Welcome to our Impact Report where we look back on the previous 2020/21 academic year and see what we got up to at Christ Church Students' Union.
We can't really escape a review of the year without mentioning Covid-19 and the significant impact upon University life, our operations and ambitions, and our activity during the year. This meant many activities originally planned were not able to progress and we also found that our priorities, and those of students, meant a shift in time and resources.
That being said we were able to continue a positive path of development whilst navigating a highly uncertain and challenging operating context.
In this report we have divided up the facts and figures into the five Strategic Themes and five Strategic Enablers of Your Union Plan 2019-22.
Becky, Maddy, Beth and Nathan - Your 2020-21 Full-Time Officer Team
Representing you is our number one priority. It is why we exist. We will enhance our reach, depth, and impact in this by listening to, and really hearing, your academic and non-academic wants, needs, and concerns. Then, with you, doing something about them by driving change at Christ Church, locally, and nationally.
In January we wrote an open letter to the Vice Chancellor, both in his position as Vice Chancellor and as the Chair of the Million+ Universities Mission Group, concerning a number of issues affecting students: financial hardship, uncertainty concerning academic outcomes, wellbeing support, and rental agreements for both CCCU and non-CCCU accommodation. Similarly, the Sabbatical Leadership Team also wrote to the three MP’s that cover the Canterbury and Medway campuses concerning the current issues that affect students. You can read his reply here.
We held out Elections Results Night online for the first time in our history and you can watch how it all unfolded.
Support and Wellbeing
We will strive to ensure you are healthy, happy, and safe, but also informed and empowered to make your own choices. As a Union we will be there for you and work with others to provide support, as well as creating student-led peer support networks to do the same.
The popular Choosday Chill event continued, offering students a route to access formal support in a more informal setting. When it wasn't possible to hold the events in-person we switched to online to ensure people still had access and wouldn't miss out.
The Students’ Union President worked closely with the University on addressing student hardship and digital poverty, with an expanded laptop loan scheme and streamlined process for hardship funds applications. In total, this group awarded in excess of £500,000 of additional hardship funding.
The Students’ Union President, alongside the Chaplaincy, Student Wellbeing, Accommodation and commercial partners, made and distributed hundreds of wellbeing boxes to students self-isolating in University accommodation during October and November.
The Union’s Advice and Projects Coordinator formally supported 512 students during the year, and is an increase of 527% in ten years showing how valuable the service has become. Through the Advice Centre, the Union secured another record of £68,454 of compensation for 54 students from the University.
In Medway we worked with the other universities to address lack of healthcare provision for students in the Medway area, including meeting with 5 different NHS teams offering a variety of support and guidance, which resulted in an agreement with local GP surgeries which will improve access.
Opportunities and Employability
University is so much more than a degree. We will enable you to fulfil your potential and enrich your experiences in a way that is fun, memorable, and student-led, all the while enabling you to develop new skills and enhance your employability.
At the beginning of the year we held a Virtual Freshers' Fayre, streaming live from The Lounge with guests from clubs and societies, who also conducted takeovers from their own social media accounts.
Student opportunities were the Union services impacted most by lockdowns and restrictions during the year. It was only possible for very limited sporting activity at points during the year, and so as a response the Union took the decision to refund all sports club memberships.
Many societies were able to transfer at least some of their usual activity online, which the Union supported by providing technical platforms and associated advice and guidance on running effective, safe, and inclusive online events that support student communities and belonging.
Sports Federation and Student Activities Awards that were postponed from Spring 2020 were held online in Autumn 2020, to ensure students’ achievements pre-pandemic were properly recognised. Then for 2020/21 we held a joint awards ceremony for the whole student community - sports, societies, and volunteering.
Belonging and Inclusion
We are here to help you discover who you are and find your friendship groups. We commit to breaking down barriers, creating and supporting safe spaces, tackling isolation, and to actively celebrate the diversity of Christ Church and the communities we are a part of.
Our new Medway Coordinator continued to build upon the successful development of the Union’s presence and service at the Medway Campus:
Our Breakfast Club, an experimental ‘drop in’ style event that was designed to appeal more to non-traditional students, had over 150 attendees across five events during Welcome Weeks.
The ‘More for Medway’ campaign allowed us to reach out to students with specific information on how they can get involved with their Union.
We supported a new Student Parents and Carers Network, which had 121 members in the first two months.
The 12th Annual Golden Apple Award event took place in June 2021. There were 907 nominations, in three different categories for this unique year:
Most dedicated to supporting students - 376 nominations with Shauna McCuster, Director of Criminology, Sociology and Forensic Investigation in the School of Law, Policing and Social Sciences, winning the award.
Most dedicated to students’ learning - 328 nominations with Ash Hanson, Lecturer in Paramedic Science in the School of Allied and Public Health Professions, winning the award.
Most engaging online teaching, 203 nominations with Richard McManus, Director of Research Development in Christ Church Business School, winning the award.
Communication and transparency
As a membership organisation we need to be effective at two-way communication with you to ensure we are relevant to your student life. This means ensuring you know what we do, why we do it, and to communicate this boldly in your spaces to your preference.
The Union recorded 371,533 page views across 128,274 visits on www.ccsu.co.uk.
We commissioned an external review of our communications function, to better understand how we can directly engage with our members. The recommendations from this will be implemented in late 2021, ahead of another project commissioned in Spring 2021 that will conclude in Spring 2022 which is a full student segmentation project that will help identify specific subsets within our student body in order that we can better understand their motivations for engagement and more precisely meet their service and communication needs. This will be done through specific targeted messaging, as well as increase engagement and participation from prospective and current students.
We need to be sustainable, both in terms of finance and the environment.
We exceed the budgeted surplus for 2020/21, even with the impact of COVID-19.
We partnered with JustGiving to enable the Union’s student groups and Raise and Give, who have previously heavily relied upon face to face events for charity fundraising, to continue to fundraise for good causes online.
People and Culture
Develop our people and extend our positive, innovative culture.
The Union was able to fulfil a long-held ambition during the year by securing additional resources to expand the staffing in the Advice Centre, with the creation of a new 0.6 FTE role to help meet the expanding demand.
Know our members by having comprehensive insight.
1,782 students filled in our Student Life Pulse survey and gave feedback on all aspects of Students' Union provision. Although overall satisfaction with the Union dropped, satisfaction with clubs, societies and events remained surprisingly high given the cessation of face to face activity for the majority of the year. 47% of students agreed that the Students' Union represents the views of students effectively, which was only three points down compared to 2019/20.
In addition to the above, we conducted numerous other insight activities as a response to the pandemic. Student Life Pulse added a new bank of questions, which we used to inform senior University decision-makers about students' experiences of learning during the pandemic and we additionally ran a survey to explore students' experiences of returning to campus in April, and fed back some safety and wellbeing concerns to the University.
Utilise new and existing technology to engage with and represent our members.
Our previous extensive use of cloud-based technology as part of our drive to digital over a number of years meant that technology continued to be an enabler, and not a barrier, to our work and student engagement. This included partnering with Native.fm to offer an innovative, diverse, and inclusive range of online events for students during Welcome Weeks in September, either for students who did not feel comfortable attending events face-to-face, or to students who would ordinarily not be able to participate due to being commuter students or students with dependents.
Our Christ Church Online Student Community continued to be a place where students could chat, share information, and most importantly feel part of a community.
Develop effective partnerships with others to further our Mission and Vision.
We supported, with Kent Union, the first cohort of the Kent and Medway Medical School students, with the Union taking the lead on the establishment of MedSoc including securing direct funding from the School for all KMMS students to join free of charge.
We collaborated with Kent Union and Greenwich Students’ Union to agree a new memorandum of understanding and partnership agreement between the three SUs for closer collaboration at the Medway Campus for the benefit of all students studying there, for implementation from the 2021/22 year.