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 Development Award
Recognising outstanding development opportunities created through student volunteering and societies. We want all volunteering and society involvement to give students chances to develop confidence, new skills, and have new experiences. These will help students grow and to achieve their full potential.
Strathclyde Speakers at University of Strathclyde.
Public speaking is frequently ranked as the world’s number one fear, with an incredible 75% of people being affected by it. From slight nervousness to complete anxiety, speaking in front of even a small crowd has the ability to fill even the most experienced of working professionals with dread. Public speaking is not a skill that is typically taught at the university-level which means that we are not helping students to prepare for the challenges they will be faced with in their future careers.
The Strathclyde Speakers society has over three years’ experience in delivering and facilitating workshops with professional speaking coaches. Their aim has been to remove the barrier between students and expensive professional speaking coaches, helping them to develop a strong repertoire of oration skills prior to graduating. They decided to use their years of experience to develop a professional public speaking programme where students could get increased exposure to the rigours of public speaking but in a safe space with an award winning public speaking coach.
Cosplay Society at University of York.
Cosplay Society is one of the newest societies at York but it has already done an extraordinary contribution to the university. The committee have worked extremely hard to provide a safe space which is of particular value to LGBTQ+ and international students. The society is based around all things cosplay, from creating your own to conventions to photoshoots. They run weekly events as well as photoshoots every three weeks. The photoshoots are entirely member-run (with committee assisting) and the weekly events include both workshops and community-building experiences (such as team experiences, craft nights, and game nights). The society is run by four members, all of whom bring unique knowledge of either cosplay or university policy in order to create a safe creative space for students from a wide variety of backgrounds. One example of the ways the society works well for development is through the facilitation of communication between different types of cosplay related creatives. This has been done primarily through two branches. Firstly, their Big Cosplay Forum, hosted at the start of each term, is an opportunity for both novices and experts to get involved. Novices can leave anonymous questions about cosplay (such as “how do you sew buttons” or “what editing software is best”) in a safe and non judgmental setting, which are then answered by experts.
Exeter Entrepreneurs at Exeter Students’ Guild
Exeter Entrepreneurs operates for free for the sole purpose of creating a community centred around personal and entrepreneurial development, which is applicable to any student at the University. They do this through a number of key events, socials and competitions.
Firstly, last term they put on an event called ExCode, an event for over 500 students of all ages, across all disciplines and backgrounds that was focused on developing students’ Python coding capabilities. It provided students with a basic understanding of coding which opens them up to new opportunities in any walk of life as it is an evermore necessary skill to have in today’s working world. Furthermore, it helped develop a number of tutors in their skills with public speaking, teaching, and lecturing as it was the tutorials that were taught by volunteer students, who led groups of 30-60 students.
Secondly, this term they have put on a term-long skills, workshop, and mentorship programme focused on developing all the skills necessary to start and grow a business through talks and workshops called Future Leaders. This too is applicable to students from all disciplines. They have brought in External speakers that are experts in their fields to provide extremely valuable knowledge and educate students free of charge. The skills that they are helping to develop go far and above the skills developed through module study or anywhere else on campus.
Spanish and Latin American Society at UCL.
By working closely with the Activities Team and following the steps laid out in their development plan, the Spanish and Latin American Society have been able to increase the scale and quality of the events and opportunities available to their members this year. They provide the opportunity for any student, whether a native Spanish speaker studying in the UK or someone interested in learning about Spanish culture, to get involved in educational, cultural and social events.
They have introduced new initiatives, such as their journal and conference events, which have allowed students to gain key skills in academic writing or career and networking opportunities. They have increased the quality and quantity of their existing activities, such as their language classes, to allow more students to gain language skills and qualifications.
Women and Law Society at Exeter Students’ Guild.
Women and Law have hosted a series of skills workshops. These have included: Networking 101, an interview skills workshop, transferable skills, a LinkedIn masterclass and an application workshop with Herbert Smith Freehills. These events make the society stand out from others; there was the opportunity to develop real practical career-focused skills with the support of female professionals in the legal sphere as well as students with experience in these areas.
Unlike speakers delivering information, Women and Law provided the opportunity to apply lessons that are spoken about, and take part in informal mock interviews with other members and assess applications. Support delivered in this way has not been done by the society before, but has enhanced my experience and confidence in situations like applying to law firms and completing interviews.
They have tried to listen to members’ feedback at events and respond accordingly. A major concern of many members are the different elements of the application process for legal work experience and training contracts. With these becoming increasingly competitive, particularly since Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, supporting their members by providing them with as much information as possible about the different stages of the process and some tips and tricks for each is something the society has focussed on this term.
NTU Events Society at Nottingham Trent Students’ Union.
A society set up in December of 2022, who ever since their ratification has done amazing work in providing development opportunities for not only for its members but also for the wider community of students at NTU. In particular, Events Society is significant in that it is run and operated by students at NTU’s Confetti campus, which is a hub for digital, artistic and creative talent. Due to the nature of Confetti, with it being separate from the main city campus and having been a separate entity previously, they have not yet had huge student engagement from a society point of view. This was until the committee of Events Society came to the University with an idea for a society which could utilise all of those different skills that students at Confetti are brimming with. The concept created by the students was that because so many people at Confetti study courses relating to events management, such as sound engineering and visual effects, it would be great to create a platform and an environment in which they are free to use and apply these skills to events that they themselves are passionate about. Since starting up in December, they have already been involved in a whole array of events and have not only provided learning and development opportunities to their own members and other students from confetti but have also vastly improved the access that our societies have to impressive events, as they have provided their services to other student groups.
Sexpression at Exeter Students’ Guild.
One of the things which I know Sexpression does really well is developing members skillset and giving them the confidence to be able to teach sex education to schools around Devon. This can be primarily seen through our training weekends, of which we have successfully run twice, ensuring 37 are trained volunteers, with 17 of those active in this current academic year. One way in which Sexpression Exeter goes above and beyond with training is by helping to prepare volunteers for after they leave university. This is something new they started to offer this year and throughout training, they highlight the key skills individuals are learning and how members can transfer this onto a CV. This is because by going to training, members can say that they not only were a part of the society, but that they have received official training in child protection and lesson facilitation. This is something really tangible which demonstrates to employers the skills they have learnt alongside their degree.
Engineering Design Society at University of Bristol.
The Engineering Design Society’s Talk Series aims to grow students’ understanding and appreciation for challenges in sustainable engineering and beyond, with the belief that connecting students to leaders and experts in these fields can fast-track the impact they can deliver and unlock their full potential as leaders of the future.
Over the past year the society has hosted 15 speakers from a range of industries; in the series’ 5-year history, this adds up to 63 talks delivered, with a cumulative attendance of over 1500 students. This year, the series’ average attendance has been at 50 students a talk, attracting individuals from the Faculty of Engineering, School of Medicine, School of Mathematics, and even working professionals beyond the University. The series is aimed at increasing their members’ exposure to the variety of challenges being tackled by professionals in industry and directing their talent to contribute to these initiatives. According to our latest survey for the graduates of 2022, 31 students (30% of respondents) from across the Faculty of Engineering stated the talk series had influenced their choice of career going forward.
LEX Law Society at Nottingham Trent Students’ Union.
At the beginning of the academic year, LEX Law introduced a new concept for 2022/23: the Postgraduate Programme. This has contributed towards providing greater skills, networking, and development opportunities for postgraduate students; a demographic that is underrepresented within society groups. They have dedicated time and resources to ensure that Postgraduate students within the society are provided with fulfilling extracurricular experiences that enables them to develop confidence, new skills and to progress within their academic careers. A key event in the Postgraduate Programme calendar was the Postgraduate Legal London Trip, which provided the opportunity for postgrad students to learn more about the legal history of London with a tour of The Royal Courts of Justice. LEX Law Society have been consistent in their dedication to championing diversity and inclusion and have been particularly committed to providing greater representation for all their members. With these aims in mind, they hit the ground running in Term 1 with an incredibly successful Diversity and Inclusion Panel Event in celebration of Black History Month. This event invited a panel of legal professionals to discuss diversity and inclusion in the legal field, opening a discussion surrounding stigma, misconceptions, and the reality of equity, diversity and inclusion in the industry.
Exposé at Exeter Students’ Guild.
Exeposé is committed to encouraging development for all of their members and they seek to achieve this through a number of different methods. Exeposé has consistently demonstrated a commitment to providing members with opportunities to develop new skills, gain confidence, and have new experiences. As a newspaper, Exeposé understands that writing is one of the most important skills that their members wish to improve and build on. Because of this, they want to help writers improve as much as possible and as part of their membership they held several workshops in Freshers’ Week in order to give a broad overview of the essential tools writers can use to make their work stand out and be as coherent as possible. They continue throughout the year with coffee morning writing workshops that aim to keep their writers’ development as consistent as possible.
This year, Exeposé launched its Reporter scheme, aimed at creating a wider group of both news and exhibit reporters. This has provided opportunities for members to develop their journalism skills by assigning them to cover specific events and stories.
UCL Leaders at UCL.
UCL Leaders is an interdisciplinary international student-led conference bringing together the current and future leaders in areas such as Business, Art, Technology and Politics. It is a two day event consisting of a series of hands-on workshops, networking and mentoring sessions, four discussion panels and a networking standing reception and ball. UCL Leaders acts as a platform for debate over some of the most pressing issues the world is facing today, such sustainability or the use of Artificial Intelligence, and encourages active participation from the audience. UCL Leaders brought together a strongly diverse community. As many as 450 participants attended the event, both in person and online. It was truly an international event, as the participants came from 17 different countries, such as Spain, India, Sweden, United Kingdom, Poland and joined us from 3 continents. The conference part of the event focused on topics ranging from the future of AI in healthcare, through cultural diplomacy to geopolitics of space. 26 speakers were present on the day to share their knowledge and insight and each panel discussion concluded with a Q&A, during which the audience could directly ask the speakers questions, participate in active debate and exchange views on discussed topics and beyond. A big part of UCL Leaders were 7 interactive workshops, focused on case studies and applying skills to real life. Carried out in-person and online, the workshops attracted a diverse group of attendees, including a group of 40 high school students, who travelled all the way from Poland to attend the conference in London.
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!