University of Portsmouth Studentsâ€™ Union Postgraduate Engagement Report 2012
Headline Statistics INTRODUCTION This report presents the main ﬁndings of research undertaken in October 2011 into whether the Students Union effectively engages with Postgraduate Students at the University Of Portsmouth. Data was collected in the form of an online questionnaire sent to postgraduate Students via the Associate Deans of Student and interviews with NUS and Union staff.The questionnaire received 117 responses from Postgraduate collected online over a two week period using the Survey Monkey Website.
69% 88% of the respondents were aware of where the Union building is. however
had not used the Union’s services.
of students questioned recognised that they Union can be a place of welfare & support
of students surveyed stated that they did not feel or were unsure as to whether the Students’ Union benefitted them.
of students surveyed said that they felt the Students’ Union benefitted them.
of students stated that the did not feel represented by the Union.
84% said that they had not been directed to the Students’ Union for help.
of students surveyed answered that they were either happy with the services provided or that they had no opinion.
When asked what services they would like to see at the Union, 33% answered with existing services provided either by the Union or the University, suggesting a lack of awareness about what is offered.
These results suggest that the Union does not effectively engage the postgraduate students and that there is a lack of awareness of the services that the Union provides in this demographic. The fact that the Postgraduate Ofﬁcer position within UPSU is often left vacant shows a lack of engagement between postgraduate students and UPSU. This means that they are not accessing services which could be of great use to them.
The Next Steps CONCLUSION The lack of awareness in the Postgraduate community of the function of the Union can greatly hinder participation. Important services such as Academic and Welfare support that are speciﬁcally designed to uphold and advise students during their time at University are failing to engage postgraduate students effectively. “I think a lot of Students are not really aware of what the Union can offer or do for them, I would fall into this category. Either there is not enough building of awareness activities going on, or I am somehow missing all the information”. Dante Micheaux, NUS Postgraduate representative, “It is crucial for unions to be communicating with postgraduate students... “Postgraduate students tend to be very focused on their academic trajectory. They may have families of their own, and so they don’t look to the Union in the same way that undergraduate students might do.” 8% of student questioned recognised that the Union can be a place of welfare and support. Free text comments included: • • • • • •
“I don’t know enough about it to have a perception of it” “A group that is there to beneﬁt students, but which most students are not aware of the beneﬁt to them” “Had no idea that Postgraduates were able to be members, hence thought it was only for undergraduates”. “I think I am too old to sit in that area” “I used to enjoy going to the Students’ Union Waterhole in the evening” “Has a friendly feel that you wanted to hang out at, play pool and have a beer in the afternoon”.
The confusion between the University bar and the service and purpose of the Union, could explain why a why number of Postgraduates perceived the union to be a place targeted to a young alcohol consumption culture. The vision of Portsmouth Students’ Union is to have a positive impact with every Portsmouth student but the research would suggest that it is not in relation to the postgraduate community. The results show that less than one third of postgraduate students feel that their union represents them. These ﬁndings could correlate with the prior perception of the union as a place ‘for undergraduates’, and the general feeling of postgraduate alienation from the marketing campaigns of the union. Postgraduate are a diverse, skilled demographic of students who are an important part of the student population at Portsmouth University. Their engagement with their union is important in ensuring that they academic experience whilst at Portsmouth is enhanced to its maximum potential and that their voice as a student is heard and acted upon.
Recommendations The postgraduate student community would like to be involved with the Students’ Union and we must ensure we are including this population. To improve communication we need to consider: • • • • • • • • • • • •
Speaking at induction lectures, Improvement of general communications To communicate with postgraduates via their academic department Targeted emails to invite postgraduate students to attend some activities held by the Students’ Union A monthly newsletter for postgraduates Postgraduate spaces in the Union A change in marketing strategy Develop Activities geared towards students with families, Filling the post of Postgraduate Student Ofﬁcer Liaise frequently with the National Union of Students for advice on how to better communicate with the postgraduate student body. Complete the NUS postgraduate engagement checklist which will provide the Union with a solid ‘starting point’ for further improvements. It is also clear from the research that the method by which the majority of Union services are delivered; i.e. on campus, is not accessible to postgraduate students: they simply do not have time to travel to the Union to utilise the services provided and there are signiﬁcant barriers to engagement with the Students’ Union, which must be addressed. Perceptions of the Students’ Union as a bar must be changed in order to better promote the services which are provided for students.