York Student Think Tank is able to play a unique role in university policy through its research and consultation projects. Such projects can make a real difference to university policy.
Last year the York Student Think Tank undertook a research project, commissioned by Halifax College, on the communication, publicity and engagement within the college. A research project is a short investigation into a topic with the aim of generating new knowledge in a specific area. The report was able to make recommendations to the college, such as creating a central system for the distribution of Halifax communications, allow for social space to be booked out by societies to give non-residents reason to go to Halifax, and making Halifax into more of an outdoor college. By providing information the college would not have otherwise been able to attain the project was able to work towards the improvement of college life.
The projects have also been able to raise awareness of key issues on campus, last year think tank ran two consultations, one on mental health attitudes and facilities at the University and the other on sexual harassment. A consultation project consists of 5-8 people working together researching an issue, compiling a report and making recommendations to address any problems found. These are topics that are both hard to talk about and there is not much information available, it is not often that real student experiences are exposed or discussed. Therefore such topics incite conversation that would not otherwise take place within the student body.
Research and consultations are a valuable way of students being able to express their views on important issues. It is not only those students who take part directly in working on the research project that express their views but also for all those who take part in the surveys, focus groups or interviews conducted as part of the research. Such projects have the ability to make a real difference to university policy in relation to important issues both on and off campus.
These projects are not without difficulties, researching such topics requires a sensitivity and there is no guarantee that the recommendations will be implemented. However the discussions themselves are valuable in university communities. Both mental health and sexual harassment are important topics to be discussed within the university environment, not to be shied away from. Such topics need to be discussed more and this offers a way for them to be deliberated in a constructive manner in direct relation to University policy.
Research and consultation projects offer opportunities for students to research subjects, which they see as important, and comment on important current issues within the University community. Taking part in research and consultation projects are not only great bits of experience to add to your CV but offer a real chance to improve student life. Such enterprises should be encouraged throughout student think tanks and universities to further improve key services and attitudes throughout the student body.
Hannah King is Head of Research for York Student Think Tank