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The context

The last 4 years has seen significant change for Staffordshire University, its students and their Union, and this is forecast to continue over the coming years.

Changes to the Higher education market and its impact on the number, types and motivations of students joining us; a refocus of the University estate to a single campus model with fewer students; a new University Vice Chancellor and strategic plan that aims for a “Connected University”; a government White Paper re-emphasising the student as consumer; and a challenging funding and revenue environment.

This is a time of change for Staffs and our 2020 strategy looks to build a relevant, agile and effective Students Union that is prepared to deliver for the students of today and into the future.

Our Vision and Values

In 2012, based on feedback from our members, we outlined our vision that we would try and ensure every Staffordshire University student had a reason to be proud to be a part of Staffs; as a University, a Union and a community.

In reviewing the next 4 years, the changes ahead and the progress we have made, we are staying true to this course, with a particular emphasis on “every student” and the need for a clear Student Union offer for students not studying on campus.

The Research

We are very grateful to the 11,826 students who participated in the segmentation analysis undertaken jointly with the University this year that gave us insight into the diversity of motivations for attending University, the experiences they seek and the lifestyles they choose; to the 1,456 who helped with identifying the “High Five” priorities that the Union should prioritise and the 58 students who helped with the drilldown of issues through the student forum panels; and the core and student staff who workshopped, fed back and shaped the analysis.

Through our research, we have been able to identify 7 distinct groups of students through their similarities and differences, which has assisted us with better understanding their personality, motivations, ambitions, engagement, messages, needs and desired improvements. Through building on this understanding we aim to deliver our services and messages to be more focused and relevant.

A positive impact on all students

  • The majority of our students recognise and value the varied contribution the Union makes to their student lives, with improved levels of satisfaction year on year. But there are sections of our membership who tell us that we aren’t relevant to them, they still don’t know all the services we offer, and that we don’t connect with them.

    Although not dissatisfied, 25% of our members remain indifferent towards their Union, and this is most reported from our off-campus, workers who study and part-time students.

    As result we are going to be more focused on ensuring all our students know what the core Union offer is, regardless of where they study, and we will introduce new innovations to enable our services to be accessible from a distance.

  • Goals

    • We will be a Union that is relevant to all our students

    • Students know how we work for and serve them

    • We’ll develop services that students want to return to

    • Academic representatives will be effective in channelling the student voice and can see the difference that they make.

    • We will have a clear understanding of how every part of our work adds value to the student experience

  • Impact

    As a result of this work our members and other partners, will recognise the contribution of the Union, believe that we work for and serve them, and that we have positively impacted on their time at Staffs.

Student Power

  • Not all our students have confidence that things will change as a result of their suggestions or complaints. Many students tell us that neither the University nor Union are good at communicating what has changed, or why things can’t change, as a result of their feedback. In the High Five survey, the issues of receiving academic timetables and any changes promptly, and having access to labs studios and study space outside of teaching hours and more contact time with academics and tutors have featured as a significant student issue for over 3 years.

    As we make long-term change, we will ensure we bring students with us on the journey, so they understand how the contribution of their predecessors and peers have led to new results for them. We will continue to work to broaden the involvement of our students in our change processes and the representation of issue to the University and local community.

  • Goals

    • Areas of the University and Union work that don’t delight students will publish improvement plans to show how they plan to get better

    • We will clearly identify and communicate the top 10 impacts achieved by the Union and its members each month

    • We will have involved at least a quarter of our members in the Union’s decision making processes each year.

    • Our services will have user forums and/or programme committees to shape how they develop

  • Impact

    As a result of this our students will feel their input is valued and that their opinions and issues will be listened to and respected throughout every aspect of their academic and personal lives.

A Competitive Edge

  • A common theme throughout the segmentation work was the expectation from students that their time at University would better equip them for their future, with the workplace being a part of their future. Although not as important in every segment, helping student become more employable was a high five priority across the membership.

    The Union welcomes the promise of the University to provide every student with the opportunity of work experience to develop their employability skills, and will be working to support and provide complementary activity to support this. As one of the largest (>97%) charities in the UK the Students Union can deliver real world experience opportunities to its members and act as a “live lab” for academic courses and qualifications.

  • Goals

    • All students engaged in the Union will be supported to create plan of what they want to gain personally through their involvement.

    • Students who aren’t active in the Union will take up new activities that will help them grow.

    • As students leave the Union we will help them reflect on what they’ve learned and how it can be employed.

    • Our services will provide opportunities for academic course projects

    • We will build a team of experts and coaches to support exceptional student staff and volunteers to deliver high quality services and activities.

    • We will partner with University Sport Centres and Health Courses and to support the competitiveness of our BUC Sports Teams.

  • Impact

    Our students will develop skills and qualities that secure them more satisfying careers, and gain real world experiences though involvement in delivering our services.

Being part of Staffs

  • As a Students Union, our membership are the students enrolled at Staffordshire University and as a result we have been losing over 10% of our members each year, with students joining the University through the clearing process twice as likely to leave before they graduate.

    Our students and the experience of our advice services tell us that coping with student finances is often a struggle and a reason for dropping out of University, but so are coping with the changes in learning delivery, pressures of study and sense of belonging at the University. There is a rising awareness of mental wellness issues in the student population, and in all but one of our segments ease of access to mental health support was one of the 2 highest priority issues.

    So we are making support for enabling students to complete their studies a priority and will be working with the University to ensure students feel part of Staffs and empowered and enabled to succeed with their course.

  • Goals

    • To ensure the University takes on students it is able to support appropriately to succeed

    • We’ll make students mental wellness support a priority

    • To make every student feel welcome at their University

    • Academic societies will extend and compliment the work of our academic reps to build belonging at a course level.

    • To help student have a great social life while they are at University by bringing together the vibrancy of the city and the campus.

    • Every staff member will understand their role as an advocate of students and an ambassador for Staffs

  • Impact

    Through positive intervention, there will be a year on year reduction in the preventable withdrawal of students.

A Union to be Proud of

  • It is clear from the High Five analysis that we have a very diverse student body with a broad range of priorities. Of the 17 issues shortlisted for prioritisition, only “keeping campus retail, catering and sports facilities affordable” was ranked in more than half the respondents top 5 priorities (52%), and even the least prioritised issue (Making sure module evaluations are effectively addressed and actions communicated) still featured in a fifth of students top five issues (20%).

    So continuing to involve our students and understand their expectation remains critical to our success. And we need to ensure we continue to exist for our students, make the most of our resources and make our student proud by our actions.

    Some of the work of the Union and the standards it operates to are award winning and nationally recognised. But we want to ensure that we can demonstrate the high standards that the whole organisation operates to.

  • Goals

    • We will use the NUS Quality Framework to demonstrate we are an excellent Students Union.

    • We will support our activities with the profit from our trading operations, which will operate as social enterprises and ensure we keep prices on campus affordable.

    • We will seek out and cut the “red tape” and avoid any duplication across our work.

    • We will ensure we develop services that students want to come back to.

  • Impact

    We will be recognised as a high quality Students Union, of which our members can be proud to say they are a member.