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Annual Report 2010/2011

Birmingham City Students’ Union exists to act on our members’ voices and cultivate vibrant and united communities for better student life. Each and every Birmingham City University student is automatically a member of Birmingham City Students’ Union. The Union is a not-for-profit organisation; any funds raised go back into improving your student experience. The Students’ Union is independent from but works closely with the University, and is run by a team of elected students, called Executive Officers, who are supported by staff and volunteers.

Executive Officers 2010/11 (from left)

• Madhooshan Thavalingam Campus Engagement Officer • Laura Hall Education & Welfare Officer • Kat Higgs Communications Officer • Tom Tom Union President • Jim Goulding Activities & Sports Officer

President’s Welcome

The Annual Review 2010/11 is a reflection of the Union’s challenges and achievements this year. The large scale changes to fees and university funding cuts have been the talking (indeed marching!) point of the year; however our passion about the student experience and commitment to support our students has been stronger than ever. The Browne Review and Government have undoubtedly changed Higher Education for the long term, drastically increasing the cost of education for students. Due to reduced core funding and rising costs, the impact on the Students’ Union is uncertain and difficult to plan for. I’m pleased to say though that this year we have minimised predicted deficit and the impact on our services, and have been active in campaigning against the fees and cuts. We will be taking tough decisions in the near future on the services we offer, the structures in place to support these and what business we focus our energies and finances on. Imperative in all of this is the student voice so we will be rolling out a full review of our strategy and stakeholder consultation plan to drive the Union forward, ensuring we are responding to the changing needs of our members.

The Annual Review also covers the many successes we enjoyed this year. We are proud to celebrate national recognition after winning the Times Higher Education Award for ‘Outstanding Student Support’, the result of an excellent partnership between the Union, the University and our students. We are for students but we also love our staff; our outstanding contribution to creating a positive WorkLife Balance won us a Gold Category Finalist Award at the Birmingham Best Business Awards. By listening to our students and taking their suggestions seriously, we have launched new services and facilities to enhance their experience including a brand new letting agency and improved representation mechanisms. We are looking forward to the next academic year which will definitely bring challenges but also new successes and opportunities to support our students. Tom Tom (Union President)


Students said...

“we rarely see the Executive Officers�

Exec regularly visited all campuses engaging with over 2500 students!

Using a variety of media we have engaged with our members on a regular basis to inform them of events, campaigns and services and generate feedback on the student experience.

Face-to-face Communication Our full-time Executive Officers spoke with over 2500 students through GOATing and GOALing (Go Out And Talk / Go Out And Listen) at different campuses on a regular basis. This new back to basics initiative enabled the Union to positively represent a unified student perspective to the University at various (and numerous!) meetings. Next year, in addition to one day’s G&G each week, all Exec Officers will work for at least one additional day a week at a campus (other than City North). Staff members will also be expected to diversify their working locations throughout the year.

Online Communication Unlike most institutions, our students are spread over eight campuses adding an extra challenge in creating a consistent Union presence. The Union website provides a widely accessible tool to engage with our members. The website was redeveloped in

order to improve navigation, functionality and look. User visits have increased by 28% whilst page views have decreased by 3.31% this year. Increasing visitor page views and the time spent on the website are elements we’re looking to improve. The need for regular, timely Union updates was expressed by students a couple of years ago and as a result the Union newsletter was launched in print form. In order to make the newsletter more accessible it is now sent out by email to all our students every fortnight, saving on print cost and reaching far more students. The e-newsletter, as well as regular updates via Facebook and Twitter, ensures timely information is shared and student engagement is improved.

62,369 unique visitors

683,774 page views

up 28% on overall hits

August 2010 - May 2011


Students said...

“we want answers about education cuts�

arranged a Question Time with the Vice Chancellor and politicians

Representation and Democracy Faculty Representatives are there to represent students at a Faculty level, acting as a link between the 400+ Course Representatives and the Students’ Union. The Reps have made significant changes to the student experience, and have contributed to ongoing improvements in the way we communicate with Course Reps across the University. The number of Course Reps attending training has doubled and they have engaged with over 200 Course Reps; a huge increase on previous engagement activities. Research was conducted around students’ needs, to enable the Union to effectively campaign on their behalf. Issues raised included electronic submission of coursework and more detailed feedback. With over 1,400 respondents we have a clear understanding of what students want us to focus on. 2010-11 saw the first electronic voting system for our Executive Elections. We managed to buck the national trend and our vote count was up on last year with 1522 votes cast in a very competitive election.


Over responses in the Academic Campaigning Survey provided clear direction on future campaigns.

Our collaborating with CELT (Centre Watch out for for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching) on developing an employability element of the Reps’ system through a potential accredited module available to senior Reps.

Campaign Against Fees and Cuts 2010 and 2011 were undoubtedly the years of marches, protests and banners! We have been active in mobilising hundreds of students through a variety of events, including a ‘Question Time’ with local politicians, a march through Birmingham and impressive turnouts at the mass demonstrations in London during November, December and March. The Exec Officers have been on local and regional media including a radio broadcast by the Education & Welfare Officer whilst on the march in London! The Officers met with the Vice Chancellor and Directorate to discuss the University’s approach to the issue of cuts to the teaching budgets and proposed fees. This resulted in an open letter from the Union and a response from the Vice Chancellor as well as a students’ question time with the Vice Chancellor. We also organised a group of students to question Simon Hughes MP (the government’s advocate for Access to Education) during his visit to Birmingham City University.


Students said...

“we want a Union-run letting agency�

Birmingham City Student Homes launches in January 2011

The Advice Centre


of students thought Advice and Information is very important or essential to their student experience.

The Advice Centre has a team of three professional advisers. Weekly advice sessions are held throughout the year at six University campuses. Our advisers have dealt with over 3000 enquiries during the last year, with 611 new cases being opened. Once again there has been a rise in the number of academic based enquiries we received. This area accounted for 72% of all enquiries with money related enquiries accounting for 14% and accommodation issues for 9% of the total. We have also advised clients on legal and consumer matters, employment rights and immigration. At the front line of Advice and Information are our Receptions offering a one-stop shop of all Unionrelated information and signpost to other areas of support and advice. We don’t have the resources to cover all campuses with a reseption service, but we are working on it.

Brand New Letting Agency The Student’s Union’s brand new not-for-profit letting agency ‘Birmingham City Student Homes’ aims to enhance the student experience by providing an honest, reliable service to all students (with increased chances of getting their deposit back!). Our research revealed 81% of students wanted a Union run letting agency to cater for all BCU campuses, and we are glad to be able to offer this service. Students looking for a property can drop into the City North office in the Union Building or visit Watch out for

Birmingham City Student Homes stalls at all campuses.

Benefits for students... • No admin fees • DPS protected deposits • Simple paperwork • Rooms available in shared houses • Operated for students only • All landlords MLAS accredited • Property alerts available • Home matching service


Students said...

“improve facilities at City North campus”

a £90,000 refurbishment of Level 2 of the Union Building

Freshers Freshers’ Week entertainment was a huge success, with attendee numbers of over 2000 students at the Welcome Party. This year we partnered with city centre night clubs to provide a varied late night social experience for students throughout the year. Freshers’ Fair 2010 took place at the new Doug Ellis Sports Centre for the first time and got the attention of local media. We welcomed record numbers of students who had the opportunity to join student groups and find out what the Union, University and selected companies had to offer.

Bars, Cafes and Shops Bar 42 and Village Inn sales continue to decline. Pubs across the country are closing and the typical alcohol-led establishments are struggling to exist. The Exec and staff are looking into different alternatives for the space, although we feel we must assume a night club will not be as popular as previous years. The Union Shop and Lounge South café bar continue to trade well and are a hub of social activity during the day.

A very effective promotional tool used to inform our new students about Freshers’ Week were our Freshers’ Mailers. These have gone out to 90% more students than the year before and we re-launched our Returnees’ Mailers as a digital copy, saving on print and postage while reaching 11,000 students more than in previous years.


increase on NUS Extra Cards sales.


in the country for overall card sales.

Union Building Refurbishment The refurbishment of Level 2 at City North has resulted in much higher footfall and a much more vibrant atmosphere. The Union has offered great value freshly cooked plated hot food all year from 10am until 3pm. The refurbishment has also created a fresh space just to relax with friends over a packed lunch or coffee.

NUS Extra Probably the best news commercially is our rank for NUS Extra card sales; we are 10th in the country having sold 3,853 cards! Great news that more of our members are enjoying the benefits of being an NUS Extra card holder and saving money!

Building on Partnerships

Voicing the Student Experience The Student Written Submission (SWS) is a report based on the opinion and views of students collated throughout the year and submitted as part of the University-wide audit by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA). The Union’s SWS is there to inform the audit team what students truly think about their experiences studying at this University.

The QAA commented on the valuable input of Students’ Union: “The past three years have seen a sustained commitment to strengthening the partnership between the University and the student body. The audit team identified the close and sustained partnership between the University and its students, which enhances the learning experience, as a feature of good practice”

Student Academic Partners Scheme

What have you always wanted to do with your course, but never had the opportunity to achieve? The Student Academic Partners Scheme (SAPS) run in partnership with CELT (the Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching) enabling students to work in equal partnership with staff to strengthen the learning and teaching of the University, as well as creating a sense of ownership and pride in the institution. In the second year of operation the scheme involved over 90 projects and over 150 students. This scheme was nationally recognised when it won the Times Higher Education Award for ‘Outstanding Student Support’ in 2010-11.

The QAA commented in the 2011 institutional audit report: “The Student Academic Partners Scheme is one example of this relationship. The team confirmed the scheme’s positive achievements in promoting innovation in learning and teaching and identified it as a feature of good practice”

received 8 submissions with successful students being presented their awards at the inaugural BCU Employable Students (BEST) awards.


Over of our students come through local Colleges. Another SAPS initiative was the creation of a Further Education (FE) College Network to familiarise FE students with the Students’ Union in order to increase their awareness and understanding of the Union. ‘Shareville’, a ‘virtual Students’ Union’, offers training for FE based student representatives and a prearrival ‘vision’ of the University and the Students’ Union with information and advice on university life at Birmingham City University. The Student Employability Award is a new initiative aimed at recognising the innovative work being carried out by our staff and students in enhancing employability and entrepreneurship skills. We have

The development of both these schemes have been done in conjunction with students and Students’ Union representatives to ensure that the student focus is prominent throughout. As part of the Student Employment Watch out for Project next year, we are working with the University on increasing the amount of student jobs on campus.


Students said...

“more cross-campus updates & news�

regular cross-campus feature added to the new-look SJ!

Media Groups With a fresh new wave of activists and campaigns the independent student voice that Media Groups provide is now more important than ever. The new Media Centre and Scratch Radio’s front-facing developments (part of City North refurbishment) have also encouraged a higher level of student participation.

Spaghetti Junction (SJ) SJ, our student-led magazine, produced six issues which were available at all campuses alongside an online version and blog. The new position of Online Editor was created to further develop the online and social networking strategy of SJ. Students from across the University participated in a survey to say what they wanted from their magazine with regards to content and format. The last two issues have reflected these responses with some features replaced with more student-driven, cross-campus news as well as a brand new look.


page views on the Scratch Radio live streaming website.

Scratch Radio Involving both student and community members, Scratch’s new, motivated committee have successfully rebranded, organised fundraising events, sourced new equipment from local radio stations and incorporated a well trained, well-organised and varied show output. They’ve also reported on issues such as the fee cuts, the VC’s question time and local events and campaigns. Scratch succeeded in winning all three Media Awards including ‘Media Groups of the Year’ at the Student Activities Ball. Scratch have also proudly hosted the Student Radio Association’s (SRA) regional training day, the first time this has ever been held at BCU. They also attended the SRA national conference this year for the first time. Scratch will launch their voluntary Watch out for ‘schools project’ which encourages school and college students to get involved with the station by training them to produce and present a radio show.

Tiger TV There is a new, promising committee in place who have already gone out and filmed events such as the Students Activities Ball. With a fully operational Media Centre and preparations for Freshers 2011 filming well underway... watch this space; we can expect a lot more from Tiger TV very soon.


Students said...

“make it easier to create new Societies�

simplified the process resulting in a 45% increase in new Societies

Sports Membership of our Sports Clubs has increased by students.


Following on from the City North refurbishment, the Student Activities office has moved to Level 2 encouraging more student engagement than ever before. It has been an amazing year for our sports teams; the Netball, Men’s Basketball and Cricket teams won their leagues, and the Football and Women’s Hockey teams finished as runners up. It has been challenging maintaining value for money for sporting activities with costs increasing by 300%. Even so, 601 students have been actively engaged in competitive sport and 183 in participation sport.


students involved with both competitive and participation sports.

Societies Demand for societies is high with 825 members officially signed up and 16 new groups created; it has been delightful to see so many active students setting up new groups.


student increase in one-off tournaments and trips abroad.

Volunteering Involvement in volunteering has dropped to only 80 students due to our volunteering placement provider’s funding cuts. However, Student-Led Volunteering has continued to grow with the First Aid Africa project going from strength to strength with 100 students applying and 20 going out to Africa in the summer. A full membership consultation will Watch out for evaluate the services we offer to make sure they match our students’ needs.

Financial Summary

Budget by Department Performance 2009-10 & Forecast 2010-11 Management & Finance Membership Engagement Commercial Services - Enterprises Ltd

Actual 2009-10

Forecast 2010-11

Management Finance TOTAL Central Services

(719,345) 230,603 (488,742)

(584,664) 199,910 (384,754)

Advice & Information Marketing & Communications Media Groups Representation & Democracy Student Activities & Development General TOTAL Membership Engagement

146,137 34,312 12,786 143,310 104,048 44,899 485,492

156,720 17,682 8,636 141,284 86,365 23,676 434,363

Commercial General Union Bars Food Outlets Entertainments Shop Outlets Sub Total Commercial Services

29,639 (10,007) 8,509 (9,353) (30,884) (12,094)

Central Costs Lettings Agency The Conservatoire Sub Total Enterprises Ltd TOTAL Commercial Services

1,044 0 (1,605) (561) (12,656)

1,620 (3,830) (825) (3,035) (50,095)

Union Surplus/(Deficit)



31,666 (13,867) 14,071 (28,565) (50,365) (47,060)

Income & Expenditure Performance 2009-10 & Forecast 2010-11 Management & Finance Membership Engagement Commercial Services Total

Actual 2009-10

Forecast 2010-11

Income Staff Costs Other Expenditure Contribution / (Cost)

1,128,220 (183,420) (456,058) 488,742

979,031 (181,448) (412,830) 384,754

Income Staff Costs Other Expenditure Contribution / (Cost)

149,953 (433,262) (202,183) (485,492)

178,919 (377,075) (236,207) (434,363)

Income Staff Costs Other Expenditure Contribution / (Cost)

1,231,359 (353,664) (865,040) 12,656

938,883 (358,162) (530,626) 50,095

Income Staff Costs Other Expenditure

2,509,532 (970,346) (1,523,280)

2,096,833 (916,685) (1,179,663)

Union Surplus/ (Deficit)



If you would like more details on Union finance please email

Š 2011 Birmingham City Students’ Union Company: 3426445. Franchise Street Birmingham B42 2SU

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Birmingham City Students' Union Annual Report