Thursday 28-02-2013 - 00:00
Steph Powell, vice president student engagement, Solent Students’ Union
Buzz phrases such as ‘employability skills’ litter conversations now more than ever, demonstrating the importance of supporting our students in their development.
In the age of increasing fees and higher living costs, students naturally come to university expecting more of their academic experience and more from their students’ union.
At Solent, we have a distinctive funding opportunity for student-led projects called ‘Trial, Adapt, Launch’, supported by UnLtd, which aims to develop skills in a unique, student-oriented way.
As a creative university, our students exude innovation and ideas for new businesses and social enterprises, and the students’ union is always keen to tap into this inventiveness. Solent Students’ Union has teamed up with the university’s employability and enterprise team to provide a funding pot of £25,000 for students to set up their own campaigns, fundraising, volunteering, or enterprise projects.
The ‘trial’ part of the project offers £250 for new initiatives. Where successful, students will receive more benefits including mentoring and training from the university, and further funding. The application process is easy and accessible for all of our students. Any student can apply for money for any project they want to start at Solent through a short application form which encourages them to think about social impact, budget, time management and project delivery. All funding requests for student projects are reviewed by our volunteer co-ordinator and vice president student engagement.
Encouraging student development
Due to the nature of the scheme, the type of application can be quite diverse. Projects that we have funded so far have include supporting a local Brownies group with fundraising equipment to sustain the continuation of Brownies in the local community, sending students to a volunteering conference, and employing a PhD student to develop an app enabling our student radio station, Radio Sonar, to become accessible for visually impaired students.
In addition to this, we have introduced an increase in society funding. This money is available for any member of any society, and can be used for anything to help support their activities. There is a similar process for societies to apply for money, but these applications need to be approved by the officer committee. One project we’ve funded this year was from Enactus (previously Students in Free Enterprise) to run a social enterprise with So:Fair to sell bags made by victims of the tsunami in India.
In the current economic climate, it is more important than ever to find new ways to encourage student development during their time at university. Our partnership with the university has allowed the students’ union to expand away from potential limitations or being ‘obvious’, and instead we can now provide a package for students which is far wider reaching and with a larger and more beneficial impact.