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Harper Adams Students' Union - a digital transformation to support staff and students

April 2021 - Harper Adams Students’ Union has taken advantage of the MSL System® for the past three years, broadening its service provision and digitising many of its processes to keep pace with the changing demands of members. The MSL System has helped the Union deliver impactful Student Voice campaigns, hugely popular digital engagement programmes and utilise the data it now has at its fingertips to shape the next five-year’s ambitious development strategy.

Harper Adams Students' Union home page with the Student Voice report banner

Harper Adams Students' Union logoHarper Adams Students’ Union (HASU) is set on a picturesque and rural campus in Shropshire where 6,000 students study for land-based qualifications at under- and post-graduate levels. The Students’ Union provides the social hub for its members and is known for its popular events programme and busy campus venue. This traditional event-focussed approach has served the Union and its members well, ensuring its longevity in what has been uncertain times for other less commercial students’ unions. 

In 2019 Harper Adams Students’ Union took advantage of the MSL System® to broaden its service provision and digitise many of its processes to keep pace with the changing demands of members. Since then, the MSL System has helped the Union deliver impactful Student Voice campaigns, hugely popular digital engagement programmes and utilise the data it now has at its fingertips to shape the next five-year’s ambitious development strategy.

The MSL System benefits for HASU

  • Rich data and comprehensive reporting to demonstrate the Union’s impact
  • Enhanced Student Voice features
  • Greater relationship/communication with members
  • Increased membership engagement and satisfaction
  • Easy to manage and maintain website – no need for technical skills
  • A digital Students’ Union which is fit for purpose for its members

HASU’s digital engagement revolution

HASU clubs pageWith the majority of first years traditionally living on campus, the Union has always played an important role in offering an events venue close by and regular opportunities for student members to get together. The bar, gym, clubs and societies provide activities and a wide range of extra-curricular experiences, with the bar contributing a significant proportion of the funds available to the Union.

Despite the pandemic hitting part way through the 2019-20 academic year, HASU has maintained its commercially strong background, selling close to 31,000 tickets for events which gave it a solid basis to continue expansion of its engagement activities and member services albeit with a greater emphasis on digital participation than in previous years.

With face to face events not possible for much of the last academic year, we found that members were still very keen to feel part of the close community we have here at HASU. Our student lead clubs and societies stepped up to the challenge by engaging digitally with their members and running online events such as the Polo Club’s ‘rules of the game’ sessions and the Equestrian Club’s ‘stable management’ tutorials - Ali Burr, Union Director, Harper Adams Students’ Union

One of the Harper Forum events pagesMeanwhile the Union launched the Harper Forum and planned a series of educational, information and skills-based online sessions to be delivered by industry experts. Whilst the team knew members were keen for activities they didn’t realise just how popular the programme would be. Using the website and email comms to promote the weekly sessions participation quickly grew to an average of 300-400 attendees a week and included topics as diverse as sustainability in farming, hedgehog welfare, marketing and branding, breeding profitable cows and managing a balanced diet on campus.

We know that approximately 65% of our student members’ home addresses are at their family business premises. When they are at home – which of course was for much of the last year - their work/life balance is very different to many students at other universities. So the Union ran online sessions at times to suit their lifestyle and, as well as our expert led sessions, we included practical topics such as setting up a home office space to support their study time - Ali Burr, Union Director

Student Voice – closing the feedback loop

When HASU implemented the MSL System, Student Voice was prioritised as a means to shape and inform the Union’s activities and future plans for development. MSL’s surveys, polls, idea lists and forum features have been used to gather hard facts and figures on the Union’s effectiveness and impact on student experience. The Union team works with course reps, officers and the university during term three analysing the data which resides in their MSL System. This forms the basis for the Student Voice Report, published in the summer and the winter, which showcases the recommendations and requests that have been implemented, those in progress and identifies what changes are needed to support students over the next 12 months.

HASU is now working on an ambitious, entrepreneurial, student-focused five year development strategy much of which will be informed by the data and reporting capabilities within the MSL System

The MSL Message Centre has helped us establish a fortnightly comms programme which we send out by email to members to let them know what we are working on and what has changed or been implemented. The segmentation we can do now through the MSL System is key for this communication as we know we can reach the right courses and year groups with relevant details. We can now demonstrate both the Union’s impact and the value of our students’ feedback and suggestions on the student experience for everyone at Harper Adams - Ali Burr, Union Director

 

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