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2015 2019 Strategic Plan

Spring 2017 edition

Contents Welcome  2 Research  3 Relevance  4 Our Vision  4 Our Mission  5 Our Values  5 Goals and supporting activity  6-13 Key change projects  14-15 Indicators of strategic performance  16-17


Welcome Thank you for taking the time to pick up and read Edinburgh University Students’ Association’s Strategic Plan. We hope you find it informative and that it gives you an insight into our work and ambitions.

The Students’ Association is a complex organisation that offers a wide range of services and support to our members – some c.37,000 students at the University of Edinburgh. We undertook a great deal of research to devise this plan and now at April 2017, halfway through, we continue to work hard to implement it. The plan runs for four years from April 2015 through to April 2019. In that time, we intend to transform the organisation to be amongst the best Students’ Unions in the UK. By focusing on our students, we believe the Students’ Association will find its place at the heart of students’ lives here in Edinburgh. The following pages articulate our long-term vision for Edinburgh students and our role in helping to deliver it. We know that we are unlikely to see our long-term vision for students fully realised in this plan’s lifetime, but we think we can achieve significant improvements to the delivery of our services and support, and have set ourselves ambitious targets to do so in this timeframe.

Alec Edgecliffe-Johnson Edinburgh University Students’ Association President 2016/17 Stephen Hubbard Edinburgh University Students’ Association Chief Executive


Research In order to provide a sound base for our strategic planning, and with the University’s support, in 2014 we commissioned the largest research exercise the Students’ Association had ever undertaken. Over 3,500 of our students were involved in the research, the vast majority answering a comprehensive questionnaire about their views on the Students’ Association and their own concerns and aspirations as students at the University of Edinburgh. Our external research company also carried out focus groups with a wide range of students, including groups that we have found traditionally hard to reach, such as mature and part-time students. Our staff views were included through both surveys and workshops, as were the views of student representatives, volunteers and trustees. Interviews with key stakeholder groups including the University, National Union of Students (NUS) and other external groups were also undertaken. Whilst there were many positive comments from those involved in the research it also highlighted a high degree of apathy toward the Students’ Association. Whilst recognising the positive comments we primarily wanted to focus on the more problematic areas and see how our strategic planning could address those.

Key research findings included: • Significant numbers of students felt the Students’ Association was not relevant to them •

Students did not feel the Students’ Association’s democracy was accessible and had little motivation to get involved

The Students’ Association had an image problem and a mixed identity, with some students not understanding what the organisation was, or what it did

Students felt little ownership over the Students’ Association and many did not see themselves as active members

Staff development, structures and pay levels were inadequate

The multi-site nature of the University led to a fragmented experience and lower affinity

Students wanted their Students’ Association to: • Improve their academic experience • Develop their skills • Provide a social experience



Our Vision

Increasing our relevance to students at Edinburgh underpins all other strategic objectives. Students should recognise and reflect that the Students’ Association is relevant to their University experience in order for us to effectively represent and support them, engage them in our democratic processes and inspire them to achieve their ambitions.

We believe all students at Edinburgh should have the power to shape their own future and enjoy being part of a vibrant and cohesive student community where everyone is valued and respected.

Research tells us that disengaged students exist in significant numbers: around a third of students said they were ‘neutral’ in terms of overall satisfaction with the Students’ Association in our 2014 members' survey. In the same year, 30% of final year undergraduates surveyed in the National Student Survey (NSS) described a question about the Students’ Association as ‘not applicable’. While it is obvious that a key overall aim is to increase satisfaction with the Students’ Association, we cannot achieve this until we are relevant and students choose to engage with us. An overall theme of our goals and supporting actions must be to increase the relevance of the Students’ Association to all student demographics and segments.


Our long-term aims are to make sure all Edinburgh students: • Can shape their own student experience and future. • Feel welcome to be a part of the Students’ Association and the student community. • Are valued members of society and know that we are here to help with finance, academic or social issues. • Are respected and treated fairly. • Are encouraged to get involved in the experiences our University life has to offer. • Are happy and healthy. • Feel safe and secure both inside and outside of University.

Our Mission

Our Values

We work tirelessly to ensure student voices are heard, valued and acted upon and that students are supported and encouraged to experience all university life has to offer.

Students First

We do this by: • Working in close partnership with the University of Edinburgh and others. • Being welcoming, friendly and approachable. • Helping students when they need us. Offering outstanding professional support, whether it’s advice on finances, education, social or health issues. • Encouraging the long-lasting friendships that come with being around the union, be that in a team, society or social space. • Giving students the opportunity to try something new and to push themselves to realise their potential. • Being the students’ voice and taking it to the University and beyond, to secure positive change on the things that matter to them. • Delivering a range of services that let the students enjoy Edinburgh student life to the full.

The Students’ Association represents and reflects the needs, wants and desires of the entire student body. We are for you, by you, part of you.

Home from home We strive to be seen as welcoming, friendly and helpful, fostering a strong community and creating a sense of belonging across the entire student community.

A place for all We believe a healthy, happy and vibrant community exists when different people from different backgrounds with different views are connected, respected and celebrated. It’s this inclusivity which ensures that everyone feels welcome.

Power to change We have a proactive attitude and a positive desire to help each other and our students overcome challenges, however large or small. We seek to support, campaign and represent, to make a difference and improve the lives of our students.


Goals and supporting activity Our goals represent our primary focus for change between 2015 and 2019. They are not intended to represent the entirety of our work, or even the most important aspects of what we do every day. They are the principle ways in which we have identified an opportunity to make a significant move towards delivering our ultimate vision. In order to deliver our goals, we recognise we have to be a fit for purpose, effective organisation. We have identified eight aspects of our work which are the key supporting activities to enable our plan.


Goal 3 Students will choose us as a part of their everyday student life

Goal 2 All students will enjoy a high quality academic experience supported by us

Goal 4 Every student will be encouraged and supported by us to develop their interests and shape their future

Vision Goal 1

Goal 5

We believe all students at Edinburgh should have the power to shape their own future and enjoy being part of a vibrant and cohesive student community where everyone is valued and respected.

Students will experience a dramatic increase in personal contact with our staff

Students will know that we understand their priorities and we respond effectively

Supporting activity: Sustainable finances Engaged people

Productive relationships

Active communications

Enabling technologies

Clear governance

Relevant and diverse services

Vibrant and distinctive association spaces


Goal 1

Goal 2

Students will experience a dramatic increase in personal contact with us

All students will enjoy a high quality academic experience supported by us

We believe that increased personal contact, which is inclusive, friendly and helpful, will engage more students with our services over time. This will encourage greater participation in democratic and representational structures, ultimately making the Students’ Association more representative of all students at Edinburgh. It will also ensure we are better able to listen to, reflect and pursue issues that are important to our membership and will foster increased accountability and recognition of our successes. We anticipate this goal will be achieved through a combination of increased contact via representatives, staff and volunteers.

Students have told us that improving their academic experience should be one of our top priorities. We recognise that Edinburgh students should expect, and be able to access, a high quality academic experience, befitting a world-class institution.


The Students’ Association can play a role in raising awareness of acceptable standards in relation to key academic activity such as essay feedback, contact time, teaching notes and other issues and by representing students’ views to the University: ensuring student input is central to all University activity, and enabling students to be active partners within the academic community.

Goal 3

Students will choose us as a part of their everyday student life In order to encourage greater engagement with our services and facilities, we must ensure that students understand who we are, what we do, and the positive impact we can have on their experience while at Edinburgh. We must clarify our identity and distinguish our activities from those of other organisations, in order to encourage students to recognise their ownership of the Students’ Association, and their ability to enable the changes they want to see.


Goal 4

Goal 5

Every student will be encouraged and supported by us to develop their interests and shape their future

Students recognise that we understand their priorities and we respond effectively

It is our belief that we have a central role to play in supporting students in the pursuit of their interests while studying at Edinburgh. By encouraging and supporting students to share their passions with each other through extra-curricular activities, paid work with us and volunteering - we can open up new opportunities for self-discovery and personal development. In this way, the Students’ Association can be a portal through which students can explore the world and begin to shape their own future and their place in it.

A key role of the Students’ Association is to understand and represent the needs of students at the University, in Edinburgh and in the wider world. In order to do this effectively, we must have an excellent representation framework and effective research and communication methods to capture issues and apply influence to achieve change. We must be focused on the priorities of our students, tenacious in our work to achieve positive change, and proud to share news of our successes with students.



Supporting activity We identified eight key supporting activities that we will need to deliver to underpin our organisational effectiveness and enable the delivery of our goals and the realisation of our strategy.

1  Sustainable finances

Planned, transparent and understood: enabling us to strengthen and grow, be resilient, anticipate change, take advantage of opportunities and plan for the future. Being as efficient as we can, making sensible savings, and looking for new ways to increase our income.

2  Productive relationships

We will take time to pay attention to our relationships; for example, with students, the University, NUS, suppliers and other partners. We will explore opportunities by listening and being proactive in order to get the best outcomes for the Students’ Association and our members.

3  Enabling technologies

We will use technology to enable us to be faster, more efficient, more accessible, more responsive, more interactive, more creative and more convenient. This will apply to our members, staff and volunteers.

4  Engaged people

We will support and develop our staff, student representatives, volunteers and members so that everyone feels a valued part of the Students’ Association, and actively and enthusiastically contributes to and shapes the organisation and what we do.


5  Active Communications

We will enable positive, proactive and appropriate two-way interactions with our members, staff, the University and other stakeholders.

6  Clear governance

We will develop clear organisational frameworks that enable and encourage our members to interact with and influence the organisation. This will create understanding and confidence in us and our work. We will actively develop the Students’ Association’s processes, enabling us to operate safely, securely and professionally and foster an understanding of the legal framework we operate in as a charity, as a students’ union and as a service provider.

8  Vibrant and distinctive association spaces

We will operate places our members want to be: spaces where they feel at home, comfortable, and choose over others, and recognise as ours (provided by the Students’ Association), and theirs (somewhere they feel ownership). This applies whether it is a building, a room, a small corner or pop-up.

7  Relevant and diverse services

We recognise our members have different needs at different times and in different places. We will respond to our members’ needs and wishes, and aim to anticipate future needs. We will be adaptable and flexible, and offer alternatives to what is available elsewhere.


Key change projects Our seven key change projects are consensus thoughts and are derived from the goals and supporting activity aims we have set ourselves; informed by the research project undertaken as part of the planning process. In the 2015-16 academic year, we delivered key aspects of projects three (democratic structures and governance, and student representatives roles review) and four (branding and visual identity). In 2016-17 we intend to focus our resources on projects two (staff culture, recognition and reward) and five (communications).

1  Financial strategy

To maintain our financial recovery plan, but also to forecast for investment in buildings, services and people in order to enhance services to students

2  Staff culture, recognition and reward

To undertake a recognition and reward review. To focus on providing great service in all that we do and to strengthen our culture around supporting student leadership.

3  Democratic structures, governance and student representatives’ roles review

To ensure our governance is fit for purpose and aligned to a review of democratic process and structures that seeks to increase positive engagement with our students and increase student participation. We will also review the number and roles of Sabbatical Officers and other student representatives to ensure an effective and sustainable representative function.

4  Branding, visual identity and engagement To review and enhance the Students’ Association brand, and corresponding visual identity, to improve student understanding of and affinity to our services. By improving engagement with services we will increase success and student satisfaction.


5  Communications internal, member and external

To review and enhance our communications with students, staff, the University, the wider community and other key stakeholders. This will increase relevance and affinity and improve our performance in all areas.

6  Buildings and spaces review

To review the current use of our buildings space and develop our thoughts on future needs to ensure a fit for purpose Students’ Association that makes effective and efficient use of space going forward. As well as a space ‘needs and wants’ review this will also consider a strategy for addressing the multi-site nature of the University operations from our perspective.

7  Use of technology

To consider how we use technology to improve our service to students and transform the types and range of services we may offer. This is technology in its widest form and not just limited to IT and digital technology but also, for example, facilities management systems, catering equipment, administrative systems and equipment.


Indicators of strategic performance We have devised a Strategic Plan to change the Students’ Association and transform our service and the relationship with our students. We have set ourselves ambitious targets and performance indicators to signal the achievement of our plan in 2019. We have 13 targets or indicators of performance that monitor how we are doing and to demonstrate our achievements.



Target or Performance Indicator

Status at April 2017

Students’ experience, representation and support


Score 85% satisfaction rating in the University's Student Services Survey

No current result. This is a new survey from 2017/18


70% of students to agree the Students’ Association made a positive contribution to their experience at University*

Our 2016/17 result is 67%. This is 2% up on 2015/16.


70% of students to agree the Students’ Association made a positive contribution to their development*

Our 2016/17 result is 49%. This is 4% up on 2015/16


70% of students say they have had positive contact with a member of the Students’ Association staff *

Our 2016/17 result is 42%. This is 2% up on 2015/16.


Increase the level of overall student satisfaction with the University of Edinburgh to 88% in the annual National Student Survey (NSS), Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) and the biannual Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES)

The 2016 results are NSS: 80%, PTES: 84%, and the 2015 PRES result is 83%.


70% of students agree the Students’ Association listens and represents them well to the University and others*

Our 2016/17 results are 42% (listens) and 50% (represents). This is up 6% and 8% respectively on 2015/16.


To be in the top quartile of Students’ Unions satisfaction ratings for Q26 in the National Student Survey (NSS): “The students’ union (association or guild) effectively represents students’ academic interests”

No current result. 2017 will be first release of this new question and the satisfaction rating which enables us to be in the top quartile will move year on year.


The Students’ Association’s General Election turnout will be 30% of eligible members

Our 2016 General Elections turnout was 15% of elegible members. Organisational health


The Students’ Association will have reserves of £1m and £200k to invest in projects and services

Reserves are now at £670k** and we remain on track to meet the £200k investment target.


80% of staff would recommend the Students’ Association as a place to work in the Students’ Association’s Staff Survey

Our 2016/17 result is 74%.


The Students’ Association will retain the NUS’s Green Impact ‘Excellent’ accreditation and continue to be placed in the UK’s top five most sustainable Students’ Unions

We have maintained our NUS accreditation and our place within the UK’s top five most sustainable Students’ Unions.


The Students’ Association scores 80% in the NUS Good Governance Framework self-assessment audit

Our April 2017 self-assessment is 68%. This is up 18% on 2015.

* Students’ Association’s Annual Members’ Survey. **Excluding Pension Provision.


King's Buildings House

The Pleasance


Teviot Row House

For more information and to keep up-to-date on our Strategic Plan please visit: Edinburgh University Students' Association is a charity (SC015800) and a company limited by guarantee (SC429897) registered in Scotland. Registered Office: Potterrow, 5/2 Bristo Square, Edinburgh EH8 9AL

Strategic Plan Spring 2017 Edition  
Strategic Plan Spring 2017 Edition