Can you disprove this? Taking part in clubs and societies doesn’t make a difference to the employment prospects of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
This guide would be more effectively done as close to course completion as possible so students have had a chance to understand what might come next in terms of their career.
Disadvantaged groups –This can be a challenging one to define; there are many possible ways to do so. For this exercise it’s best to use the simplest one possible and look to refine it later. We suggest that HE and FE students’ unions define ‘disadvantaged’ here by considering students’ home addresses mapped against Participation of Local Areas (POLAR3) data. So where a student is from quintiles 1 and 2 (i.e. students coming from the 40% of the UK least likely to send students through Higher Education) they can be considered disadvantaged. As a proxy for social class this is imperfect but useful because institutions tend to have postcode data available and be familiar with the indices.
Employment prospects – an individual’s potential of getting a secure job paying at least the living wage. This is a minefield to measure accurately because any actual job secured is the product of many social and economic factors which are complicated to account for. e.g. the jobs market might be failing, or recruiters have regressive hiring practices. This is not to say the SU should not tackle these issues but for our purposes now we are trying to find simple evaluation methods. With this in mind, a reasonably useful and very easy to gather indicator is to take an individual’s expected job upon course completion. We can hope to get a more realistic response, or at least a more conservative estimate, by asking students for their most pessimistic assessment as well.
Part A. Quantitative – build the argument
Survey enough students so you have a sample of at least 370* disadvantaged students amongst the total number. In your survey ask:
- Whether they are members of clubs and societies
- How they think they would have been employed if they hadn’t gone into education (employment basis – unemployed/permanent/temporary; salary level – £10–20k; 20–30k; £30k+)
- How they think they will be employed after education, their best-case scenario
- How they think they will be employed after education, their worst-case scenario
Compare the responses of disadvantaged students with the responses of the others. Are there any significant differences in responses?
Remember we are trying to monitor the impact of clubs and societies. Ideally we would like to see that disadvantaged students taking part in clubs and societies feel they have at least the same employment prospects as their more privileged peers. We would therefore expect the group with the lowest expectations to be the disadvantaged students not taking part in clubs and societies.
Part B. Qualitative – how does your students’ unions contribute?
We want to ask about the role that taking part in student opportunities has played in supporting them to have better employment prospects. This can be done by an open-text question on the survey, or by interviewing a selection of students.
In 2014 the Black unemployment gap was nearly twice that of the general population. (11.3% to 6.2%, DWP, ‘Labour market status by ethnic group’, April 2015). How can you repeat this exercise to explore your union’s contribution towards improving the employment prospects of Black students?
What further steps can be taken to mitigate the disparity between study leavers’ ability and how that translates into actually getting a job? E.g. Most jobs are recruited for amongst closed networks; the economy might be failing to create enough jobs for study leavers?
Example posters from students' unions
Birmingham City University Students' Union
(If you develop an survey template, please send it in for others to use firstname.lastname@example.org)