Belong, by Cibyl and Wonkhe

Jim is an Associate Editor at Wonkhe

Livia Scott is Wonkhe's Community and Policy Officer

Over the past year we’ve been working with our partners at Cibyl (part of Group GTI) on a new student insights platform.

It’s designed to provide SUs (and the universities you work with) with a robust, reliable and regular way to understand the lives of students and their concerns.

We’re now ready to invite all of our subscriber SUs to take part, for free – and we’d love you to be involved.

What’s the big idea?

Student voice matters and prioritising actions off the back of that insight are more important than ever, but capacity and budgets are as tight in the student movement as they have ever been.

And without contemporary, robust and benchmarkable data reflecting different student groups, along with the qualitative insight that national analysis can bring, your ability to represent the student body is limited.

Belong aims to address that. The platform is a partnership between a leading student research consultancy, and Wonkhe – home of the UK higher education debate.

The platform will provide this crucial understanding of both your students, and wider trends in the sector. With unprecedented access to students’ voices from across UK HE, Belong’s insights will be at the forefront of your discussions within the university and across the sector.

We combine the rigour of Cibyl’s research, and the analysis of Wonkhe to provide a way to support SUs to see and gain support to drive the best actions.

How does it work?

Six times throughout the academic year, you commit to contacting a sixth of your student body with a “pulse” style survey that contains both quantitative and qualitative questions – with some questions asked each time so you can track how views change over time, and some that are different each time to help drive the national policy debate over the student experience.

Participating SUs will have access to a dashboard that both shows your quantitative core question results and allows comparison with the national dataset – and over time we’ll have additional (paid) options that will allow access to more detailed insights and questions. But while we will develop the platform over time with additional questions and functionality, the core will be free for subscriber SUs.

To take part, you will need to:

  • Have university/SU data and internal agreement that enables you to survey 1/6of your student body per month for the next academic year (opt-outs for particular episodes are available).
  • Commit to sharing launch communications to the student body, and sending the monthly survey and communications to the relevant group of students.
  • Commit to feedback and policy development conversations with Cibyl and Wonkhe team members from time to time.

Cibyl already surveys the full student body in over 160 institutions and 100,000 students. It currently looks at two topics – employability/career ambitions and wellbeing. Student experience will be the 3rd topic area. No personal data is published, and students provide their consent at the point of survey completion.

Each survey episode will run for three weeks, and will contain questions on the student academic experience, SUs, careers, wellbeing and belonging and freedom of speech. The dates are as follows:

Fieldwork dates   
Term 1.116th October3rd November
Term 1.227th November15th December
Term 2.18th January26th January
Term 2.219th February8th March
Term 3.12nd April19th April
Term 3.213th May31st May

How to sign up

To sign up as a partner for this year, please click on the link here.

If, before you sign up, you have any questions or would like to discuss how the platform will work, do drop us an email.

Frequently asked questions

Do drop us a line if you’d like to add to this…

Q: Can an SU sign up and review the information collected without necessarily participating in the survey process itself?

A: As a subscriber SU you’ll see the key national findings from both the core and contemporary questions on a regular basis – but not a dashboard for your SU.

Q: Would it be possible to join the process later on in the academic year?

A: Yes – obviously it’s great to be gathering data as early as possible to track changes, but do feel free to get involved when you’re ready.

Q: Can we see the question set?

A: We’re still finalising the core questions, but it will include questions on the student academic experience derived from the National Student Survey (with additional qualitative comments by theme), mental health & wellbeing, questions on the SU, students’ preparedness for the future, student support and freedom of expression. Planned one-off themes include food, loneliness, how students spend their time, AI, housing, opportunities involvement and course quality.

Q: How long will it take students to complete the survey?

A: We estimate it will take around 5 minutes for most students to complete each survey, depending on the detail they choose to go into in the qualitative questions.

Q: We’re a Welsh SU. Will the questions and promo be in Welsh?

A: Yes – although we might not get there by the first fieldwork date. We’ll update here soon.

Q: Is there a minimum response rate required to get results?

A: The commitment is to achieve a respondent sample size equivalent to 5% of your student population size – and note that a response rate of at least 50 is needed to give conclusive insights. Support for an options on running incentivisation will be available.

Q: In relation to the student group that would be sent the surveys, do you see this being a group of students (equivalent in size to 1/6th of the population) that have explicitly signed up to participate in the regular surveys?

A: The usual practice in “pulse” surveys of this sort is to email a sixth of the student body – they then are giving permission when they click through to the survey.

Q: What is the best way to split our student population into sixths?

A: The ideal will be to have an equally representative sixths in terms of the student profile. As a base link we would recommend incorporating a 50/50 gender split and equal year groups.



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