Clubs and societies at the heart of today's student experience
This article by Glyndŵr University director of campus management and commercial services Lynda Powell originally appeared in the Western Mail.
IS the nature of student life changing in our universities?
Over the decades we’ve become familiar with lurid headlines depicting the nocturnal activities of young people freed from parental supervision and lured by the promise of cheap alcohol.
It’s helped create a stereotypical image of student life which, in truth, is far removed from the reality. The vast majority of students have neither the finances, the time nor the inclination to indulge in many wild nights out.
That said, socialising is an important part of the university experience – it’s just that there is much more to it than a night on the tiles.
Clubs and societies might not be the first things that spring to mind from an external point of view, but they have played an integral role in university life for generations. Far from being pushed to one side by competing distractions and the rise of technology, these vital social links are stronger than ever.
At Glyndŵr University we have seen the number of societies more than double, with students looking to get together to celebrate their love of everything from photography to cheese tasting.
Perhaps, with students keenly aware of financial issues, they are seeing social groups as an opportunity to have fun and meet new people for less. Students are also more interested than ever in adding those essential elements to their CVs which could make a difference in the jobs market. Gaining a position of responsibility in a club or society provides just such an opportunity.
Is this the end for the student bar? Far from it. There is, though, a move towards making such facilities do more than just provide a cheap place to get drunk on a Saturday.
With the launch of the Centenary Club bar at the Glyndŵr University Racecourse Stadium, we have made a decisive move towards making the student bar a more inclusive, multi-purpose space.
As well as making sure there are opportunities for club nights and live music, we have put daytime activities at the forefront of the redevelopment of the club.
Low-cost food options mean it complements our daytime catering options, giving students more choice. A quiet study area means the bar can be used throughout the day and offer a meeting place for groups.
Meanwhile, on matchdays Wrexham FC and Crusaders rugby league fans use the bar as a meeting point and a big part of their day. We’ve kept lots of sports memorabilia and an overall sports bar theme to bring the two elements together.
We’re not alone in looking to get more from our student bar – across the sector we are seeing an increase in the numbers of coffee shops and informal meeting places which go beyond the standard student union setup. Who knows, this change in attitude might one day be reflected in public perception of university life.