Impact of Student Opportunities: Prove Me Wrong

Building a national evidence base

We know that student opportunities are life-changing for the students that get involved. We know that the projects, groups, activities and actions make a massive difference in society. However we don’t have a credible evidence base to show people the impact of student opportunities. So I’m posing a series of negative statements about the work of students’ unions and I want you to prove me wrong. To demonstrate our work makes a difference to students and society we need to consider the case for if it makes no difference at all.

I’m presenting 11 simple step-by-step guides to evaluate some specific differences our students’ unions are making. The differences are based on what students’ unions have told us they want to change about the world. The activities are all common across student opportunities (clubs, societies, volunteering, fundraising, media and basic democratic participation).

Students’ unions are invited to follow the guides and to submit their findings on an A3 poster. NUS will collect and publish these to build a national evidence base for the impact of student opportunities.


Contributions 2016

This project is now closed. Thanks to everyone who took part. We displayed all the submissions proudly at Students' Unions Conference 2016.


You can view all the submissions online now.


The guides will remain online and we intend to still upload any contributions from students' unions so do keep using them.


Our mission to evaluate the impact of students' unions is only just getting started. We will be using what we learned from this project to inform our future work.



How to take part

The guides offer a straightforward approach to evaluating the evidence, written to be widely applicable and low effort in terms of time and resources required.  Note that going into more depth is possible for organisations who want to. Each guide comes in two parts which need to be done together. The first part is quantitative – looking at the numerical evidence supporting any claim in this area. The second part is qualitative – collecting testimony and perspectives on the role of the students’ union in making this change.

Use datasets available to you to build your argument. Then collect personal stories from students to bring to life your students’ union’s contribution.

I invite students’ unions to submit their findings to me in an A3 poster format. We will share these at Students’ Unions 2016.

I hope building this kind of evidence base will become a longer-term programme to capture the impact of students’ unions, through student opportunities and beyond. We need to build the arguments, develop our effectiveness and equip officers with the evidence to win.

Richard Brooks
Vice President (Union Development)




What students' unions have said about taking part


“Sometimes when we're doing work every day we don't stop to think ‘oh that's a good result’. The opportunity was helpful and interesting.”


“The exercise gave us a lot of structure which our team found helpful to get started. We know now how to do this in future to evaluate our impact.”


“I don’t think we’ve ever sat down and tied up data about students’ participation in politics before”


“Setting impacts and trying to evaluate them like this will be useful as we develop our next strategic plan”