Social Action at the Heart of the Student Experience

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Introducing Student Hubs:

Putting social action at the heart of the student experience

We believe students have the power and potential to shape a better world.


Contents 05




The need

Our value




Local Hub model

Student led volunteering

Skilled placements





In practice

Staff training



Student training

Contact us



Student Hubs Student Hubs supports university students to take leadership roles in tackling social and environmental challenges in their local communities. Through taking part in meaningful social action, students gain experience and professional skills that enhance their employability.

We provide students with the opportunity to lead volunteering projects in their local community, consult for local organisations, gain work experience in the social impact sector and set up their own innovative ventures. With our support, students are more confident and better able to both lead and work with others to achieve their goals. These students gain distinctive experiences and skills at university that help them to secure and excel in employment upon graduation. Student Hubs works with universities in a number of ways: • Setting up university Hubs - embedding our work in the university to provide multiple programmes enabling students to develop skills and tackle community need.

Our impact In 2014-15, we supported

2500 students to take part in meaningful social action, including:

• Training for staff - working with universities to provide training or consultancy for staff on student engagement, impact measurement, effective training methods and more. • Training for students - providing a range of key skills and leadership training sessions and bootcamps for student volunteers and social entrepreneurs. Student Hubs was founded in Oxford in 2007 by a group of students who believed that universities should be more connected to the communities they’re based in, giving students the opportunity to gain frontline experience addressing community need. We now support 10 Hubs across the UK, and partner with many more universities to help us to achieve our mission, to mainstream student social action in UK universities.

1151 long term

community volunteers,

134 interns, 87 student consultants, 250 student social entrepreneurs.


The need Universities are not doing enough to support student social action.

Students want it Young people are passionate about tackling social and environmental issues in their communities. Recent research shows that today’s teenagers are more engaged with social issues than ever before, and this interest continues into adulthood. Our own research shows that students think universities should be doing more to tackle social and environmental issues, and that supporting social action activities should be a core part of what they do. However, only 62% of students see volunteering as a mainstream activity, and only 30% of students volunteer.

Students need it Each year, 300,000 students graduate from UK universities. Many of them have degrees but lack the relevant skills and experience necessary to begin a successful career. The graduate employment market is still in recovery, and competition for graduate jobs remains extremely high. The unemployment rate for graduates after 6 months (7.8%) remains higher than the national average (5.4%), and many of those in work are temping or on short term contracts. As the graduate pool continues to expand, there is a clear shift within graduate employers from a focus on degree grades to a broader assessment of a candidate’s skills and experience. Indeed, EY are no longer taking degree classifications into consideration when recruiting graduates. PwC and Clifford Chance have adopted similar initiatives


over the past two years as well. In order to prove attractive to employers, students need to develop skills and experience outside of their degrees. Providing high quality social action opportunities for students is one of the best ways of doing this.

A recent CIPD report found that 67% of employers noted that entry level candidates with voluntary experience demonstrated greater employability skills and 51% of graduates under 30 in paid work said volunteering helped them to secure employment.1 With an increasing number of students seeking impactful, innovative, and creative careers there is a pressing need to arm these students with relevant experiences and credible skills.

1 ‘CIPD: Unlock new talent - How can you integrate social action in recruitment?’, CIPD & Step Up To Serve, June 2015, available at

The current provision of student social action does not meet the needs of students. Universities are not providing the breadth of high quality leadership opportunities that students need to thrive in the social economy upon graduation. The opportunities that are on offer are often low impact - with little evidence of skills development or contribution towards future employability.

The lack of cross sector national support means that, in general, provision of student social action is not cost effective. Universities are investing resources in developing isolated programmes, rather than rolling out tried and tested, high impact models that have delivered impact elsewhere.

“Kingston Hub has plugged into what lies beneath our diverse student body and that is the desire to find out more about how they can make a difference and a passion to make change in their university, local community and essentially their own lives and future beyond Kingston.� Therese Reinheimer-Jones, Head of Careers & Employability Service, Kingston University


Our value Our approach: Putting social action at the heart of the student experience Student Hubs’ model is cost effective and high impact, harnessing the power of a national network to deliver a broad range of social action opportunities, developing student skills and employability and positively impacting the local community. Our approach is proven - at a diverse range of Universities, supporting students with a range of different motivations and needs.

High quality student social action We follow these 6 quality principles to guide our work and ensure all of our social action opportunities benefit students as well as the local community.







Developing student skills and employability


Student leadership is vital to our approach. Across all of our programmes, we provide students with the opportunity to take leadership roles; coordinating local volunteering projects, managing committees running conferences, setting up social enterprises and leading consultancy teams.

Through our training, students also learn communications, project management, presentation, public speaking, networking, and fundraising skills they can apply to their projects at university, and take with them into the working world.

Through these roles, students take a strategic focus, learning how to plan and execute projects, motivate others, work in teams, and measure and evaluate their impact.

With our support, students are more confident in approaching challenges, better able to lead and work with others to achieve goals and report an improved experience at university.

Cost effective social action As a national organisation working across ten universities, we’re able to achieve significant economies of scale, developing programmes that can be rolled out across our network and providing standardised impact frameworks to our local teams. This frees up local staff to focus predominantly on delivery and student support. Universities that are part of our network benefit from an array of resources and support from our national team. Resources for setting up and delivering student led volunteering projects, incubating social enterprises and running our internship and social consultancy schemes have all been developed nationally, for local staff to tailor to their university landscape. Student Hubs’ national communications team supports local teams to make their opportunities as attractive as possible to students, helping them to develop communications strategies tailored to

Photo: Sabina Zavoianu, Southampton Branch Up

their universities. In practice, this means providing flyers, posters and campaign ideas for Freshers Week and giving ongoing advice and guidance for using social media and newsletters in a targeted and effective way. We are therefore able to utilise their experience of tailoring communications specifically to engage students in social action opportunities. Through connecting with other university ‘Hubs’ across the country, our staff are able to take the best ideas from across the network and apply them to their own universities. All back office functions finance, governance, HR - are taken care of by the national team, freeing up our staff team to deliver to students on the ground. This is an extremely cost effective way of providing high quality social action support. Universities are able to benefit from the expertise of both national staff and those at other universities, supporting local staff to apply tried and tested programmes to the local environment.


“The Hub has been invaluable in engaging with the community, in inspiring volunteering, in raising aspirations among young people, and challenging educational disadvantage. The support that the Hub has given to our students is helping to broaden their horizons and equip them with the experience and outlook they will need in both employment and in public life.� Joy Carter, Vice Chancellor, University of Winchester


Local Hub model Our model is simple. We get students involved and support them to excel, resulting in a double impact, on students and the local community.

Recruitment Activities

lead to

Social Action Activities

Critical Engagement Events

Practical Volunteering


Skilled Placements

lead to

Double Impact

Community Outcomes Student Outcomes



Events We support students to run events and conferences on local, national and global social and environmental challenges. These events inspire students to take action, facilitating their journey from learning about an issue to doing something about it.

Communications All of our communications channels are designed to nudge students towards social action opportunities. Through engaging weekly newsletters and targeted social media usage, we

provide clear and concise advertising reaching a diverse range of students and motivating them to get involved.

Training Every opportunity that we provide comes with a complimentary training programme, supporting students to learn about the social issues they are tackling, develop a range of relevant skills, and apply them to their volunteering. We work with external partners to deliver these sessions - in the past this has included Teach First, Frontline, Barclays and EY.


Student led volunteering Supporting students to develop their skills and interests through meaningful volunteering opportunities in their local community. Our approach to student-led volunteering follows the ‘double benefit’ model, where volunteering has a positive impact on students and the community. We help students to identify the point at which their interests and skills align with an area of local community need, so that they can play a meaningful role in tackling social issues. With our experience of supporting projects and volunteers in seven cities over the past nine years, we know how to facilitate student engagement and encourage their progression into leadership roles. Our tailored training framework includes a combination of project-specific and soft skills so that every student can develop skills relevant to their volunteering and future work. Furthermore, our bespoke digital platform combines day-to-day functions for volunteer management with the tools for monitoring and evaluating our impact on student volunteers and the community over time, enabling us to continuously improve our programmes. Across our network of Hubs, student leaders run a range of volunteering projects, addressing challenges from conservation, to social isolation amongst older people and educational disadvantage.

Uni staff say: “Schools Plus has offered many students with a thirst to teach or support young people the chance to realise this in a school in their local community.” Therese Reinheimer-Jones, Head of Student Engagement and Enhancement, Kingston University


Schools Plus Schools Plus is our largest volunteering programme, supporting 693 volunteers in 201415. Schools Plus programmes trains students as tutors and mentors for primary and secondary school pupils from low-income backgrounds. We place students as tutors and mentors who are passionate about their subject and have the potential to be positive role models in schools. Our comprehensive training programme and ongoing support enables them to develop the necessary skills for effective tutoring. Volunteers commit to weekly tutoring sessions during the academic year, and each team of tutors is led by a student coordinator. Each Hub also has a Schools Plus Committee, and those students work together on publicity, social events, training and fundraising. In addition to skills development, tutors have access to talks and networking events with partners such as TeachFirst, which develops their knowledge of educational disadvantage and careers in the education sector.

In 2014-15, we supported 693 student volunteers to reach over 6,100 school pupils in 45 schools, totalling over 10,000 hours of tutoring 93% of tutors said it enhanced their university experience 93% of tutors felt they better understand the needs of beneficiaries

Students say: “Being involved with Schools Plus and Student Hubs has been the the most interesting, inspiring and rewarding part of my university life so far. I have gained so many new skills, met so many proactive, energised and determined people and I have been able to witness the inspirational effect which student volunteers can have on the community and local people.”

“I’ve gained so many amazing experiences and skills. From delivering a presentation to potential tutors, to representing Student Hubs at Buckingham Palace and meeting the Prince of Wales, David Cameron and Ed Miliband. Sibi, Schools Plus Coordinator, Imperial Hub

Jess, Schools Plus Coordinator, Southampton Hub


Skilled placements Giving students the opportunity to gain workplace experience and consultancy skills. Our skilled placements provide an invaluable learning experience for students. Through our Internship Scheme and Social Innovation Programme, students gain experience of working with charities and social enterprises, applying their skills and knowledge to a professional setting. Both programmes give students the opportunity to lead teams on projects tackling social and environmental challenges.

Social Impact Internship Scheme We recruit students from across the Hub Network and match them with host organisations in the notfor-profit and social enterprise sectors, or with CSR initiatives in corporates. Successful students are placed with organisations that match their interests and location preferences and undertake 4-8 week projects over the summer. Our comprehensive programme of training enables them to develop a broad skill set that complements a career in the not-for-profit sector. The Social Impact Internship Scheme is the largest work placement scheme in the not for profit sector.

134 interns placed in 100 charities and social enterprises in 2014-15

Students say: “[My internship] has been a fantastic experience that I am very excited to share and use to complete my pathway to future employment. Amazing, happy and unique management have made my opportunity with Winchester Hub brilliant.” Jack Barlow, University of Winchester - interned with Winchester City Council.

“While my university course has been fantastic in teaching me how to solve theoretical problems, I wanted to be able to finally apply what I’ve learnt to real life, seeing results.” Chandni Pagarani, University of Bristol - interned with Interserve. Following the completion of this placement, Chandni was offered a 6 month continuation contract with Interserve.

Social Innovation Programme This year, over 120 students will take part in our Social Innovation Programme (SIP). The SIP offers students the opportunity to work in teams alongside a local charity or social enterprise, acting as external consultants to propose and implement an innovative solution to a problem. It combines consultancy, research and critical thinking with training and support, utilising students’ passion and entrepreneurialism to address community need. Previous SIP challenges have ranged from designing a digital marketing strategy for a local food network in Cambridge, to educating teenagers so that they can support their families to use the local food bank, or working with a senior care provider to optimise the way they use and record data about their beneficiaries.


We work with corporate partners to provide mentoring and training for student consultants. In Cambridge, we deliver the SIP in partnership with KPMG and digital technology company ARM. KPMG provide advice for teams through drop in sessions, focusing on developing consultancy skills that are crucial to the success of the project. Student consultants can also access the knowledge and experience of ARM associates through mentoring. In 2014-15, 79% of participants said they would be able to apply the skills they had learnt to their future careers and 93% said they were glad they had taken part and would recommend it to a friend. Since its establishment in Cambridge in 2014, the programme now runs in Bristol, SOAS and Kingston, where Hubs have partnered with the local Careers departments in order to support students to develop key employability skills.

87 students worked on social consultancy projects with 18 organisations in 2014-15


Thanks to Cambridge Hub, every year more University of Cambridge students are getting involved in the local community and helping local community groups through volunteering, social action and social enterprise. The Hub is nurturing a new generation of active citizens who will help shape a better world while they are at university and throughout their lives. I am delighted to support its work and encourage all our students to give volunteering a go.


Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge


Incubation Supporting students to set up their own social projects to address community need. Social entrepreneurship has become a key part of the HE agenda, with institutions working to support research, innovation and spin-off companies and that addresses societal challenges. For students, social enterprise enables them to demonstrate evidence of leadership alongside their academic studies as well as providing a route into employment after graduation.

they will need along the way. Taking the initiative to start something new is a fantastic way for students to develop key skills, and take action on something they care about.

In order for HEIs and students to take advantage of opportunities in this growing field, tailored support is necessary. Student Hubs has developed a student-centred methodology that equips students with the information, support and resources needed for them to experiment with new ideas. Working in partnership with enterprise departments and knowledge transfer officers, local Hub staff focus on growing the pipeline of social start ups and providing students with foundational skills for long term engagement with enterprise.

“I received an incredible amount of support from the team at Imperial Hub; from planning out the vision and mission, to developing impact assessments. Above all, the team helped me when the pressure was high - I always felt confident that I could get their advice on any issues throughout the project. Now I feel that my project management, planning, communications and problem-solving skills have vastly improved during the experience. Developing and running my own project has increased my employability in areas such as education, charity and the public sector.”

Our approach

Dilshad, Imperial Hub

We provide a tailored methodology of student social entrepreneurship support, based on an incubation framework which Student Hubs has developed over the past 6 years. Through this methodology, we support each student to take their initial idea, assess feasibility, pilot it, and then scale it up into a fully fledged project. We connect students to crucial start-up funds which enable them to put their projects in motion, and offer ongoing support to develop their skills and ensure that their social enterprise has staying power. This is often through running Awards schemes in partnership with universities, linking students to start up project funding that allows students to pilot their ideas. No matter what stage a student comes to us at, whether they have an idea or are simply interested in developing enterprise skills, our staff are trained in coaching techniques to enable the student to identify where they want to get to and what help


Students say:

“With the support of Oxford Hub, an impossible idea to launch a student-led social enterprise on Hogacre Common suddenly seemed possible. With their help I applied for grant funding, and won a grant of £5000 from the UnLtd HEFCE programme to get my idea off the ground. Working with the Hub on this project has definitely developed my skills - but, most importantly, I’ve become a ‘yes’ person. If someone has an idea I think, ‘that’s awesome, let’s make that happen’” Madeleine, Oxford Hub

Partners say: “The value of partnering with Student Hubs emerged as a recurring theme… providing an effective way of drawing upon a range of expertise and networks.” Evaluation of the UnLtd HEFCE Social Enterprise Support Programme

In practice On the ground operations

In practice

Student Hubs is a national charity, registered in England and Wales under number 1122328. Local Hubs are set up as independently constituted branches - this means that they benefit from the national organisation’s support and infrastructure, but can also adapt to the local environment.

Our model is highly adaptive to each university environment. Each Hub works differently, running a range of programmes depending on university and student interest and local need. We add value where appropriate, filling gaps in existing provision to enhance the provision of social action and social enterprise on campus.

Student Hubs employs staff to deliver our work at universities, reporting to the Network Director, based in Oxford. Local staff are supported by a team of student leaders, including a Hub President and wider student committee. Our approach is based on a student-led model. Students take responsibility for a range of activities at the Hub, giving them the opportunity to develop a range of leadership and organisational skills. We request that universities where our Hubs are hosted provide a point person for day-today support in the most relevant department according to local set-up (this may be within Careers Services, Student Unions, Enterprise or Engagement departments). We also request that the university provides desk space for staff delivering the activities of the Hub, wherever is most appropriate. Additionally, all Hubs have a local Advisory Board, bringing together relevant stakeholders such as faculty, staff, community members, students and alumni to steer the activities and priorities of the local Hub. This group is often chaired by a student leader at the local Hub.

Universities select 2-3 programmes to launch the Hub in Year 1, with a view to increasing the number and size of programmes in Year 2 and 3, increasing the impact of the Hub.

Funding the Hub Local Hubs are predominantly funded by universities, recognising the benefits our work brings to students, the local community and the university itself. Our funding comes from a diverse range of departments and budgets who collaborate to support the Hub. In the past, this has included Careers Services, Public Engagement, Widening Participation, Student Enterprise, Sustainability and discretionary funding from Vice Chancellors.


Staff training Student Hubs works with Universities to share our expertise in supporting student skills development. We deliver workshops to staff - focusing on how to effectively engage and train students, support students who want to volunteer internationally, and measure the impact of their activities. We also work with universities on discrete consultancy projects - focusing on student engagement and impact measurement.

How to Run Effective Training Training students is a vital part of supporting them as volunteers, but it can be tricky to run training sessions that are both enjoyable, and get the message across. This day long workshop explores how to design a great training session and how to improve delivery skills, to maximise student learning. Student Hubs has delivered our one-day workshop on How to Run Effective Training for the past 2 years to over 60 attendees from student volunteering and student activities teams.

Participants say: “The content on making training memorable and mixing sessions was very useful. The opportunities to present also made me really confident in my style and delivery and by the end I felt like I could deliver training straight away.” “Overall I’d say that it’s great to have a stronger framework with which to design training, it’s a big confidence boost to understand the theory that backs up your training content.” “Great session, engaging, fast-paced, much more efficient than most training I’ve had.”


Introduction to Impact Training Measuring your impact is vital to proving the value of your work and improving upon it in the future. A robust impact measurement system allows you to assess what’s working, divert resources away from failing projects and invest in programmes that are delivering your desired outcomes. Student social action delivers a multitude of positive outcomes for students and communities, but there is a lack of cross sector partnership in developing frameworks that will help institutions assess their impact and benchmark themselves. Student Hubs has invested considerable resources in building our Theory of Change and impact framework, and we have developed this day-long workshop to share insights into our approach, help you build a robust impact framework that suits your institution and plan for implementation of your new impact measurement system.

Supporting International Volunteering Training Thousands of students volunteer on projects internationally every year - but not all of these projects provide a positive experience for the student and positive outcomes for the communities they volunteer in. We developed Impact International, a UK-wide programme, to help prepare students to choose sustainable international volunteering projects that will provide positive outcomes for them and their host community. Our training day informs staff about the benefits and complexities of volunteering overseas, and specifically focuses on the best ways to support students who may be considering voluntary activity abroad.

This workshop is for anyone who wants to be well informed, in order to effectively advise students, whether or not you are running international volunteering projects yourself. Previous staff training days have received excellent feedback, with participants highlighting the quality of trainers, as well as the breadth of topics covered. 100% of participants have indicated they would recommend the event to a colleague.

Consultancy Student Hubs runs discrete consultancy projects for universities to help them improve their support for students and increase their impact. Institutions define an issue they would like assistance with - whether that’s student engagement, impact measurement or supporting student leadership. Working with volunteering centres, enterprise departments, students’ unions or careers services, our staff use their expertise and experience to tackle the issue in question, producing a report with key recommendations for the institution to adopt.


Student training Student Hubs supports student volunteers, project coordinators, social entrepreneurs and students who want to kick start a career in the social impact sector. Our training is specifically targeted at these groups of students and we work closely with university partners to ensure that sessions are relevant and fit with students’ personal and professional development.

Track record

These training sessions help students who are working on a wide range of projects to develop their skills and apply them to their social action or social enterprise work. Our training provides students with the core skills they need to become effective social action leaders and kickstart their careers in the third sector.

Student Hubs’ training is delivered in partnership with Careers Services, Students’ Unions, Volunteering Centres and specfic university departments in order to enhance the student experience and provide students with opportunities to develop key employability skills.

We can run these sessions on a one off basis, as a weekly series, or as a tailor made day long training bootcamp. Each session lasts between 1.5 and 2 hours and is adapted to the group in order to fit specific needs.Our programme includes the following sessions:

Over the 2014-15 academic year, we saw 2,902 students attend our learning and training events. As a result of these opportunities, students reported the following outcomes:

• • • • • • • •

93% felt better equipped to tackle social issues 94% felt more motivated to tackle social issues 92% felt more knowledgeable about social issues


Key skills sessions

Leadership Volunteer Management Effective Communications Marketing Project Management Public Speaking Budgeting & Fundraising Impact Measurement

Challenge Leadership Challenge Leadership is Student Hubs’ flagship student leadership bootcamp, an essential programme to support students to take ownership of their social action projects and feel equipped to take leadership roles with their peers, within the University and the local community. The programme consists of 1-2 day(s) of workshops, interactive sessions, discussions and reflection space, designed to equip students with the knowledge, skills and confidence to become leaders for social change.

skills needed to develop in order to be an effective leader, and the approach needed to inspire a team to support their cause. Challenge Leadership is aimed at project leaders, student society committees, student social entrepreneurs or any other student looking to develop skills to lead with confidence. This learning opportunity can be offered as either a 1 or 2 day Bootcamp, depending on your needs and objectives. Where appropriate, we also offer a residential option that enhances the community building and reflective aspects of the programme. The workshops are led by experienced Challenge Leadership facilitators.

This unique curriculum supports students to identify themselves as leaders, exploring different styles and characteristics of leadership, the key


Contact us If you would like to: Partner with us to set up a Hub at your university

Book in Student Hubs skills and leadership student training

Find out more about our staff training workshops

get in touch with our Network Development Director, Francis Wight, on



Student Hubs is a registered charity in England and Wales, number 1122328. Our vision is a society in which every student engages with social and environmental challenges during their time at university, empowering them to become active citizens for life. Student Hubs currently has 10 Hubs across England: Bristol, Oxford Brookes, Cambridge, Imperial College, Kingston, Oxford, SOAS, Southampton, Warwick, and Winchester. We reach over 30,000 students, supporting them to volunteer, complete placements in social impact organisations and start their own charitable projects. Find out more at

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