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Supporting and engaging with students

Over the last eight months in post, the officer team have worked extremely hard to support and engage with more students.

With a much smaller budget than previous years, the officers have had the objective to ensure they make significant financial cuts to annual campaigns and projects whilst ensuring they are, and if not more so, as engaging and impactful as before.

Revision Aid is a good example of when they have been able to achieve this. #RevisionAid is a campaign dedicated to ensuring students take regular breaks throughout their assessments periods in January and May. This year, the officer team served over 1,800 cups of free tea and coffee to students, with free stress-relieving colouring sheets and student wellbeing information across six of the main libraries. This is a staggering increase in comparison to last year’s approximate 1000 cups distributed. We saved costs in marketing and bought plain cups to write personalised motivational messages from the officers. This was received very well by students and created a hype on social media thanking the Students’ Union for their support over what can be a really challenging time for students.

Another example is Speak Week 2017 – a campaign all about encouraging as many students as possible to tell us what they would do if they ran the University. Last year we had 2,200 students complete a postcard with their thoughts and ideas, and this year we increased the participation to 3,020. Year on year we are engaging with more students and promoting the importance of providing feedback. We had the whole officer team out and about on campus whilst supporting 20 student academic reps who were keen to beat the number from last year! Not only this but we engaged with our Heath Park Campus more than ever before. Our Heath students has been notoriously difficult for the Students’ Union to engage with so to collect over 500 postcards from the Heath alone was a fantastic result for the Elected Officer team.

Find out more about Speak Week

Overcoming challenges

In November, our VP Heath Park held an afternoon of activities on Saturday 19th November in the Students’ Union for students with children studying here at Cardiff University. The event was a success with 60 people (roughly 20 families) attending throughout the afternoon to take part in a variety of games and activities for the kids as well as having a chance to socialise with other student parents over refreshments. This helped us start to engage with a group of students who before we struggled to reach. The aim was to start getting their views and understand what we can do to support them more. Due to the demand from both students at the event and by those who could not attend we are running a second one on Saturday 4th March which we are aiming to make bigger and better, collaborating with student groups to put on activities (eg. free trampolining lessons) to get even more families as well as Union and University staff together networking and giving more formal feedback for us to work on. We hope these events become a regular occurrence going forward.

Find out more about our next Student Family Day

As an Officer team we have had one “crisis” situation which required the team to pull together and this was writing the Student Written Submission. In previous years we have submitted this towards the end of the officer team’s post which meant the new team felt they had no ownership of the document or involvement in the production of it. This year, the University agreed to move the deadline for the report to early in the new team’s post. However, the University informed us in mid-August (when planning for October) that the final version had to be submitted within a week. With over half the team on annual leave during this less busy summer period, all of them had to communicate and take time away from their holidays and be put into an under-pressure scenario of writing a student-informed document within five working days. Officers were working abroad, staff support who were able to find us evidence for key student issues, and the remaining officers were able to write the document in a very short space of time. Following this “emergency”, we have reflected on the creation of the Student Written Submission and how the document can become more of a working document rather than one which is submitted as what can feel like a “token gesture”.

Achieving great things and making change happen

Just some of our officer wins include:

  • Increase in postgraduate social events
  • 6,000 Wellbeing Freshers’ booklets were in every university accommodation room in Residences – this was a manifesto point of our VP Welfare who promised to make the information more visible.
  • Installation of a Post Office & Supermarket in the Students' Union due to student demand in the last few years.
  • Engaged in partnership with the University in our TEF submission.
  • Ran a successful Mind Your Head Week which evolved around the theme “talking about the elephant in the room” to combat stigma around mental health and even involved members of the Welfare Executive committee to sit in lectures wearing an elephant costume!
  • Introduced a “Society of the month” feature on the website and in the student newspaper to recognise the hard work societies do.
  • A “Healthy Recipe of the Week” is now published for members of our sports clubs. This features online and was a manifesto point for our VP Sports & AU President.
  • Hosted a “Women in Sport” campaign which included many different competitive exercises to encourage female participation in sport. Activities included were things like plank competitions at different points across campus.
  • Our VP Postgraduate is in the process of finalising plans on a “library headcount” tool for students to be able to find out how full the library is before heading there to study!
  • The Higher Education Academic Record (HEAR) will be introduced for students graduating this year, the SU has successfully lobbied the University to include as many SU activities as possible and has ensured that a working group is set up on which a full-time Union staff and at least 1 sabbatical officer sit, this will ensure that more extra-curricular activities are recognised in the future giving all students graduating from Cardiff a better chance at getting their favourite job.
  • The Students’ Union at the Heath has been expanded even more with a new additional common room. This hit capacity within the first week and is used regularly by different Heath students who want to take a break from academic life. Following Speak Week feedback, we’ve even put another microwave in the space due to high student demand!

Developing the team

In addition to our regular training from the NUS, the Students’ Union President has attended a seminar called “Challenged for Chairs” designed to network with other colleagues from across the Public Sector who have been able to impart advice through the process of being Chair of CUSU and our Vice President Education has undertaken extra Student Governor Training to inform his role as a University governor. Since the start of term-time the elected officers have all undergone Domestic & Sexual Abuse Awareness training with Julie Grady from the TALK project, and student trustees have received their formal induction and were offered trustee training with the NUS.

Our Vice President Heath Park was invited by NUS to run a session at NUS Welfare Zones conference with a focus on engagement with Healthcare students. I am very pleased Niko was invited to run a session and proves that Cardiff University Students’ Union can act as a role model to other Students’ Unions across the UK in this area.

The team have created a special bond over the last eight months and meet up socially including a regular “Come Dine With Me” hosted by members of the team! It’s been a successful year so far and we have many things to complete and announce prior to the end of our post which we are all very excited about.