Reading Student’s Union Case Study - Convincing “The University” by Daisy O'Connor, Activities Officer
For several years, RUSU has been working to get a 3G pitch built on campus. The idea came from Change It!, our democratic platform through which students can submit ideas. In asking RUSU to lobby for the construction of a 3G facility, these few students demonstrated impressive foresight as to what continues to be a huge issue at Reading to this day. At the time of the idea’s submission, Reading’s sports facilities were functioning at just overcapacity - and now, four years later, we have reached a point where swathes of students are being turned away at the door.
As the current Activities Officer, I am fortunate to be working in a position where the University is entirely behind our project- they have agreed to fund it, and design and planning is well underway. We are now working together to convince the council and the local community. I cannot take credit for the significant job of getting (sometimes dragging!) the University on board with this idea, but I can share some of what I’ve learned in my own experience, and from Officers before me.
1. It’s unhelpful to think of “The University” as one singular being. You will come across dozens of stakeholders, all of whom have different motivations, priorities, preconceptions and experiences. Amalgamating all of these individuals into one multi-faced monster makes the task much more intimidating, decreases your ability to work person-to-person, and is likely to worsen your working relationship with “The University”.
2. Following on from this- know exactly who you’re talking to and what they care about (professionally and personally). If you know the project well, then your 3G pitch can be framed as a money-maker, a recruitment tool, a boost for the student experience, a health initiative, an environmental conservation project, sector-leading asset, a hub for the community, a people pleaser, or a necessity for equal opportunity.
3. It’s this latter one that sold me- currently, due to lack of training space, existing sports teams are at capacity whilst new ones (usually women’s teams) can’t get a foot in the door. When limited space has to be prioritised for the highest-level sportspeople, it is the students from schools and backgrounds in which they’re less likely to have played sport already who are being turned away. Lots of University staff are highly motivated, and rightly so, by equal opportunity and shunning perceptions of elitism, so make sure they know your project is about that.
4. To varying degrees, and for differing reasons, University staff care about league tables, the NSS, and other survey results. If your project taps into a lower-scored area for your Uni, frame it in this way, as staff may be particularly ready to listen to these ideas.
5. Stand together as a union. As officers, have your discussions (and arguments if necessary) before University meetings so that you can go in with a united front. Although it has been difficult for officers before me, I am very fortunate that all the current officers understand the physical and mental health benefits of sport for the student experience.
Chester Students' Union launch new society era!
Here at Chester Students’ Union, a whole new society era is about to be launched! From September 2019, we have decided to make all our of society memberships free of charge. As a Union, we feel now more than ever a sense of belonging is what really improves the student experience and we want to follow the research that suggest student groups are an influential factor which improve overall student wellbeing.
Prior to the 2019/20 year, society membership ranged between £2 and £30 depending on which society students joined. In terms of funding this change, the Union are launching a grant application scheme whereby societies can apply for funding through an application pack. We hope by doing an application process for funds will enable our committee members to really think about the necessities they need to run a society well and will prepare them with adequate budgeting and financial skills they can transfer into the working world.
Making our societies available and affordable to all is eliminate participation barriers and will hopefully build on a relationship between the Union and societies even further. Newly elected VP Activities, Rio Hall stated “I can’t wait for the year ahead to be VP Activities at Chester Students’ Union. Societies are fantastic student networks and are a great way to make friends during University. We hope now society membership is free, we can build on our membership numbers and see more engagement from societies as a community. We want any University of Chester student to feel like they belong in a society and I think this is going to be the year we witness our societies flourish!”
From initially launching the news to students we’ve received amazing feedback and they are looking forward to hearing all about the changes how the changes can positively impact them at our Committee Training Programme prior to Freshers’ Week. We’re looking to see how the 2019/20 year goes!
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