Working with SUs to develop understanding of key policy and knowledge areas is a core function of our work at Wonkhe SUs – because when SUs know what’s going on, and can understand what’s going on, they can influence what’s going on in the student interest.
We’re committed to delivering useful, helpful and essential knowledge briefing and policy content, so that you can focus your resources on local issues.
Booking for our online events is now open – do get in touch if you have questions, comments or ideas. Oh – and this is the headset we recommend for taking part in Wonkhe webinar calls, meetings, events and our podcast if you’re ever a guest.
We are now scheduling full day in-house, in-person training into the diary for subscribers. Here’s our updated menu for 2022, and do get in touch now if you have dates in mind.
From Monday 20th June we’ll again be selecting a Wonkhe blog and a Wonkhe briefing for officers to read every day – so that by the end of the summer they’re up to speed on all the key contemporary issues facing students, higher education and SUs. We’ll highlight these via WhatsApp – so we’d encourage early sign up to the system for new officers.
On Monday June 20th, we ran a one day one-day online event called SU Essentials. This covered all the things that most new sabbs need to know – essentials on the way the sector works, charity law and how to be a successful officer. Recording are available below.
How does student representation work? In this introductory session we’ll look at some of the major theories and models surrounding student representation, advocacy and influence and consider how they might be used by officers and SUs to improve things for students. We’ll also provide an overview of Wonkhe and Wonkhe SUs – who we are, what we do, what we think and how we might help with representing students effectively.
How the higher education sector works: Higher education in the UK has a “design”, and it’s crucial that officers (and the staff that support them) understand the system in order to influence it. This session gives an overview of how higher education is run, regulated, monitored, influenced and regarded. With Mark Leach, Editor in Chief at Wonkhe.
Students’ unions and the law: This session will give new officers (and staff) a grounding in the main legal frameworks that surround students’ unions and will examine grey areas and the regulation that enforces (or, more often, doesn’t enforce) those frameworks. With Ben Ward, CEO at University of Manchester SU.
Money money money: Understanding fees, loans and student finance: Over the past year there have been major changes to student loans, maintenance support, graduate repayment terms all around the UK – and there’s also rampant inflation, a big cost of living crisis on. This call will give you the essentials on what’s happened and give you a sense of how to prepare for a very tough year when it comes to student finance.
How to be an influential and effective SU officer: In the final session of the day we’ll explore some of the models that surround SU officer influence and power, and reflect with some ex-officers on how to make the most of the summer and the year in general. With Meg Price, Policy Manager, Public First and Salma Hussain, Management Consultant at Deloitte.
The Box Set
In our box set are three online video briefings for new officers and staff on three major national organisations:
- Box Set: What is OfS and why does it matter? (England)
- Box Set: What is the OIA and why does it matter? (England and Wales)
- Box Set: What is QAA and why does it matter? (UK Wide)
- Box Set: The Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Act – what SUs need to know (Wales)
In early September we’ll be running an in-person Policy Development Event focussed on a particular long-term strategic issue facing students that is mentioned in manifestos. A date and location will be released soon.
The big calls: Our flagship summer webinar programme
For five weeks we ran a daily “Big Calls” webinar programme. Designed to provide the knowledge and context that will help officers hit the ground running with manifesto commitments and university committees, we drew in experts from the SU, HE and wider sectors and will cover everything from harassment and sexual misconduct to quality assurance, and from lobbying parliamentarians to all that officers need to know about international and postgraduate students.
Learning from other officers
In this session we said “goodbye” to some of this year’s crop of officers – and we go tips and stories from experiences of lobbying for and discussing policy change for students for new officers. Recording and slides.
The secret history of SUs
If you want to know where we’re going, you’ll need to know where we’ve been. This session from 2021 digs into the origins of students’ unions and summarises their role and history through the major higher education debates of the past century. Recording and slides.
Understanding quality and standards in HE – and why it matters to students
Over the past year or so there have been huge and significant changes to the way in which HE quality is regulated in England that are suddenly very important to the university where you work. On this call we’ll explain the big changes- drawing in the teaching excellence framework, explaining the “B3 bear”, the new definitions of quality and why they matter to students, and what universities might do next. With Aaron Porter, Partnerships Manager at Wonkhe. Recording and slides
Everything you need to know about mental health in HE
Mental health and wellbeing has been the dominant HE policy agenda for a few years now. This session will summarise where the agenda has got to, the things universities have become good at tackling (and those they haven’t) as well as delving deeper into the Student Minds mental health charter. Recording and slides
Oil and water: The governance and democracy of SUs
This essential call for new officers looks at the relationship between democracy and governance, history of debates around how SUs are governed, some of the issues that SUs have had over the years in this area and considers how SUs can assess and improve their governance practice. Recording and slides
Only the lonely: Understanding student loneliness and belonging
On this call we’ll explore Wonkhe’s specially commissioned loneliness research and consider implications for SUs that are concerned about student mental health and wellbeing, especially in light of recovery from the global pandemic. We’ll also explore our new research on belonging and ask what SUs can do to foster it and lobby for change in this space. Recording and slides
Understanding your university’s finances
University finances are under pressure like never before – and so as universities seek to make savings to stay afloat, understanding them will be central to representing students effectively. We’ll explore the main data sources, explain key terms and discuss the “known unknowns” that you might be able to access locally so you’re prepared for the year ahead. Recording and slides
Data day concerns (with our friends LEO, TEF and NSS)
We know that SUs are more effective when they use evidence and data. Much of that can be gathered in house, but what about when you need national comparisons or benchmarks? Here we will whizz you through all the key sources of national data on universities and students, on everything from access and participation to parking spaces. We’ll also show you how you can present data and stats to tell the story you’re keen to underline. Recording and slides
Harassment and sexual misconduct
Lots of SUs are keen to improve processes in relation to harassment and sexual misconduct in the year ahead. This call will introduce the main issues being discussed and debated by universities, explain the OfS position on harassment and sexual misconduct, explore some of the implications for universities and SUs and give participants a chance to consider their SU response. Recording and slides
Extenuating circumstances, safety nets, academic regs and assessment
Recently the complaints regulator in England and Wales developed a new approach to “requests for special consideration”, better known as “extenuating circumstances” or “mitigating circumstances”. We also had lots of discussion about “safety nets” in the context of the pandemic. This session looks at the issues, and acts as a way in to thinking about academic regulations and their impact on students’ lives more generally for officers, policy staff and others. Recording and slides
Social capital, community and student activities and opportunities
Most activities and opportunities officers we know want to get on with it, growing opportunities or making it easier to get involved. But the legal and regulatory frameworks can get in the way – and understanding the debates about the value of student activities and opportunities, especially in relation to benefits and outcomes, can give your year in office and the funingo of your work the edge. This call looks at all of that and more. Recording and slides
Race, racism and closing the awarding gaps in HE
Plenty of SU officers have manifesto commitments on curriculum decolonisation, tackling the awarding gap and addressing racial harassment. This session will introduce the key issues, policy considerations, and where to find the data that matters on access and participation. There will also be an opportunity to hear about some of the practice from around the sector. With Ruqia Osman, Black Student Support Coordinator SOAS and former SU Bath Officer. Recording and slides
Democratic models and democracy reviews
With confidence in and participation in representative democracy at an all time low, lots of SUs have been reviewing their democratic structures – but whilst lots have experimented with forms of direct democracy, few have dabbled in deliberative democracy. In this session we will explain different models for and types of democracy in use in both SUs and other organisations, discuss deliberative democracy and consider the ways in which it might apply to SUs. Recording and slides
Righting the wrongs for Disabled students
What are the big issues facing disabled students and how can SUs tackle them both in their own provision and in their representation to universities? Why are duties around disbaled students different, and what can SUs do to improve the rights of disabled students on campus? This session provides a useful summary and overview. With Amelia McLoughlan, Network Director at Disabled Students UK. Recording and slides
Student on student conduct, complaints, discipline and initiations
Complaints by students about students are increasing – often in the context of SU activities. Plus in recent years “initiations” has gone from a taboo subject a major policy area, and last year Universities UK published guidance on it. In this session we’ll look at the issue in detail and consider wider issues in relation to the management of student conduct both within universities, SUs and out in wider communities and contexts. Recording and slides
Here’s what SU need to know about parliament and government advocacy
Can individual SUs or groups of SUs make a difference when lobbying government or parliamentarians? Drawing on expertise from NGOs and politics, this session will look at what can be achieved and how to maximise influence and impact on decision-makers. Recording and slides
Won’t somebody think about the Postgraduates?
Numbers of postgraduate students are climbing, but the sector tends to be firmly undergraduate focused and universities aren’t always great at supporting their postgraduate populations. This session takes you through some of the big policy issues for postgraduate students (both PGT and PGR) and how you might set about tackling them. With James Coe, Associate Editor at Wonkhe. Recording and slides
The free speech agenda and the free speech bill
The biggest obsession of the press in relation to students and universities over the past few years has been about “freedom of speech”, cancel culture and student “snowflakes”. This session explains the origins of the issues, the legal frameworks that surround it, the implications of the Bill going through Parliament that is on it and where the agenda might go next at a national and local level within universities. Recording and slides
Making a difference on student housing
Accommodation emerged as a huge policy issue facing students during the pandemic, as decision makers realised the realities of a market that few believe works in the interests of students. This session will summarise the policy agenda and frameworks and give participants a change to think through what could and should happen next. Recording and slides
Improving the experience for international students
In this session we’ll look at the state of the international student experience and identify the sources of evidence available to you to make a difference – as well as delivering an overview of where we are on immigration. We’ll also look at practice in relation to internationalising SUs and consider the big policy agendas for international students in the year ahead. Recording and slides
The secrets of political thinking
When trying to advocate for and represent students effectively, students’ union officers and the staff that support them are increasingly finding a need to think, analyse and respond rapidly. This session draws on research into leadership and politics to identify ways in which you can keep up with going on and make better decisions “in the moment” when presented with a baffling array of data and choices. Recording and slides
Hidden costs and student costs campaigns
The year ahead is going to be a tough one for students financially. On this call we’ll review the legal position on hidden costs and fee increases and take you through a decade of SU student costs campaigns as a case study in understanding SU campaigns, policy and influencing work in the student interest. Recording and slides
Students as consumers and student protection
Students are consumers in law – what does that mean and why does it matter? And Student Protection Plans are a regulatory requirement for all higher education providers that are on the Office for Students register in England. This session provides an overview of the frameworks and will enable participants to understand and influence implementation at an institutional level. Recording and slides.
What SU officers need to know about access and participation
Around the country getting into and getting on through university remains a major political issue – and there are expectations of student and SU involvement. This session will summarise and update on A&P, describe where to access A&P data for your university, give you an overview of the involvement that SUs are having in the agenda, and discuss SU projects that are being funded by universities to help deliver and evaluate the plans. Recording and slides.
What kind of “partnership”? Improving institution-level student representation
Lots of SUs are looking to improve their student representation/partnership work at institutional level and make sure they get the relationship “right”. Can you bite the hand that feeds? Should you? This session looks at some of the theory in this space, gathers up examples of work across the sector, and identifies approaches/components that SUs have been implementing. Recording and slides.
How to make things better for students on health courses
Doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics – what are the issues and what can SUs do make sure that students are effectively represented? We’ll do an overview of the essentials in this session and ensure you know how to tackle representation for these students effectively. Recording and slides.
Students at work
In survey work lots of students argue that employment – both during and after their time at university – is a priority that they’d like to see the SU working on. But what are the big issues, and where might SUs make the biggest difference on this agenda? We’ll dig into the detail on this call and look at the latest research on what students want re work during their studies and post-graduation. Recording and slides.
Our weekly “big call” programme will resume in the Autumn.