Bristol SU Networks
There are a wide range of ways that students engage while at University, from speaking up in seminars to representing their course or leading a student society.

Student Unions provide students with a diverse range of engagement opportunities throughout their studies, and our experience has shown that “hard to reach” can mean very different things for these different activities. Bristol SU, for example, has seen significant numbers of BME students taking up leadership positions in the SU over the past few years, despite this being a group generally considered by the sector to be “hard to reach”.

Networks are a new democratic model launched at Bristol SU in 2016, which provide a variety of ways for students to engage with their Student Union. Recognising that not every student will want to stand in an election, student networks are spaces that bring together representatives, club and society members and interested students to work on issues which matter to them. To do this, networks incorporate elements of club and society activities with community organising techniques.

Their overall aims are to:

- Build communities

- Support students to develop through those communities

- Support students to organise and make change together

For more information on SU Networks, contact Helen Hoogewerf-mccomb

How do networks build student communities?

People want to engage and better the Student if the cause is meaningful to them. Bristol SU Networks gives students the opportunity to create long-term friendships across friendship groups.

Building a student community also reduces social isolation and increase belonging amongst the student cohort.

How do networks support student development?

Networks enable students to participate and engage with students across the University. The model provides low barriers to entry for students who may have an interest in engaging. Networks offer:

- Leadership opportunities - Skills training - Opportunities to organise events and campaigns

How do networks enable students to initiate change?

Student networks help facilitate change by providing clear communication lines between social communities and representatives of the University.

It also enables students to build communities, foster connections between academics and students and students on different courses.

Key benefits to the student

SU Networks provides students with social and developmental skills that empower them to make a difference to enhance the Student Experience (especially amongst isolated or marginalised groups).

Key benefits to the University

The scheme helps with student learning, acting as a platform for discussion on student and staff issues.

Key benefits to the sector

The scheme provides the sector with the opportunity to share best practice and research findings. It also allows Higher Education professionals to learn more about 'hard to reach' students and the role of Student Unions in participation and engagement.