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  2. C,CE&ES Group 1: Tuesday 16th March, 10:10 - 11:10

C,CE&ES Group 1: Tuesday 16th March, 10:10 - 11:10

2.3 Co-creation with Students’ Unions   

Dr Morag Duffin – Head of Access and Participation and Jakob Sexton – Student Association President, The University of Law 

This workshop will provide guidance on how institutions can co-create with students’ unions. It will take as a case study the difficulty of co-creation at a multi-campus institution with a large cohort of students on one-year courses. Widening Participation work is irrelevant and likely ineffective if it isn’t informed and created by students at that institution with lived experiences. Engaging with students’ unions is one way of engaging with the study body through its student representatives. It has its limitations though. This workshop will look at the benefits and challenges of co-creation with students’ unions, and in particular as opposed to co-creation with students, covering topics like: 

  • Students’ union structures including roles, remits and succession planning 
  • Co-working with the university across the student lifecycle (access, success and progression)  
  • Challenges of working with students who are already engaged 
  • Encouraging wider student engagement (particularly in a multi-campus context) 

Across the sector there are clear examples of positive and impactful engagement of work carried out by students unions in collaboration with their university addressing WP areas. Taking the BAME attainment gap as an example, the NUS/UK report ‘Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Student Attainment at UK Universities #closing the gap’ recommends that ‘universities and students’ unions should consider…how they can best work together and use sector networks and resources to effectively implement interventions to remove the attainment gap and share their experiences’. In the sector’s work to address the BAME attainment gap, collaboration has been key, for example the University of Hertfordshire’s BAME advocates scheme, SOAS Student Union’s 2016 Report ‘Degrees of racism: A qualitative investigation into ethnicity attainment gaps at SOAS’ and the recent Race Equality Champion initiative at the University of Sheffield.

There is also clear sector evidence of the challenges when working with Students Unions, as evidenced by the What Works? Student Retention and Success programme, which showed that elected student union’s officers were the least involved group of students in the programme. The main challenge universities identified was the short time that elected representatives are in post in comparison to the duration of the programme. From the student unions’ point of view, many student unions have concerns about engaging with their university’s Access and Participation Plan on the basis that it is beyond their level of “expectancy” in their roles. Also some who have consulted on WP matters have found that their view is overlooked. 

This interactive workshop will encourage discussion and provide delegates with positive take-away actions. 

Proposed format of the workshop: 

  • Activity 1 – an introductory true and false quiz on students’ unions 
  • Discussion 1 – a discussion on co-creation with students unions covering the topics mentioned above, using the host institution as a case study.  
  • Activity 2 – delegates will be asked to map where they engage with students’ unions in widening participation work. They will consider official governance structures both within the institution and the students’ union, as well as unofficial engagement with the students’ union. 
  • Discussion 2 – discussion of issues raised in Activity 2  
  • Activity 3 - delegates will be asked to consider how they engage with students in widening participation work outside the students union. Delegates will consider how to work with students’ unions to support encourage this engagement. 
  • Discussion 3 – discussion of issues raised in activity 3  
  • Conclusion – delegates to consider an action plan of how best to co-create with their own students’ union. 

Practical outcomes: 

Delegates will leave the workshop with a map of their current engagement with their students’ union as well as an action plan of how to improve their engagement with it. 

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