Students’ Union

99 UK Students’ Unions on Twitter

Back in 2009, I compiled a list of all the students’ unions I could find on Twitter. I found just over 60. Twitter had already made quite a mark.

With the increasing popularity of Twitter, even more SUs have come on board. There have been a couple of name changes since then too.

My original list remains pretty popular, even though it was never updated.

Until now, that is…

I’ve checked the list for changes and additions to make sure it’s as relevant as possible today. There are now 99 SU accounts out there.

Students in Percy Gee Atrium (photo: University of Leicester)

Napier, Cranfield and Buckingham told me that they don’t currently have official Students’ Union/Association Twitter accounts. If I’ve missed any other SUs off the list, please let me know. Otherwise, I hope the list is useful.

If you want to follow all the SUs in a convenient Twitter List, I’ve put all the accounts together on the UK Students’ Unions list for you.

99 104
Students’ Unions on Twitter
(last checked January 2012)

Anglia Ruskin
Bath Spa!/bathspasu
Birmingham City
Bucks New Uni!/buckssu
Canterbury Christ Church
Central Lancashire
De Montfort
East Anglia (UEA)!/UnionUEA
East London!/uelunion
Edge Hill
Goldsmiths (Uni of London)
Leeds Met
Liverpool Hope!/LiverpoolHopeSU
Liverpool John Moores
London Met!/londonmetsu
London South Bank!/LSBU_SU
Manchester Metropolitan!/manmetunion
Nottingham Trent
Oxford Brookes!/oxfordbrookessu
Queen Mary (London)!/QMSU
Robert Gordon!/rguunion
Sheffield Hallam
Sheffield Hallam (Officers)
Southampton Solent!/solentsu
St Andrews
University Campus Suffolk
University College London (UCL)!/UCLU
West London!/wlsu
West of England (Bristol)
York St John!/ysjsu

Sheffield SU (photo by Design & Photography)

Sheffield SU (photo: Design & Photography)

Extracurricular Club Handling Sovereign Zen Style (Guest Post)

Today I have the pleasure to introduce Stanley Lee to TheUniversityBlog. Stanley writes at The Hub of Gen Y Unconvention and has written a guest post on extracurricular clubs and societies at uni. Over to Stanley!

You’ve probably heard that by joining clubs it’s a great way to enhance your future prospects. If you haven’t heard that, you’re sure to during Freshers’ Week when club leaders look for you to join their groups. However, signing up is often not the win-win situation promised to you.

photo by Aidan Jones

photo by Aidan Jones

Extracurricular Club Realities (i.e. Why Following the Outdated Advice Doesn’t Work!)

  • Going post-grad: The admissions committee only cares about the following items(I’m listing them below to refresh your memory):
    • Getting good grades in relevant subjects (reason: to prove you know the foundations of the particular research subject well enough before beginning your graduate school education)
    • Be known as one of the best students in your major (this is noticed by the professors in the form of complementary accomplishments such as awards, grants, and excellent recommendations)
    • Demonstrating your ability to handle the demands of research, often achieved by doing good work in summer research terms and rewarded with the type of responsibilities that will, down the line, impress the professors reviewing your file, including publications!
  • Finding employment: If you think recruiters will give more consideration to the mention of club leadership roles on your CV/resume, you’re dead wrong! It may, at most, make the recruiter’s day when he/she is screening mountains of applications! Employers look for the following qualities for new hires, even though this traditional process is actually insanely inefficient for both parties:
    • Grades, where you went to school, and to a certain extent, your major, especially for a technical job to ensure you encountered the appropriate skills for the job
    • Interview performance after application screening. Whether the firm is big or small, the purpose is to find out whether you can solve complex and fundamental problems on the fly, seem like a decent person, understand their business, and not a jerk waiting to poison the entire team/department.
    • Hiring decision is made (which may or may not be within your control).

Basically, graduate programs and potential principal investigators want to minimize their risk of recruiting a “dud” (as this could be a fairly devastating experience for all parties involved) with the competitive landscape between millions of different research institutions, and maximize the output of the relationship for the professor’s future promotion and cases in their tenure positions. For employers, it’s even more straightforward: the ability for the candidate to comply to company policies and commit to maximizing profits for the company without being a disruption.

During Freshers’ week, you will definitely receive mountains of pitches from club leaders claiming how “beneficial” the particular clubs are for your personal experience (I know this personally because I was sufficiently involved in anywhere from an engineering design competition team to professional development organizations when I was a college student, i.e. first-hand experience as one of those students who were in too many clubs resulting in severe time famine):

  • Handling sales pitches: Hey, you gotta put yourself in their shoes when trying to figure out what they’d gain from you joining the leadership group. They will have new blood to share the load of completing the tasks, many of which are time-consumers if you are there to at least do a decent job.
  • Handling additional responsibility requests: If you did buy into the sales pitch and produce quality results to improve the club, you will soon be flooded with more and more overwhelming requests to put out fires. They will try to persuade you to buy into the team concept as an excuse to save their rear-ends to ensure a certain event is a huge success. This is a sure recipe for disaster. Politely but firmly turn down any requests that you can’t make time for.
  • Handling overloads (including quitting the club if necessary): If you’re overwhelmed with the responsibilities because you haven’t been able to enforce the commitment cap in the early stages, now is a great time to think whether the club is just using you as a tool, not caring for your personal interests (at least this is a great preview of how the real world works with some people using human capital as a means to an end, especially those who are not concerned about long-term business relationships).

Clubs are fabulous under certain conditions:

  1. You get a more complete perspective on how you see the world by enhanced engagement and relaxation,
  2. it gives you exclusive in-person access to networks that you have the opportunity to access before, and
  3. it is not a time-sink (although this has a huge part with managing expectations).

Point 2 is usually exaggerated because you can find out the contact just as easily with the Internet, on top of the social media networks. Point 3 is usually hidden as much as possible because its expose will chase away members who will complete work for the club.

So, please do yourself a favour. Be diligent on your choices like any other choices, especially if you’re intelligent enough to head to university.

If you are hungry for more information about this, feel free to check out my video on the The Hub of Gen Y Unconvention. Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @stanigator!

Challenges of student engagement

Earlier today, I wrote an essay-length comment over at John Peart’s website.

John made a keynote speech at the Quality Strategy Network’s Student Engagement Symposium on 9th December at Ashridge Business School and he kindly published the speech on his blog the next day.

The speech is about the challenges of student engagement in an age where the student population is so diverse, many have to work to supplement their income, and large numbers are part-time or distance learners.  The argument goes that in order to engage a hyper-diverse community, a hyper-diverse approach is required:

“…engaging students is never an easy task, but students’ unions need to continue to challenge themselves. No one method alone with cut it when you’re dealing with a student population that is so diverse.”

If you have time, I suggest you read the entire speech.

photo by Christopher Saccaro

photo by Christopher Saccaro

It’s important stuff, which is why I wrote an essay in response.  And it’s why I’m posting my reply on here too:

My comment on John Peart’s blog

Hyper-diversity is difficult to achieve, despite being necessary. Just as you describe students as having wildly varying needs, different circumstances, must take on jobs, and so on, students’ unions are also isolated from influencing and helping students as much as they’d like to because of their increasing range of commitments.

Can a modern students’ union be truly representative of all students? It can get close. And I agree that officers and volunteers need to be active both online and offline. However, this further stretches them for time.

Your mention of 21% of undergrads feeling uninvolved in shaping their course and 21% of undergrads also wanting to be actively involved is interesting. How easy is it to become actively involved? I wonder how many students who don’t feel involved have tried to involve themselves further (and indeed, had the time to do so effectively). That’s a key issue for students’ unions, who are there to help in instances such as this. And while many unions are stepping up their game each year with great success, I’m still concerned that it’s difficult to make truly dynamic moves with such limited resources.

Many years back, unions could get support and engagement from students and vice versa by “being where the students are”. As you say, something like wallpapering corridors may have brought a good turnout. To an extent, that’s still the case. Trouble is, the students are absolutely everywhere and being bombarded by issues. So how do you spread out in order to reel everyone in to a particular cause, whilst demonstrating that their engagement would benefit them?

Obama’s election campaign worked well through the Web, since he had a strong presence on many services. But this took a lot of money and resources to make happen convincingly. Obama seemed to shock many people recently when he said he’d never used Twitter. But is that really such a surprise? Obama’s web presence must have been almost entirely worked on by other people, unless he’s a comic superhero with the power to stretch time to get everything done so well…

The big challenge in my mind is to help students realise how important it is for them to engage and campaign effectively. But here’s a little story that shows the difficulty of the situation:

When I had the pleasure to meet you a few weeks’ back at the Reading Town Takeover, the first person I spoke to on campus didn’t want to talk to me. I was looking for the students’ union and said “Excuse me?” to someone walking toward me. She kept her head low and pretended not to hear me, but clearly knew I was trying to get her attention.

I carried on by saying, “Sorry, I only want to know where the SU is please.”

She then looked up, smiled, and said, “Oh, you just want directions. Oh right, good, fine.”

After showing me the way, she walked off happy to have helped. I mentioned this later at the SU and was told that it’s no surprise as she’d probably been concerned that I was ‘yet another’ person out campaigning about this cause or that, trying to get her support. I was told the campus can get quite busy with people wanting your attention on all sorts of issues.

So do we increase engagement by being less engaged? Of course not. But this highlights the challenge faced on so many levels.

Still, it’s a challenge worth pursuing.

photo by gnackgnackgnack

photo by gnackgnackgnack

What I wish I knew when I first started university

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Looking back on your past, it’s easy to see how you could have done things differently…and better. But you can’t turn back the clock; you simply learn from your mistakes and embrace the future possibilities (and giving a big fat hug to the here and now).

I didn’t find out some things until after it was too late, or I only got in on the goodness later down the line. Either way, it pays to know as soon as possible.

photo by emilbacik

photo by emilbacik

Because of this, here are just a handful of the things I wish I’d known at the start of my degree. By no means exhaustive, but certainly important points: