Back in February this year, I wrote an opinion blog reviewing our mid-year feedback from 2021-22 analysing the question of how involvement with their Hub activity enhanced engagement with students’ university course. In the build up to the release of our 2021-22 Impact Report, we wanted to share our full data from the year, examples of the comments students provided with their responses, and what this might suggest for the sector.
Impact for the 2021-22 year on engagement with university course
We have only been collecting information on this question since the 2020-21 academic year, and for our 2021-22 data we included a required response box, as we were curious to hear more from students about why they had selected their choice, and what they felt the relevance of their volunteering opportunity was to their engagement with their university course.
This year, we had an increase in this statistic, with 48% of students surveyed agreeing that their participation with their Hub activity increased their engagement with your university course. This is a rise from the 33% we reported in our 2020-21 Impact Report, and also a rise from what we had seen at the mid-year point of 42%. We were happy to see this data, and keen to go through the responses and see what students had to say.
In my time as Partnerships and Development Director with Student Hubs, I have had conversations with university staff where people are surprised, shocked even, to hear that engagement with volunteering or other extracurricular activities can have an impact on academic study and engagement. What we’ve seen from our student responses has shown the myriad of ways in which extracurricular and volunteering opportunities support student experience, both inside and outside of the curriculum.
Skills and knowledge gained
Unsurprisingly, many students cited the skills and knowledge they had gained through our opportunities as learnings which were applied directly back into their academic courses. Many students get involved with our volunteering opportunities for reasons relating to study e.g. as a student studying educational psychology they wanted to interact directly with young people through our Branch Up programme, or the skills they learnt in their student consultancy project with a local organisation helped them in their public speaking, teamwork and communication skills for their group project.
Some examples from student quotes on this include:
“I think it has definitely impacted my influence in the practical side of my course. I find it much easier to work in research teams, overcome challenges, organise team roles and meetings.” – University of Bristol student
“Volunteering did help me build social skills, problem solving skills, leadership skills, organizational skills, coordination/communication and time management skills. These are a few essential skills for me as I am currently studying Business Administration course and aim to be an entrepreneur.” – Kingston University student
“I study psychology and take modules surrounding education and childhood so it was interesting when I would note things mentioned in class being applied to real life settings.” – University of Southampton student
Motivation for their course and university experience
Some students also talked about how having a balance between their academic study and their engagement with volunteering or other activities supported their skills and reminded them of their motivation for their course. A selection of survey respondents also spoke to their university experience, and how their involvement with our activities supported them generally to get the most of their time at university.
“Being on the committee helped me feel more confident socialising with people after the awkwardness of the pandemic, so when lectures started being in-person again it was easier to connect with people on my course and feel a sense of belonging.” – University of Winchester student
“I study Politics and [International Relations] so being able to teach some aspects of Politics more generally to a group of 9/10 year olds made me engage with my course in a new way. I had to learn how to break down very complicated concepts/systems into a simple and digestible manner for the children to be able to engage with. This influenced [my] own course engagement as it brought up questions for me about the inaccessibility of politics in general as often the manner in which politicians speak to each other/ the wording of speeches and policies seems deliberately alienating for the wider population.” – University of Bristol student
“The programme has motivated me to follow a more organised routine in terms of studies. I also feel more accomplished at the end of the week after my sessions and that I have contributed to the students’ studies positively, which also motivates me to be further engaged with my course.” – Kingston University student
Creating well-rounded students and graduates
As employers, particularly of graduates and early-career staff, we know how important it is for students to graduate from their university with a well-rounded education, set of skills, and perspective to prepare them for the world of work. Social action is also central to our vision, mission, and why we exist, so hearing students speak to these reasons why our programmes supported them to engage with their university course was fascinating to read.
“I would like to use my Ph.D. as a basis for positive social activism. The social innovation programme helped me understand better the huge value of teamwork and networking when working on social change, the actual difficulties that can be encountered, and more generally the process of innovation and impactful social change.” – University of Bristol student
“My area of study is human rights and yes it has influenced in the way of social justice aspect, equality and equity aspect. For creating better outcomes for every one.” – Kingston University student
“I felt that this was a great addition to my law degree, through understanding the wider issues that exist in the community and how we can implement these changes/solutions. Although it isn’t something that is specifically taught within my degree it has allowed me to think outside of my studies and learn something new.” – University of Bristol student
We had 17% of students answer neither agree nor disagree to this question, and 35% disagree. Though some of these students commented that they did not feel an impact on their studies or that they found it challenging to balance extracurriculars with their studies, overall we find this very encouraging. It’s great that many students sincerely see the value in these opportunities, especially the unexpected benefits that getting involved in extracurricular activities can have, and it’s vital that as many students as possible are able to access and get involved in these enhancers of university experience.
At Student Hubs we do believe that activities like ours, along with volunteering, placements, and other activities offered by university departments can make a huge difference on how students engage with their university course. We would encourage universities to review their provision and not overlook the positive impact in which supporting these types of extracurricular activities can have on the way in which students get the most out of their academic experience at university.
Our 2021-22 Impact Report will be released in January 2023 – we look forward to sharing all of our other fantastic data and case studies with you then!
If you’d like to learn more about Student Hubs’ work through our Hub model, project model or training delivery, please get in touch with Partnerships and Development Director, Fiona Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also want to read about our student blog writer Lucy’s experience (and the unexpected benefit she found of participating) with the Social Innovation Programme here.