September 2021 - Arts Students’ Union is the focal point of support and activities for students at the six constituent colleges of University of the Arts London (UAL). The Union provides participation opportunities through sports clubs, societies, the Arts Programme and representation through the elected officers, council and course reps. So when the Union looked at ways to encourage greater participation in activities, elections was the first area reviewed - with the support of the team at MSL.
Arts Students’ Union is the focal point of support and activities for students at the six constituent colleges of University of the Arts London (UAL). The Union provides participation opportunities through sports clubs, societies, the Arts Programme and representation through the elected officers, council and course reps. Elections have always been an important part of the Union’s year as officers are tasked with bringing together the needs and interests of members from all colleges. So, when the Union looked at ways to encourage greater participation in activities, elections was the first area reviewed - with the support of the team at MSL.
Bringing together a diverse community
The challenge that Arts Students’ Union has always worked hard to address is bringing together a community of students which is not only distributed across six separate colleges but also made up of highly creative individuals with very different interests.
Students often identify with their college more than the wider UAL community and so many may not know anyone else outside of that college. The Union recognises this and our longest running annual student-led exhibition, Xhibit, was founded to showcase the work of students from all colleges. We have continued to support that community ethos and try to connect more students whatever their background or location - Nyasha Takawira, Communications and Marketing Manager, Arts Students’ Union
UAL students are known for their vocal support - or otherwise – of campaigns and causes which is why the Union elections play an important part in the member community. Whilst the existing voting solution had supported elections to a certain extent, it had some limitations which the Union’s democracy team were keen to overcome for their autumn 2020 elections. They turned to MSL as an established provider of secure online elections to over 100 students’ organisation and, in doing so, discovered a complete digital engagement solution in the MSL System which could underpin the Union’s ambitious plans for changes to their structure and support for members.
For the 2022-23 academic year, the Union will bring in a new structure of college-based officers and MSL Elections will support that transition.
I can honestly say that using MSL to run the election was a lot simpler and more intuitive than our previous supplier. It was much easier to engage with both candidates and the voter pool, and the turnout was very good considering we had no access to on-campus voting and campaigning - Toby Taylor, Campaigns and Student Voice Coordinator
Supporting students’ futures
As well as the new online elections facility, the Arts Students’ Union team now found themselves with a range of engagement features to build the website into a true community hub, courtesy of the MSL System. The next big project will make use of MSL ecommerce facilities as Made in Arts London is moved from its separate online home and brought into the main Union website presence. This not-for-profit enterprise was launched in 2011 by UAL alumni and is now run by the Arts SU’s Arts Programme team.
Despite the move to its new online home being delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, students have continued to exhibit and sell their work through Made in Arts London, helping them learn the skills they need to be working artists and be part of a much bigger programme than just their home college.
The MSL online shop, catalogue and product areas will form the basis for the new Made in Arts London home, making it easy for the Union’s commercial and Arts Programme teams to manage the distinct brand through the same content management system as the Union website - Nyasha Takawira, Communications and Marketing Manager
Supporting the Union’s day to day activities
Digital communications, student voice, clubs and societies and Welcome events will all benefit from the MSL System as the Union focuses on a blended future for participation.
College-specific newsletters remain an important part of communications and the marketing team will continue to use Mailchimp but make use of the integration with the MSL System for segmentation and managing membership groupings and subscriptions.
The democracy review continues with day to day student voice central to that function; MSL’s Idea Lists will support that requirement and offer opportunities for college and wider union decision making.
The 2021-22 year will bring challenges as all Students’ Unions prepare for the unexpected. But Arts Students’ Union is already gearing up for a positive start to the year with an exciting Welcome Week which will be a blend of face to face and online participation in events and clubs and societies activities. The Union is making the most of their MSL digital engagement resources and will use their Welcome Week microsite which is fully integrated with their main website but branded as a distinct site. This unique online presence will engage new students across all UAL colleges and support all the events and activities their clubs and societies work hard to put on to attract new members and boost participation in university life.
We’re excited about our journey with MSL as we continue to work towards creating a fully resourced online community through our website - Nyasha Takawira, Communications and Marketing Manager