University of Lincoln Students’ Union

University of Lincoln Students' Union narrowly edged Loughborough for the title of HE Students' Union of the Year

University of Lincoln Students’ Union narrowly edged Loughborough for the title of HE Students’ Union of the Year

NEW-NUS-Awards-2014-winnerHE Students’ Union of the Year

“Twelve months ago, whilst working with 14%(1) of the student population developing our Vision and Strategy, only 43%(1) of University of Lincoln Students thought they were members of Lincoln Students’ Union, this year this is 91%(2).

10%(1) thought they were engaged members of the Students’ Union, this year we have engaged 6355 (51%)(3) whether voting, volunteering, joining a club/society, becoming a representative, submitted or nominated for an award or attending a democratic meeting.

Our Vision launched in August is to become:

“A Students’ Union where every Lincoln student has a great experience and is encouraged and assisted to fulfill their potential both at University and in life.”

We know we have achieved this and students can achieve their potential if they know they are members, leading and engaging what we do. We have achieved buy-in because we have made our Union relevant to them – based on what they tell us, not just in our Strategic review or surveys, but all throughout the year when our officers GOAT (Get Our And Talk).   The four Officers set themselves a target of 25% of their time to be spent talking to members.  This is recorded by the Executive team and checked by Student Council.  We have listened to our members concerns as they arise and made it easier for our students to participate and lead the Union by democratising the Union – causing the positive change that enhances their Student experience.

3008 students called upon us to #SavetheShed (have a look) after an on campus student space was set to close and be turned into office space, we made sure that student opinion was taken into account, reversing the decision.  Within three days we campaigned and lobbied the Vice Chancellor, attracting 351 students (previous record 149) to attend our AGM to discuss the student motion with the Vice Chancellor.  42 days later we re-opened The Shed as a Student Union space which is now self-sustaining, returning much needed financial resource to the Students’ Union Charity.

Not only have we changed our Articles to the NUS/BWB revised model, we changed our by-laws and Standing Orders to introduce liberation officers and committees.  We recently elected our first every women’s Officer with 1450 student voting.  This has helped us engage more students, become relevant and a force for real change on campus.  Introducing these Officers has been a result of various motions that have been brought to Student Council including joining the National Campaign “no to Page 3”.  A total of 1310 students voted in our referendum. 

Part of this work has been engaging in the NUS Women in Leadership campaign by training 35 students on campus, which resulted in 11 female candidates out of a total of 21 and helped the gender balance our full time Officer team.  A female VP Activities was elected for the very first time.

To increase the quality of our engagement and to ensure we are truly student led, having a positive contribution on the student experience.  We changed the Union from a staff and “hack” led organisation to one where we can guarantee that every student leader has been elected not selected.  This year we ran 1428 online elections to elect all our Course Representatives, Liberation Officers, Sports and Societies committee positions, Sabbatical Officers and Trustees.

Our election turnout this year was 3958 (30% of our population, a new record) which alongside our average referendum turnout of 15%, of which there have been 3, demonstrates our approach has been successful.  The Sports and Societies election turnout was 16%, this is higher than the record before introduction of the new strategy.  Based on this we confidently state that the Students’ Union has improved the quality of our engagement with members so that they can influence our, and the Universities, decisions as well as making new contacts with previously unengaged members.

We had feedback from our International members that the Students’ Union was not relevant to them.  As a result we held eight focus groups with 130 international students spanning 60 differing domiciles to help and lead our decision making in the developments of our Internationalisation Strategy.  An immediate win was the University’s commitment to provide a £12,000 for an International hardship fund which our members had asked us to lobby for.  We have been nominated for the NUS/UKCISA Internationalised SU of the Year.

By making our structures more democratic and increasing our participation and engagement we have been able to democratise the University as well as ourselves.  We have successfully been able to ensure that every University committee has five Students’ Union elected representatives in its membership.  This is 140 places on influential decision making bodies who are all trained to deliver positive change to the Student Experience. E.g. £2.7m secured for access and £150,000 DSA ring-fenced.

We have also successfully been able to change the University Assessment Submission Policy to give students the ability to check plagiarism before final submission by submitting to TURNITIN twice.  The Representation policy has also changed to introduce Post Graduate Reps who will be elected in partnership with us and will take up places on University Committees to make the change that they want.

After being approached by a number of Students who felt they were being harassed by University employees, the Union was able to change the Student Complaints Procedure to allow students to make complaints about the conduct of University employees.  Previously students could only complain about the quality of teaching, not inappropriate conduct.

In the past twelve months we have developed from a small, insular organisation into one that increasingly puts Student views at the heart of its decision making.  We have used this engagement to make changes on campus and improve the lives of our members through hard work from Officers, Staff and Students – working together to fulfill our ambitious vision.

1  Strategic Survey 2012/13 (1246 respondents)

2  SU Annual Membership Survey 2013/14 (1273 respondents)

3  SUMS (CRM system – University of Lincoln student records)”

Nominated by Dan Sam, Students’ Union Officer

What some of the judges said…

Phil Garner Photo“This nomination showed how one of the smaller unions can make a big impact and drive strategic change, significantly improving the numbers of students engaging with the SU and therefore being heard by the university. Their record election turnout really highlights this improvement in engagement” Phil Garner, Endsleigh


“The improvement of Lincoln SU and their increase in capacity, engagement and effectiveness is really impressive. Their ANDY WESTWOOD - 150X150campaigns to save facilities, to increase engagement and profile are also all really good.” Andy Westwood, GuildHE

Some comments from the night…




 In March 2015, almost a year on from the NUS Awards 2014, we caught up with Lincoln to see how it was to win HE Students’ Union of the Year and what they had been doing since:

‘Winning the NUS HE Students’ Union of the year was huge for Lincoln SU, we were not expecting to be shortlisted, let alone win.  For all of our officers, volunteers and staff this was really well celebrated as it gave our progress and hard work in working to our strategy national recognition to go alongside the local recognition we had received from the University as “ University of Lincoln Student Experience enhancement team award”.

Lincoln has undergone a significant transformation over the last 2 years, all based around our student led and researched strategy.  Lincoln was in “special measures” in 2012, part of the problem was that the Union’s staff were all employed, and under the control, of the University not the SU.  Backed by a very brave and supportive Vice Chancellor, in July 2012 the Union took on the employment of its staff and was allowed to be truly student led and under its own autonomy.  A student led strategy was put in place and that strategy has seen us grow our services and the support we can offer to all of our members.  Our own feedback showed we were making a huge difference year on year to our students so we knew the strategy was working, however winning the award has really given us validation and credibility on campus.  University staff, who were used to an ineffective and defunct Students’ Union, suddenly started to engage with us and realise that we were not just here because the Education Act said so, but that we were functioning well and are able make a difference to the lives of our members on campus an improve their student experience.  The award has also given our students something to be proud of, a sense of identity and a sense of being part of something special. 

Since winning the award, our engagement levels have soared, the Union has seen separate full day visits to the SU by the Chair of the University Board of Governors and the Vice Chancellor, both wishing to meet all the staff to thank them for their hard work.  The University have handed over to the SU a £2.5 million commercial operation which has allowed us to this year return yet more funding into the SU so that we can continue to grow and develop.  This stamp of national recognition has meant that we are not only widening our engagement but because students are proud of us we have also seen our already engaged members deepen their involvement with us.  Winning the award has really helped us establish our organisation’