Student Experience Grants celebrate 10 years

Reading time: 4 minutes
In 2011, the Development and Alumni team launched a new scheme to provide funding for projects that enhance the student experience at Edinburgh.

Ten years, and one rebrand later, the Student Experience Grants are still thriving, providing one-off contributions of up to £5,000 to projects led exclusively by students or led by staff collaborating with students. In this time, donor-funded grants have been awarded to 725 of the 2,512 project proposals submitted, representing more than £1.5 million in philanthropic gifts.

Coding Club receiving EUSA award.

Successful applications are chosen by the Student Experience Grants Steering Group, which comprises 14 staff members from across all three Colleges, the Students’ Association, the Sports Union, Sport & Exercise and Careers Service.

The selection process

Jeremy Crang is Professor of Modern British History in the School of History, Classics & Archaeology. He became involved with the Student Experience Grants Steering Group in 2018 after he was appointed Dean of Students in the College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (CAHSS).

He explains more about how the steering group select successful applications: “The process has been refined over the years, and we are always looking to improve matters, but currently individual members of the steering group are sent a selection of applications to review against the criteria for the award of a grant. Each application is independently reviewed by at least two members of the group. The steering group then meets collectively to discuss the applications and the review process and make the funding decisions.”

So what in particular do the committee look for when deciding whether to award a project funding or not? Jeremy explains more: “We are looking for projects that have a clear set of aims and objectives, are innovative, are feasible, and are of demonstrable benefit to students beyond those immediately involved in the project. And of course from time to time a project really strikes a chord with the group and we say to ourselves wow, that’s a terrific idea.”

Positive impact

As Dean of Students, Jeremy has been able to see first-hand the impact these grants have had on the student experience in the College: “These grants offer students a unique opportunity to formulate and operationalise a project that will have real benefit to the student community – and sometimes the benefits reach well beyond University.

Coding Club

“I thus believe that the scheme can really enhance our students’ social, cultural, academic, sporting and entrepreneurial development. It’s also worth remembering that our Edinburgh alumni fund the scheme through philanthropic donations to the University, for which we are enormously grateful, so the scheme connects different generations of students and very much relates to the notion of a global Edinburgh community.”

Working together

Although the focus is very much on students, staff have always had a key role in the success of the scheme, encouraging student projects to apply, and collaborating on initiatives too. Butterfly Baby Clinic is a staff-student project created in response to Covid-19 and provides virtual mental health support for parents and infants through free digital resources. In 2018 the peer-to-peer group, Coding Club, was awarded funding. The project helps students in the Schools of GeoSciences and Biological Sciences with statistics and coding problems and is supported by members of staff. The Easter Bush Apiary initiative was also awarded funding in 2018 and allows students and staff volunteers to maintain the apiary and encourage visits from family and school groups.

So what projects, in particular, have stuck in Jeremy’s mind? He shares some: “I have been constantly impressed with the range, quality and sheer creativity of the applications – from a Glastonbury-inspired online sonic festival, to the development of solar-powered hearing aids for young people in Ghana. But what is most inspiring, is to see these projects come to fruition, hear the stories of success, look at the beaming faces of the participants in the project photographs, and know that these grants are making a difference. That’s what it’s all about.”

A group of people in bee suits stand around a hive examining the honey
Easter Bush Apiary

Jeremy recommends staff members get involved, whether that’s promoting the scheme to students, or teaming up with them: “Do encourage your students to apply if you think they have a good project which fits the scheme – or perhaps consider submitting a joint application with them if you have something in mind. There is one funding round each year, the application form is relatively straightforward to complete, and in recent times the application success rate has been roughly one-in-three. So it’s worth a try!”

The scheme opens for applications once a year, for four weeks. The next submission round opens on 14 October 2021 and closes at 12 noon on 11 November 2021. You can find out more on the Student Experience Grants website.

In celebration of this milestone, the Development and Alumni team has created a podcast, speaking to previous winners about how this grant enhanced their student experience. You can find out more on the Student Experience Grants website.

Images: eoin carey

One comment

  1. Pingback: Review of the year 2021 - Bulletin

Comments are closed.