We are pleased to announce that Francis Wight is now Chief Executive of Student Hubs. Sara Fernandez, our previous Chief Executive, felt that it was the right time for her to focus on local social action in Oxford. We are sure that Oxford Hub and the wider community will continue to benefit from her vision and commitment to social change. Here, Francis shares his thoughts and priorities:
I am delighted and extremely proud to be taking over as Chief Executive of Student Hubs this month. As the dust settles after a turbulent and indecisive election campaign, two things are clear to me.
Firstly, young people exercised their right to vote in far greater numbers than we have seen for years. Thanks in part to the excellent work of Bite the Ballot and the NUS, initial estimates put turnout amongst 18-24 year olds at 59%, up from 43% in 2015. The youth vote mattered, but, in particular, the student vote mattered. Numerous seats across the country changed hands due in part to student votes – Bath, Sheffield Hallam and Warwick and Leamington are just three examples. Contrary to so many misguided analyses of the motivations of this generation of young people, ‘Generation Citizen’ voted and made a difference by doing so.
Secondly, I have been struck by the power of volunteers. Over the past few months, I met scores of people who dedicated hours of their own time to win seats for candidates they thought would change the country for the better. The ‘air war’ led by Party HQs and the media does much to shape the narrative of election campaigns, but the thousands of people who campaign for Parties across the country make a huge difference. On polling day, I was campaigning with 650 others in a marginal seat, many of whom had taken days off work to volunteer. I have no doubt that numerous people in that constituency would not have voted, were it not for friendly, enthusiastic volunteers knocking on their doors, listening to their concerns and offering them lifts to the polling station.
These two things matter. They show what Student Hubs has long believed – that this generation of young people and volunteers can change the world. It has now been 10 years since a group of passionate students founded Oxford Hub. They decided that they needed to do more to connect students and the university with the community, in order to tackle many social problems. As we move into our second decade, we want to harness this potential to impact more communities across the UK. We will carry on supporting young people to become the future leaders this country needs. To make this happen, we need to:
- Ensure that our opportunities are accessible to all students, particularly those from low income backgrounds who haven’t benefitted from taking part in social action before. As evidence emerges of young people from these backgrounds being put off applying for university by high fees, we want to work with universities to ensure social action is a core, attractive part of their offering.
- Continue to increase the flexibility of our offering to universities to make sure we can add value across the sector. This means that we will be developing single programme based offers to maximise our impact and potential for growth, alongside larger scale partnerships.
- Build on two years of excellent developments to our impact measurement and digital platform, so that we can prove and improve our value. We will work with Generation Change and Step Up To Serve to ensure we are delivering social action programmes of the highest quality. We will also collaborate with universities to contribute to their TEF reporting requirements.
I am thrilled to be leading our brilliant team of staff and students into this next stage of our organisation’s growth. We will continue to collaborate with a range of partners to realise the double benefit of social action. If you would like to discuss how we can work together, please email me.