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Students’ Union reaches out with ‘vital’ annual survey

Written by: on March 2, 2011

Warwick SU will carry out a survey this week to find out what students really think about their Union, focusing on reaching a wider demographic.

The student survey is a feedback procedure carried out by all multiple Students’ Unions across the country, the purpose of which is to gauge student opinion on the services that their Union offers. 2,086 respondents took part last year, answering questions related to the ‘Big 5’ – Service, Involvement, Engagement, Representation and the Future (of the SU).

Democracy and Communications Officer Chris Luck commented that: “We want to get a better, more balanced picture of the student body. We want to make sure that we get responses from every single demographic group in the University.” This follows low levels of participation from these groups in last year’s survey. 80 percent of respondents surveyed were undergraduates.

Encouragingly for the SU, 84 percent of respondents in last year’s survey reported that it had had a positive impact on their student experience as a whole. However, several critical points were raised including dissatisfaction with the entertainment programme, feelings that the SU is not as responsive as possible to student concerns and annoyance at the perceived high prices of food and beverages on campus. 70 percent of participants in the survey were unable to recall any campaigns by the SU.

Second-year Politics and French student Jim Tindill commented: “The events programme was a big problem last year. There was poor attendance and the Union was not running events students wanted.” Adjustment of the ents programme has since taken place with Tindill adding: “They re-did the programme last term and it has been resolved this year.”

Action to address other issues such as student concern over prices has also been taken, although the fact that many food and drink outlets on campus are not Union-run contributes to student grievances over inflated prices. Luck promised “mythbusting” over which services were Union-related and what the Union could realistically influence.

Confusion surrounding this issue could perhaps explain why only 34 percent of participating students said that the Union listened to their feedback and 45 percent said that Warwick SU communicated feedback. The assurance this year is of a rapid response system with the first information available possibly by the start of the summer term.

The prevailing issue associated with last year’s low, turnout was how well publicised the ‘Big 5’ survey was. Third-year PPE student Andrew Watters cited what many students felt about previous surveys, that he was not aware of its presence. “I didn’t take any notice of it. There was nothing to distinguish it from all the other online surveys issued – I didn’t even know it was a student survey,” he said.

As part of an effort to improve on last year’s response figures, more initiatives have been taken. The SU will be trying to get a wider campus presence by targeting students at bus stops and outside the library, and more posters and advertising will be employed. Luck said: “There will also be better prizes, such as champagne and free meals at the Dirty Duck, awarded as reward for completing the survey.” Such incentivisation, it is hoped, will encourage a wide range of students to fill in and return the feedback.

Generally, student reaction to this year’s survey has not been apathetic. Tindall added that he believed student feedback was “vitally important” to the way the SU functioned, whilst second-year Management undergraduate Jyothsna commented: “It is important for the students to do [such surveys] because the Students’ Union is there for the students.”

In a preview of this year’s suggestions, the Boar found the biggest area for complaint was the lack of “private study space” with the library, deemed too busy by many of those questioned. As well as creating more seating areas, proposals included a “takeaway open in the evening”, a greater variety to the usage of the Copper Rooms rather than purely as a night-time venue, and relaxed health and safety concerning the sale of fresh food outdoors on campus.

Some appeared apprehensive that any suggestions put in the ‘Future’ section would not be implemented due to a perceived lack of influence the Union has on the University.

Anticipating the usual pricing debate, Luck took a firm approach. “There will be no kneejerk responses to students saying [Union-run outlets] are expensive,” he said. “The emphasis will be on showing how we compare, for example Curiositea against Costa Coffee.”

The Big 5 Student Survey will be available in paper or online format throughout Week 8.

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