In this post, Dr Jennifer Yule and Dr Pauline Ferguson, programme leads at the University of Edinburgh Business School (UEBS)↗️ share their journey of successfully partnering with one of the student societies EUMAS↗️. This post is a summary of their presentation at the Learning and Teaching Conference 2023↗️and belongs to the July-August Learning & Teaching Enhancement theme: Learning and Teaching Conference 2023↗️.
The University of Edinburgh Business School (UEBS)↗️ was part of the initial implementation of the University’s new Student Support Model↗️. Cohort Leads which are a central part of this model are implemented within UEBS as Programme Leads. Four pillars underpin the role:
- Community Building
- Cohort Identity
- Student Voice
- Academic Guidance
To develop these pillars our objective was to be student-centered and to employ a co-creative mindset. One way of achieving this was to form a partnership with a student society. The Edinburgh University Marketing and Advertising Society (EUMAS)↗️, is one of 320 student societies in the University. EUMAS is consultancy-based looking to give students hands-on client-based marketing experience before entering the world of work. We suspected that there may be potential value in connecting with this self-motivated group of students and sought to explore collaborative opportunities. During the academic year we formed meaningful bonds with the president and vice president of EUMAS through meetings and activities. Although the society relationship is in its infancy, first year reflections are that it has been hugely valuable, and we see it enduring into the future. We worked with EUMAS primarily as a ‘client’ and developed a research brief based on primary data collection looking to understand student perspectives and gain insights on the 4 pillars.
The partnership enhanced staff-student relationships, offering an opportunity to meet students outside of the classroom environment but still within the context of academic support. This platform gave a very practical way to communicate regularly and with shared purpose, potentially breaking down perceived barriers between staff and students. We invited the society into our year 1 to 4 academic welcome session. This was done in the hope of promoting student engagement within marketing-related activity outside of the curriculum – and to offer potential inclusion and signposting to those who may not independently seek out society membership. The partnership fostered a sense of community between the School and the Society. Going forward, we see much potential in this partnership as it relates to community. One outcome of our consultancy research was learning student desire for more social activities in 1st and 2nd year, with greater employability and transferable skill development in years 3 and 4. We anticipate co-creation with EUMAS to achieve these goals. We also intend for EUMAS members to meet our incoming year one cohort in 23/24.
Within the Business School, students can choose from a wide range of courses to structure their degree. This benefits students in terms of academic breadth but can result in a fragmented student mix attending classes, meaning achieving a sense of togetherness or ‘belonging’ within Business with Marketing can be difficult. We wanted to maximise students’ exposure to marketing-related activity, as a co-curricular pursuit. Our partnership with EUMAS provided one way to enhance and connect students to such activity. During our partnership building, we added value to the student society efforts and enhanced opportunity for our Business with Marketing students by helping them run a EUMAS career event in the School, to which all students in marketing were invited. We helped financially and operationally with room allocation and catering. This also helped us to invite students into the school building – which can often be problematic due to constraints of space, and which can lead to further issues relating to lack of belonging. Going forward we anticipate being able to further support and collaborate in such activity.
To help enhance the student voice we worked with EUMAS in their research consultancy capacity. Their brief was to gather data on issues relating to the student experience. This gave the Business with Marketing students an outlet for their voice to be heard and also allowed us to develop action points based on the findings to enhance our 4 pillars. Going forward, we see huge potential here perhaps commissioning students to find unique ways to express opinions, or to take a more active part in shaping change.
Output from the EUMAS research project helped inform some of our academic guidance activities. For example, 3rd year students are keen for more dissertation guidance specific to Marketing. Going forward we plan to host a brainstorming session with marketing staff and students next year to fill this need. It is also important to note that an improved School-Society relationship led to insights for us as designers of (co-)curricular content, an aspect we will continue to explore in the future.
We believe there are strong benefits to cohort leads and students by forming partnerships with societies. For students, they have personal and professional development opportunities to enhance their CVs, beyond the society involvement alone. For example, they can evidence working closely alongside academic and professional services staff. There are also potential benefits of mentorship for students, as well as benefits of forming a closer connection to the School and University. For staff, the partnership offers fantastic access to a pool of talented/highly motivated students, often with relevant / aligned disciplinary interest. The nature of societies mean they are populated by students from across the University giving insight into a diversity of student experience. There are also funding opportunities through, for example, the Institute for Academic Development that can facilitate further activity.
You can watch Jennifer and Pauline’s Conference presentation↗️ in the video below:
Dr Jennifer Yule is a lecturer in Marketing and a Joint UG Programme Lead
Dr Pauline Ferguson is a Lecturer in Marketing, Programme Director of MSc Marketing and a Joint UG Programme Lead, Business with Marketing.