Student ambassadors: Bringing university to life
Many in the Widening Participation (WP) and Outreach community acknowledge that student ambassadors are one of the best tools to engage and motivate prospective students. They offer a unique first-hand experience of university which helps to give an insight into different courses and opportunities in HE.
I have often witnessed the interactions between ambassadors and participants and remain convinced that their discussions have more resonance than more traditional forms of university marketing. Their honesty, and in many cases unscripted viewpoints enable, them to connect well with both prospective students and parents, providing important and effective information, advice and guidance for young people.
It’s for this reason that Leeds Beckett University has developed a strong and robust Student Ambassador Scheme. Each year we recruit up to 200 students to work on our WP and recruitment events. Our aim is to ensure that the ambassador scheme is representative of our student body and local community, with students from all backgrounds encouraged to apply. We see the diversity of our student ambassador pool as one of its key strengths.
Aside from the obvious benefit of earning extra money whilst studying, working as an ambassador is a great way for students to get more out of their university experience. The role of a Student Ambassador is varied; students work on a range of programmes, delivering presentations in schools, working on residential programmes, managing large scale events, and mentoring young people. This adds great value to the scheme and allows students to develop many skills that can be applied to their future career.
Our development programme provides on-going support through regular training sessions, reviews and peer to peer support. At the end of their time as an ambassador students become adept in events management, working with young people and public speaking. Many echo the thoughts of student ambassador Keely Saint who says: “ The student ambassador scheme has had a positive impact on my employability, especially helping with my confidence and presentation skills. Through the scheme I would help lead presentations for secondary school / college students about university life. This was quite a daunting yet rewarding experience. This helped me with my studies and in my working career.”
I have worked within Widening Participation Outreach at Leeds Beckett University for 20 years. In that time, it has been a source of great pride to follow the careers of many of our former ambassadors, now working as teachers, health professionals, events managers and in business.
In recent years we have invited former ambassadors to deliver talks at our outreach events, allowing them to detail the ups and downs of their time at university and subsequent career. This has proved to be impactful and motivating for the audience with our evaluations reinforcing the positive benefits of using ambassador alumni in this way.
It’s my hope that Student Ambassadors continue to take centre stage in outreach work. With the correct support, training and guidance, student ambassadors can motivate the next generation of students and at the same time, develop skills and competencies that allow them to realise their own talent and potential.
Sarah Thomas , Access & Widening Participation Manager, Leeds Beckett University