Friday 29-07-2016 - 14:29
Swansea University's new campus failed to provide basic amenities for students. The students' union's PR and Communications Manager Hannah Granton tells us how their student officers responded.
When the new Bay Campus was opening, it was supposed to be a smooth process. Students were supposed to live and study on the campus and there weren’t going to be any problems. Of course, we knew it wouldn’t be completely smooth sailing but what we didn’t expect was how many issues there were going to be.
When the campus opened in September 2015 there was no cash in the cash machines, the buses were infrequent and full, there was no nearby store, an inflated cost for internet access, and there was no Students’ Union building.
The list went on but it's also worth noting that the new campus, despite its world class facilities, is on the outskirts of the city and had no easy access to amenities.
As a students' union our ultimate objective was this: Ensure all our members have an equal student experience.
Our officers had to react immediately.There was no marketing or complicated strategy behind this, it was reactive and urgent - it was a great example of why students’ unions exist and why members need them. When students experience difficult times, we’re here for them.
When the mass of issues began to emerge from the Bay Campus, the need for urgent reaction was obvious. The first port of call was to collect as much information as possible from our members. We launched a survey which was set up as an 'Arrivals' survey – this would mean that students from both Bay Campus and Singleton Campus would provide feedback which was vital to make comparative data. Our officers also hosted an emergency Student Forum where they invited all students to come and speak about all the issues in a calm and safe environment.
The next step was to take every issue to each of the university departments. Our five full-time officers demanded immediate reaction to each issue. The officers also took the issues to university senior management, which lead to a member of the University SMT joining the campaign to ensure that all issues were fixed.
The primary issue highlighted surrounded travel. It was vital that students were able to access the local community, lectures, sports teams and societies. Without transport our members would feel isolated which would bring risk of mental health problems. Working with the local bus company and the University Travel Planning Coordinator, the buses were changed from running every 30 minutes to every 10 minutes in less than two weeks. The officers also helped to secure a free Park & Ride parking ticket for students who had to travel by car but weren't able to park on campus.
In two months the SU building had been opened allowing for a space for societies to meet and members to receive support from the SU Advice Centre. We also offered up a space for Muslim students to pray - a facility that the university failed to provide.
Unfair charges for internet access were scrapped, an on-campus store was opened and students could get cashback from university run cafes. One by one, our officers went through the list of issues and addressed them. All this was achieved whilst being calm, respectful and ensuring our members knew what was happening. Every success was promoted to students via email or social media ensuring that they were aware of any changes or updates.
The campaign was a true demonstration of how partnership is vital to success. Our officers dealt with the issues maturely and professionally. Through holding meetings with the right staff, speaking to our students and being entirely transparent with our members, issues were solved in a calm and respectful way. The maturity in which they dealt with problems made them great ambassadors for the union, and we were all immensely proud of their behaviour.