College Students’ Association Staff Network

During the Partnerships for Change project, sparqs organised three meetings of the Staff Network, in March, June and November 2014. Information and materials from these sessions are available below.   Since March 2015 the network has been administered by NUS Scotland.  If you would like to get involved, or to be kept informed of future meetings please contact


Network mailing list

Scotland College Students’ Association Staff Jiscmail is the mailing list which can be used by all its subscribers to send emails to the whole group to continue conversations and peer learning outside of the staff meetings. Which means if you’ve got a particular question, or are looking for examples, you can get in touch with all members of the group. We will also use the list to send out emails from NUS and Partnerships for Change about any relevant resources and events and to update you on the times and dates of future meetings.

If you would like to be added to the list please email Mike Williamson -


Third Meeting - 7th  November  2014

Arlene Sweeney and Ryan Jenkins gave a presentation about the development of the Glasgow Kelvin Students’ Association.

NUS gave a presentation on the NUS Extra card and its potential benefits for college students’ associations, including generating income. For more information please contact Sarah Edmunds at:

All students’ associations must now nominate two students to sit on the College or Regional Board. The network explored the question of what more could be done to support student board members, and specifically what students’ association staff's roles might be.

Materials from the third meeting are as follows:

Student Board Memeber Support Handout

Glasgow Kelvin College Presentation on Learner Engagement Activities


Second Meeting - 3rd June 2014

Materials from the second meeting are as follows:

Notes – Areas to be covered by Induction – results of a brainstorming by attendees.

Transition Guidance – detailed guidance produced by NUS. There’s some useful forms in the back which can be used to capture officer’s priorities for the year, and to support handover.

The Importance of Officer Induction Briefing – includes a useful checklist for induction.

Staff Network Timetable – a blank timetable used in the meeting to map out elements of induction that needed to be carried out.

Other resources to support induction include:

Student Opportunities Resource Hub -  This hub has a lot of resources for supporting and developing clubs and societies and other kinds of student activities. However, it also has a set of training packages on fundamental skills such as Time Management, Negotiation, Problem Solving, etc which you can deliver to officers as needed.

The importance of using induction to develop good working relationships between officers and association staff was identified. Materials from the 2013 Training on Working with Sabbatical Officers can be found here:

Avengers in Scotland – Engaging Apprentices presentation.


First Meeting - 13th March 2014

Below is a summary of the first meeting, with write ups  of discussions and downloads of the  resources.


Eve Lewis, Director of sparqs, welcomed attendees and introduced the purpose of the meeting. Partnerships for Change has always been clear that student officers alone won’t be able to create effective students’ associations. Students’ associations need staff, and staff need to be supported to develop the skills they need to manage what is an very challenging role.

This network aims to give college students’ association staff a way to come together and share experiences and best practice. It aims to enable association staff to identify the support they need, and how that can be developed and taken forward.

This first meeting tried out a proposed structure for future meetings. This includes one session with direct input from NUS on a topical issue (in the case elections) and one session of open, facilitated discussion. Attendees found this worked well.

Problem Solving Session

Attendees wrote down on post-it notes all the problems, issues, and challenges they are facing at the moment in regards to students’ associations. We then grouped these and identified the three most common issues students’ association staff were experiencing.

These were:

  • Student training: their roles and responsibilities
  • College staff engagement, or lack of, with the students’ association
  • Student engagement,or lack of, with the students’ association

To download materials for problem solving session please see link below:

A list of all the issues identified 

brainstorming sessions 

Election Preparations

Officer elections are something that all students’ associations are in the middle of preparing for. In this session Charlotte Lawley from NUS delivered some advice and suggestions for planning elections, highlighted resources available to students’ associations, and facilitated discussion around actions staff can take to make elections great.

Download resource here: Running Great Elections: A Checklist

This resource takes you through the actions and decisions which need to be made before elections open. Charlotte worked through this checklist with attendees. In the process the following question came up.

Can students’ association staff and/or returning officers suggest people stand?

Key to a successful election is having a pool of good candidates who want to stand. Obviously it’s not appropriate for association staff, or returning officer, to just encourage a ‘favourite’ to stand. However, if you are aware of few people who would potentially be good in the role it’s worthwhile using your professional judgement and suggesting to a variety of people that they might want to consider standing. There might be people who wouldn’t think they could do it without a small push.

Another approach would be to hold Q&A sessions for people who are interested, helping them think the idea through and making sure they are aware of what it involves. This can help people make up their minds to stand – but it also means that you are more likely to get a successful candidate with a good idea of exactly what the role entails! Informative candidate packs can also help with this, and good role descriptions.

Becoming a candidate might be the first time your future officers really encounter the students’ association, so it’s worthwhile taking the time to make the right impression!

Next, the four principles which are key to running a successful election were introduced. These are:

  1. Involving and accessible
  2. Valid and secure
  3. Nurturing citizenship
  4. Legal and secure

Attendees then discussed and identified ways in which they could create these principles in their association’s elections. 

Download associated  resource below:

College Association Election Ideas

More information can be found in the FE Student Leader Election Pack which is available for download from NUSconnect. If you don’t have an NUSconnect login please get in touch and we’ll get you sorted.

 To download FE Student Leader Election Pack see link below:

NUS Support Available:

NUS Scotland can offer support around Returning Officer and Deputy Returning Officer training, as well as offering a Returning Officer for elections and/or someone to assist in the count.  Please contact for further information.

  • NUS Scotland has the following resources which are available on request:
    • Candidates Briefing PowerPoint
    • Election Videos (Transferable Votes, Congratulations on Becoming a Candidate and Candidate Dos and Don’ts)
    • Model complaints form

If you have election regulations that haven’t been looked at for a few years, or you’ve had problems in the past, it’s worth getting them sharpened up. If you want to get your election regulations revamped please get in touch with your Partnerships for Change consultant. NUS has model election regulations that can be shared on request.

Next Steps

We unfortunately ran out of time to do an in-depth skills analysis and planning session for the future of the group. However, all attendees agreed that they had found the session really useful, and were keen to see the group continue.

Feedback and ideas for the group and for future topics will be sought via email. Some topics for future groups that were identified are:

  • Designing, developing, and running an induction programme
  • Strategic planning
  • Developing relationships between sabbaticals and staff – manager vs mentor.


Click here to return to the main Partnerships for Change webpage.


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