Why run?

There are so many reasons why you should consider running in elections, here are just a few below.

To be an officer [+]

You will lead an organisation that affects the lives of students

As an elected Officer you will work with the University to make the future better for students, transforming their education and making everyday life at Durham. You will drive change, review and implement policy, and ensure quality teaching and student experience. As an Officer, you have the chance to make real change happen for students.

You will lead, represent, advise and support over 19,000 different students across 16 different colleges. You will ensure the Union is truly owned by students and stands up for their rights. Being an Officer is about speaking up and out about things which others may forget or try to pretend isn't an issue – holding those with power accountable for actions which threaten the experience for students.

You will be able to work on issues and problems that you believe are key to students in Durham, as well as leading the Union on matters that crop up during the year.

You will gain key skills along the way, and leave ready for even bigger things

Going straight from study to working as an Officer is a unique opportunity to work at top board level within a well-established charitable organization, experiencing strategic and decision making processes, whilst working closely with the Union Chief Executive, University Senior Management and the Union Board of Trustees. A positions most graduates won’t get until several years into their careers.

Being able to talk about the projects you’ve led, strategic priorities you’ve identified and impasses you’ve navigated with key stakeholders are just a few of the incredibly valuable, career boosting experiences you’ll gain as a Student Officer.

More core skills [+]

  • Drive – demonstrating results and reporting key measures and impact from your officer priorities
  • Analytical thinking – problem solving on a daily basis, dealing with key decision making as a Trustee allows you to demonstrate how you break down a problem into its component parts, identifying implications and causal relationships
  • Conceptual thinking – having to deal with incomplete information and being able to recognise patterns and the key underlying issues, making the complex simple and finding creative solutions
  • Business sense – having to review the financial statements and management accounts. Being able to bring forward ideas for making or saving money
  • Influence – being at the helm of local and national campaigns, having to convince others of a view or position and engaging them to take the appropriate action
  • Leadership – leading on key organisational priorities, articulating a purpose for the group and motivating people to fulfil that purpose and to follow you
  • Teamwork – being able to see the issues from another person’s point of view and being able to work cooperatively and collaboratively with others such as colleges, student groups, the University, other SU

You will be part of two sub-committees of our Board of Trustees (out of HR, Finance, Audit & Risk, and Governance & Appointments) which will give you real working knowledge of critical business support functions. These will be chaired and supported by professional subject matter experts.

And you’ll have training and support on hand to help you as you go.

You will benefit from ongoing training from first class training providers, the National Union of Students (NUS) and Union staff, to enable you to develop the skills that you will need to undertake your role and that will prove invaluable in your future career. As well as learning about the organisation’s finances, democratic structures, activities and advice provision, you will also learn how to organise campaigns, lead projects, chair meetings and play an important part in identifying and leading the direction of the Union to ensure that it delivers on its strategic plan and meets the needs of all our membership.

You will have a mentor to support you in your time as an Officer as well as a member of staff assigned as your lead support.

We will provide you with opportunities to grow your network in the areas of your passion and future interest, whether that is higher education, academic affairs, student welfare, student activities, community engagement and impact, student politics, national politics or student experience, and the drive to widen participation and opportunities.

To be a trustee [+]

You’ll help make sure the Union is owned by students, and governed correctly.

As a Student Trustee you have the opportunity to shape the business strategy of the Union while ensuring it is running in accordance to our Articles of Association and the law. As we are a charity, you must work within the Union’s best interests, being aware of our charitable objects and fiscal responsibilities.

You’ll gain skills and experience of the highest level available to students.

It is a unique experience to take part in a strategic managerial position which has a direct influence over the work Durham SU does for every Durham student.

Here are some examples of the types of skills and knowledge you could acquire in your role as Trustee.

Business acumen

Being a Trustee gives you oversight and a decision-making role in the running of a multi-faceted membership organisation – a real insight into a range of activities which go on within a company. Sitting on the Board sub-committees provides a robust understanding of HR, finance, risk, governance and business assurance, which are all really useful bits of knowledge to take into the working world.

Third sector charitable experience

Typically, Durham graduates opt for internships at large organisations in the public and private sectors. Working as a Trustee gives an alternative viewpoint and a different route into gaining useful knowledge and experience. It also gives an understanding of a different industry area and working in charities.

Teamwork

Being a Trustee offers the ability to interact within a team in a new setting that is not commonplace within the university. There are lots of opportunities in Durham to take part in operational teams, working with people to make things happen, but trusteeship is a unique way to take part in strategic teamwork, looking at why and how things happen and the effect this can have on an organisation.

Commercial awareness and prioritisation

The role involves making decisions on the direction and activity of the organisation. However, it also balances managing resources and an understanding of the commercial impact and sustainability of projects against their potential impact. A lot of the things that a Students’ Union can do are really important but the Trustees have to prioritise which they think will be the most beneficial with the resources available.

Challenge and conflict

A Trustee exists to ensure the SU fulfils its purpose of doing things for students. All of our Trustees have a different background so the role involves challenging ideas to guarantee the best outcome for Durham students. When challenging ideas, it’s important to handle conflict between individuals constructively, as well as managing conflicts of interest and loyalty.

Wider industry understanding

It’s important as a Trustee to have an awareness of external influences which could have an effect on the organisation – political, economic, social and legal issues can all affect the work of the Students’ Union and have an impact on its members.

Highest level of experience during your degree

Being a Trustee involves being an executive director of an organisation – you even get included on the Charity Commission website – which is one of the highest levels of experience you could get before graduation. All of the skills you can develop, and the high levels of responsibility, would really stand-out for any potential employer.