For the second time, Newcastle University Students’ Union (NUSU) won the prize for ‘Students’ Union of the Year’ at the Educate North awards.
Throughout the 2018/9 academic year, NUSU has done a lot of work to receive this award. Its work has notably been in the sectors of putting on volunteering activities for students to help the local community, implementing activities that de-stress students during the exam period, allowing varied opportunities for students to socialise and engage in sport, and also aiding students in their graduate skills development.
Raff Marioni, the President of the Students’ Union, received the award on behalf of the Union, and he said that the Union this year has “empowered and energised students to be the best they can be”. The President has been the leader in the Union’s push for getting free sanitary products campus-wide. The success of this campaign surely was an important factor in the SU gaining recognition of its overall success, as it made Newcastle University the first university to do such a thing, showing it to be paving the way for universities of the future.
Throughout the year the list of activities that the Union has provided has been huge. Its push to help the local community has included having societies like N.E.S.T (North East Solidarity and Teaching). This is a student-run volunteering project within the Union, and it offers free English lessons to the refugee community in the region. Refugees are taught to improve their English skills which are necessary to gain employment in the U.K. The Union also runs an Into Schools scheme, where societies can go into primary and secondary schools and put on workshops or other activities to transfer their skills to the next generation. Furthermore, in June the SU saw more success with the Leave Newcastle Happy campaign, which involves litter-picking in Jesmond and donating unwanted items to charity shops. These schemes are only three of a wide range that helps the local community, and the impact of these is wide ranging.
The Union’s push to help relax students during the exam season as part of the Stressed Out Students (SOS) campaign is also important in considering why it won the award. With guide dogs being brought in when revision is in full swing, free massages given out in the Students’ Union every week throughout term-time, tasters of yoga and tai chi being given for free, recreational sports like badminton being made available, and a petting zoo being created in the Robinson library, the Union has not been short of ways for students to take a break from their revision.
The Union has also continued with many other successful campaigns. These include activities based around Black History Month, a rebranded SHAG week, and Big Academic Wins. Through these, NUSU has represented both the welfare and academic needs of students.
Finally, the last major reason why the Students’ Union has been so successful this year is because of the opportunities it created for both socialisation and graduate employment skills. In terms of socialisation, there is a huge list of societies to join, but also activities of a one-off nature. These include meals to places like Fat Buddha, a walk up Grey’s Monument to see the lovely sights of Newcastle, and also master classes like that of pottery making. The Union has additionally provided employment skills, balancing the serious side of university with the fun side. There have been many careers fairs put on, the Creative Careers Fair being but one. This is where those employed in the media and artistic jobs came to speak to the students of Newcastle, giving talks on what working in these environments is really like. NUSU also offers students the opportunity to earn awards and qualifications, such as the NCL+ Award, which recognises participation in extra-curricular activities.
NUSU has certainly not been short of activities to do this year, and its wide and varied opportunities is the reason that its success has been acknowledged!