650 individual interviews.
With this research covering everything from discounts and offers to the issuing process and perceived savings, the results formed the template for what became our bi-annual NUS extra cardholder satisfaction survey, conducted every April and December since 2008 by the NUS Services research department.
This is just a short sample of the findings from our latest round of research – the full report will be made available on NUS Connect soon.
If you would like more information about any of the research mentioned in this article, or would like to find out more about how it has helped shape NUS extra over the last nine years, get in touch on 01625 41329.