NPC/NUS/AUT Students´ Union Survey - Summary of Results

This feature is a summary of a survey of students unions in the UK carried out in 2000 jointly by the National Union of Students, the Association of University Teachers and the NPC. The results have been documented here for reference to gain some rough idea as to how postgraduates are represented in the UK. There were 34 responses to the survey and it has been indicated after each question how many of the 34 responses were received. The results indicate how students unions establish their postgraduate representation, how they communicate to their postgraduates, how much of their funds are invested in postgraduates and what the main issues students unions aim to or are working on in relation to postgraduates.

Does your institution have a postgraduate representative?

All 34 responded to this question of which 82% claimed they do have a postgraduate representative while 18% claimed they did not.

Form of postgraduate representation

There were 28 responses to the above question from which the following percentages were derived. As can be seen the majority of cases are either via a postgraduate association or an elected member to the student council.


Forms of representation under other included either Elected Postgraduate Officer or a postgraduate department in the students union.

Does the Students Union fund any of these groups?

All 34 responded to this question where 79% indicated they did fund postgraduate representation so therefore 21% claimed they did not.

Level of funding provided by Students Union
There were 17 responses to this question asking whether any of the postgraduate representation has any direct funding from the students union. The table below indicates that the maximum average funding comes from the student council. Otherwise postgraduate associations will receive either large or small amounts of funding to support their postgraduates. Other expenditure comes out of affiliation budgets and postgraduate officer expenses.

Max Min Mean
PG Association funding 2649 60 901.125
Student council funding 4000 150 1600
Student union society 250 150 200
Graduate school 0 0 0
Other, specify 1075 300 789

Does the University fund any of these groups?

It was then asked whether the University provides any external support to postgraduate representation in a students union. For this question 59% claimed this was the case and 41% claimed not.

Level of funding provided by University

From those who answered the above question, there were 7 responses in terms of what the University funded. In the table below it can be seen that postgraduate associations are largely funded in these circumstances with considerable enough amounts of money. Other funding was either to support a graduate centre or other administration.

Max Min Mean
Postgraduate Association 3000 500 2167
Student council funding 1000 1000 1000
Student union society 0 0 0
Graduate school 8000 8000 8000
Other, specify 90000 1000 38667

Who is responsible for issues in your Students Union?

Out of the total number of responses, the following percentages are summarised below. As can be seen, the majority of postgraduate representation comes through a sabbatical officer, then a postgraduate representative. It has also been shown at the end which entries indicated both sabbatical officers and postgraduate representatives. Therefore over 30% of those surveyed represented their postgraduates through sabbatical officers and not through a postgraduate representative.

Position Percentage of 34 responses
Sabbatical Officer 74%
Postgraduate Representative 65%
Staff Member 35%
Postgraduate Representative
and Sabbatical Officer 45%

Where a sabbatical officer was entered as a representative of postgraduates, this was normally the academic affairs or education officer, elected by cross campus ballot. They are normally undergraduate (91% claimed this).

Postgraduate Representatives were normally elected by a postgraduate committee or postgraduate association AGM; few were elected by a student council. The elections in such cases are therefore normally less formal. 100% of all respondents who had a postgraduate officer claimed they were normally postgraduate and in some cases are required to be.

Those staff involved are normally those who facilitate non-commercial services, student development etc.

Do staff or sabbaticals receive training on postgraduates?

Of the total numbers, 9% claimed that staff were trained on postgraduate issues while 26% of sabbatical officers were trained in this area.

How many elected representatives does your students union have?

There were 33 responses to this question, where postgraduates as sabbatical officers is a rare occurrence given an average of 0.8. Postgraduates have the greatest occurrence as council members and in other cases as members of the executive committee.

Min Max Mean
UG Sabbs 1 8 5
PG Sabbs 0 3 0.8
UG Exec members 0 19 8.9
PG Exec members 1 7 1.8
UG Council members 1 160 53.2
PG Council members 1 50 12.3
Other, specify 0 0 0

Does your institution have a system of departmental postgraduate representatives?

There were 32 responses to this question where 84% claimed there were departmental representatives and 16% claimed there were not.

From those who said there was a system of departmental postgraduate representatives, 68% indicated there were links with the students union and 32% indicated there were not.

Are postgraduate representatives appointed to University committees?

Out of the 30 who responded to this question, 80% claimed there were and 20% claimed there were not postgraduate representatives on University committees. 100% of those who claimed there were said that the representatives were typically postgraduate students. In most cases, representation would include the Senate, subcommittees of the Senate in learning and teaching and research as well as student services including IT, library and other care facilities.

How do you communicate with your postgraduates?

There were 33 responses to this question, where as can be seen email is the main means of communication from the chart below as well as posters. Student newspaper articles and websites come closely in third place.


What are the main postgraduate issues dealt with by your students union?

There were 33 responses to this question although as many issues as required could be chosen as important. Therefore the following chart indicates the most popular choices. The top issue is clearly welfare advice followed by representation, social facilities and complaints. Less popular issues were postgraduates who teach, career advice and training.


Those who responded were also asked to indicate the most important out of all the issues they selected. In the following chart, this again resulted in being welfare advice significantly higher than the other issues.


Has your students union ever carried out a survey of postgraduates?

There were 30 responses to this question, where 80% claimed they had carried out a survey and 20% claimed they had not.

What resources or facilities are provided for postgraduates by your students union?

There 17 responses to this question, of which the majority claim to provide events and a common room or lounge area for postgraduates.


What initiatives has the students union recently undertaken to involve postgraduates?

From the responses received, the following were returned:

Recently started a grad night in one of the bars and set up a postgraduate executive committee
Encouraged postgraduates to attend postgraduate association meetings, and the senate
Revived the postgraduate committee, to organise social and representation
Refurbishment of bars for postgraduates/mature students
Was awarded a grant to establish skill sharing network
Socials, elections, inductions, postgraduate participation
Mainly general awareness, posters, events etc.
Produced inductions, entertainments
Offered time management training, getting more postgraduates to come in

How do you encourage greater postgraduate involvement?

From the responses received, the following were returned:

Establish postgraduate executive committee
Talk about services and societies, campaign for postgraduates to come to annual general meeting, Inform postgraduates about representation
Poster/word of mouth/email
Door knocking and emails
With difficulty, union very geared to undergraduates
By encouraging postgraduate students to stand
Encourage postgrads to get involved like all others
Promote involvement in postgraduate association
Better advertising to postgraduates

What project would you like to undertake in the coming year to increase postgraduate involvement?

From the responses received, the following were returned:

Improve entertainments, bring postgraduate executive committee into focus
Establishment of a society for postgraduates
Promote union exec, fill in the postgraduate motions and work with exec postgraduate officer
Summer ball, postgraduate Freshers handbook, newsletter, website, postgraduate surgery, increased involvement on council
Proper induction
A campaign on nights at work, involvement in activities
Investigating market research to find out what's wrong
Promoting values of the postgraduate association
A specific postgraduate Freshers' event

Participating Institutions

Responses were received from the following institutions:

Anglia Polytechnic University
Aston University
Bristol Universtiy
Cranfield University
Glamorgan University
Goldsmiths, University of London
Leicester University
MCR of St. Johns College, Oxford
Newcastle University
Queen Mary, University of London
Robert Gordon University
Royal Holloway, University of London
School of Oriental and African Studies
Staffordshire University
University College London
University College Northampton
University College Worcester
University of Bath
University of Birmingham
University of Durham
University of East Anglia
University of Hull
University of Kent
University of Leeds
University of Manchester
University of North London
University of Nottingham
University of Southampton
University of Surrey
University of Wales College of Medicine
University of Wales, Abberystwyth
University of Wales, Cardiff
University of Warwick
West of England University