The National Societies & Volunteering Awards recognise the contributions of student volunteers and student-led societies from UK higher and further education institutions. This year Student Hubs is honoured to be hosting the awards in partnership with Organised Fun.
Since Student Volunteering Week in February we have been watching the nominations come flying in. We received over 340 nominations from 52 different institutions. It’s been a joy to read all the incredible things students have been doing over the past year across the country. Our judging panels start this week, and over the next three weeks, student leaders and sector specialists will be reviewing the top 12 nominations in each category – the longlist – and identifying the shortlist (top 6 nominations), winners and runners up.
Today we are excited to announce the longlist for each category. We received so many wonderful nominations, it was really hard to pick the longlist to go forward to the judging panels. We want to recognise everyone this year, and hope that even if you didn’t make it through this round, you’ll still join us on 23rd May in Reading for the in-person awards evening.
Take a look below to see if you made it! We would have loved to include everyone’s entire nomination but to make it more accessible, key details about each nomination has been lifted from their application.
The Committee Excellence Award
Recognising the teamwork and achievements of a committee of a society or volunteering project. This award is for those outstanding teams who work together effectively, perhaps have overcome difficulties as a committee or have just been outstanding this year.
The Volunteering Exec at Essex Students’ Union.
The Volunteering Exec is a new initiative this academic year, designed to represent the views and needs of student volunteers, improve recruitment, comms and accessibility, and create new volunteering opportunities. The Volunteering Exec have collaborated to create several great opportunities, but one that stands out is the upcoming ‘Essex Got Talent’ show, which from its inception was created and led by this team. As the name implies, this is a talent show for Essex students to showcase what they can do and raise money for CARA and Young Minds.
Epigram at University of Bristol.
Overcoming a myriad of challenges before the academic year even started, Epigram has managed to turn the student publication around and found ways to drive forward inclusive and dynamic practices. From digital development, to ensuring financial sustainability, Epigram also managed to find ways to champion inclusivity through its inaugural Women in Media Careers Week and by removing membership fees to break down barriers to engagement. As a publication that is entirely funded, written, and edited by students, Epigram represents the very best of what it means to be independent. They are beholden to no one but themselves and their readers, and they take that responsibility seriously. They are not afraid to speak truth to power, to challenge the status quo, to hold those in authority accountable for their actions. This year, notable publications covered Bristol’s links to slavery, University Strike Action, and Bristol’s Suicide Problem.
VAST at Kingston University.
As one of Kingston University’s largest Arts and Activities societies, with almost 300 members, VAST runs a minimum of 4 regular events every week, and special events almost fortnightly. VAST is run by a small team of seven people, some who are reaching the end of their studies yet still dedicate time to the wonderful community. VAST is a place where many neurodivergent and LGBT+ students will find themselves as we take pride in creating a warm and welcoming safe space for everyone, especially introverts, vulnerable people, and minorities. VAST is a good alternative for those who find it difficult to engage in more mainstream university social life. People from all sorts of courses and ages can meet and do activities at our events, including alumni. They have also run several events reaching out to non-members, both in and outside the university to allow people to enjoy and understand nerd and geek culture, especially as it becomes more mainstream today. This year VAST has expanded its ambition, collaborating with other university societies such as Roehampton for events. They have also branched into Esports at Kingston University, helping teams compete on a national level in NSE, and fostering a healthy yet competitive non-toxic environment. VAST hosted and ran multiple games cafes on behalf of Kingston University at the beginning of the year to provide activities for freshers students.
Sheffield PLAN at University of Sheffield.
Sheffield Professional LGBT+ & Allies Network (PLAN) is an LGBT+ career focused society, which was established in September 2022. Their vision is to be part of a growing, UK wide movement of LGBTQIA+ students bridging the gap between university and the future career path. In PLAN, they are passionate about driving tangible change for their members beyond university, giving individuals the confidence needed to feel like themselves at work, regardless of their background, sexuality or gender identity. PLAN include the word career into LGBT+ because feeling valued at work goes beyond just being an employee. They help members of the community by liaising with a range of organisations and companies from different sectors to feel self-assured from day one. Being an entirely new society, the Sheffield PLAN committee has worked hard to provide members with opportunities and events to upskill themselves and help them to feel more confident in their identity. The committee consists of 10 people who all work together to make this possible. Nine of them have had no previous experience in being on a committee, including the founder and president of PLAN. They all had to learn and learned to become confident in what they do, much of which was “learning by doing”.
Women in STEM at University of Essex.
The Women in STEM Society at Essex was created in 2020, with a vision to provide a supportive and uplifting environment for under-represented individuals in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. They have had an impact in the following ways:
- They have helped improve the employability skills of their members and helped their job search by hosting a cover letter workshop, interview question workshop, and LinkedIn workshop (attended by over 40 members and non-members)
- They have increased connections of their members to employers by hosting events with Netcompany and Coderus, and advertising exclusive graduate schemes, placements, and events from the likes of Intel and PwC
- Providing a safe space for under-represented individuals in STEM to connect, ask questions, and feel supported by one another with their WhatsApp chat with over 100 members
- Focusing on impactful and discussions in a supportive environment via a Roundtable Discussion where members were able to discuss freely topics such as body positivity, gender bias, mental health, and more
EcoSoc at The SU (Exeter and Falmouth Universities)
The group has strived to provide opportunities for all of its members and beyond to gain experience in ecology and other related areas. Since the last NSVA awards, EcoSoc has run many events, large and small, for their members and the general public. Last April, they helped to run the Penryn campus BioBlitz event which drew in many members of the local community and provided an opportunity for children to learn more about their natural environment. Another event partially ran by EcoSoc earlier this academic year was the Cornwall bird conference where a multitude of local birders delivered talks on their projects and research. EcoSoc has also worked with many other organisations and guest speakers hosting a total of seven guest talks with speakers from six different organisations this academic year. EcoSoc is not just all talk either as they have also carried out three conservation and community service events with three different charity organisations to help improve the local area. The committee have worked very hard to make all these events happen and in total have run 175 events this academic year as of writing this nomination. This is the highest number of events ran by EcoSoc in its history.
Southampton Hub at University of Southampton.
The committee have gone above and beyond with their creativity and ideas in bringing people together in celebration of volunteering, social action and giving back to the local community. Their enthusiasm has meant that their delivery of projects and one-off volunteering events have been at a fantastic standard, not only ensuring that our beneficiaries are receiving the support they need, but also spreading awareness about the Hub and their work with students at the University of Southampton that are not already long-term volunteers at Southampton Hub. As well as delivering six long-term volunteering projects, engaging 168 student volunteers and supporting 702 members of community, the Southampton Hub student committee have also organised and delivered 11 one-off volunteering events across the academic year, ranging from gardening events at local primary schools, to supporting the community with their digital literacy skills, to collecting essential items for a donation drive. This is a substantial increase from the 1 one-off volunteering event that was delivered in 2021-22! Through these events, the committee this year have reached and supported 77 members of the community, engaging 82 students, and contributing over 26 hours of volunteering through one-off volunteering events alone.
Art Society at University of Huddersfield.
The society has had incredible involvement in inclusion, wellbeing and employability. They have raised awareness for the Students’ Union Advice Centre, providing wellbeing leaflets and guides in the Arts school, and installed an accessible toilet key on the arts floor for students that couldn’t previously access the toilet despite their disabilities. Each of their events are run with accessibility in mind – where events are ran on campus as much as possible, and buildings are checked prior to ensure there’s appropriate accessibility for all students to have the opportunity to participate. These can span from working lifts, access through doors, etc. Procedures are also put in place to improve accessibility at events, such as a committee member being on standby to allow access through accessible doors.
In terms of employability, the Art Society runs their own workshop programme, “Art Camp,” of various skill-based workshops throughout the academic year. Their screenprinting workshop at the beginning of the year was the first ever large-scale screenprinting workshop at the university where students could actively participate in printing. The workshop revived the print medium in the building and the system they created has been used across the school by academics ever since.
Islamic Society at Greenwich Students’ Union.
The Islamic Society (ISoc) within Greenwich Students’ Union (GSU) has contributed largely to creating and facilitating opportunities for students of faith and different cultures this year, working proactively with GSU, Greenwich University and external stakeholders to provide the most for their members. Their committee is split across three areas to best support their members with a designated committee supporting students at their Medway campus and events/activities for students to enjoy taking place across all three. To accommodate to their needs of their student body, the committee split again with a brothers committee and sisters committee that have regular meetings together to ensure they have parity of offering. Alongside holding a wide range of weekly events, the committee hold a standard that anyone can attend their events regardless of their religion, culture, gender, or any other protected characteristic. They regularly offer to support other committees and many cultural communities are also members within ISoc.
BSU Basketball at Bath Spa Students’ Union.
At a game this year, their coach was subjected to sexist comments from the opposing team. They made a complaint, but little came from this.
In response to this situation, the committee put on an event called ‘Her Game Too’, highlighting the need for safe spaces for women in sports. They got lots of the other sports clubs and societies to take part in the event, raising money and awareness for this issue. They have also started holding women’s only basketball training sessions, and are hoping to enter a female team in BUCS next season. Their event. ‘Her Game Too’, was the amazing effort of the committee working together to address a negative situation. They are only a small committee, of about six individuals, so to put an important event on like this is impressive. Collaborating and getting support from other clubs really made the event a success, but the impact of highlight female sportswomen and women in basketball and their value to the club is the most important bit of this. They created a safe space for not only their female coach, but any female members of the basketball club, and other female sportswomen. This impact will last with the basketball club longer than this committee are at university, and the impact of creating a safe space like this cannot be measured.
Strathclyde Book Club at University of Strathclyde.
The Strathclyde Book Club committee has been extremely hard-working this year. The committee consistently hosts weekly book meetings, bimonthly bake sales (to fundraise for the club and local charities), and runs a free book library plus extra events from charity shop crawls to author events! As a committee, they stood together to host our talk with Sophie Labelle despite threats against Sophie and the club. They’ve managed to grow on last year’s efforts to be inclusive by continuing to host underrepresented authors and ensuring that their reading list is diverse.
They’ve also expanded our sustainability goals by hosting charity shop book crawls, opening a second free book library on campus and only giving out second-hand books during our events. They’ve been invited to attend and talk at multiple sustainability events at the university and union and have secured space in the sustainability hub to open a second free book library after the success of their first one last year – which is a free-to-use space within the union where students and staff can donate books, take books or just browse! Fundraising this year has been focused on ensuring their events remain free or cheap for members however they have taken the opportunity to raise funds for local book shops pay it forward scheme. The LGBTQ+ book store, Category is Books in Glasgow was over 150 pounds in debt for their scheme and the society managed to raise enough funds to get them back into the green!
CHAOS at University of Bristol.
CHAOS is the Physics Society at the University of Bristol. They run a café, called Physbar, between 1-2pm every weekday during term. Hot drinks cost under a £1 to encourage as many students and staff as possible to meet there. They are also proud to have LGBTQ+, Women’s and Foundation Year Networks managed by individual Network Chairs who represent their groups in committee meetings and organise dedicated events for their members. CHAOS has a history of excellence, however, despite a successful year online in 2020/21, the society struggled to engage students as university life became more in person in 2021/22. The vision for the 2022/23 committee was to bounce CHAOS back to its original glory. They have done just that by creating a diverse schedule of events including talks, socials, trips, astronomy viewings with their Skywatcher Evostar telescope, and fundraisers.
Not only have they recreated CHAOS in its heyday, but they have also organised or are currently organising new ways to engage members and the wider university and Bristol communities. These include a conference to open the Physics Department to engage the general public, alumni, local sixth formers, and students from other disciplines, and podcasts with the academic and administrative staff to further solidify their relationship with the student body.
Their ability to organise such an exciting offering can be attributed to, firstly, the committee culture based on ambition, enthusiasm and mutual support, and secondly, their thoughtful use of meetings to break up the workload.
You can get your tickets to the in-person awards ceremony on Tuesday 23rd May at 3Sixty Reading, at Reading University Students’ Union here. Early Bird ticket prices are available till 21st April!