College Communication Briefing Document

Over the first part of 2014, Think Tank carried out a consultation for Halifax College. It aimed to gather data on the services and attitudes towards communication and engagement in Halifax College, in order to propose recommendations for the college to consider. This document combines some of these recommendations, with more general findings regarding improved college communication. We believe the findings from our report can be extrapolated to other colleges and provide useful insight into how members of colleges suggest communication issues can be addressed.

Over the course of 30 weeks, the team conducted quantitative and qualitative research to assess how students received, interacted with, and absorbed information. To this end, 18 focus groups were held over two weeks, interviewing a total of 72 students, and 44 more shared their thoughts with us in a comprehensive online survey. Six interviews with college staff and HCSA officers added the opposite perspective, of how different groups within the college advertised events and dispersed information. To ensure representation, we identified 21 houses and flats across 8 courts, weighted according to Post Graduate and International Student ratios. Over the course of two weeks, 18 focus groups were successfully interviewed. Interviewees for elite interviews were chosen based on proximity and access to College communication structures.

For a complete detailed account of the findings, along with all data, please consult the full report published on, or email us at Based on our findings and experiences in Halifax,

We recommend:

Developing a communication strategy which establishes the relationship between different parts of the college and how these coordinate their distinct advertising efforts.

Colleges are made up of a variety of different groups, including the college, a College Student Association and College tutors. What we have found is that all three groups host events, but tend to advertise them independently of one another. This autonomy creates confusion amongst recipients, as information is decentralized.

A single, definitive protocol outlining how certain information is dispersed, ensures that information is not only readily available at an appropriate time and place, but that those actively seeking it will know where to find it.

Actively managing Facebook groups to cut down on spam and to ensure content posted is relevant to students

While it may sometimes be beneficial to let third parties advertise events of interest to College members, it can also clutter up news feeds. Considering that in the case of societies, most students interested in the society will already be subscribed to their newsletter or Facebook page, allowing them to post in college pages serves little additional purpose to any of the groups involved.

That colleges with exceptionally low election turnout, assume the task of engaging students with college elections

It is difficult to determine exactly what causes the incredibly low turnout that some colleges suffer from. Many external factors, such as location or facilities play a major role in how engaged students are with their college and CSA. However, we do find that there is a general conflict of interest to ask those who are in a position of power on a college committee to advertise an election. Those hoping for a second term have inherently no interest in advertising an election well, neither during nominations or the campaigning stage. As such some colleges may want to consider assuming the task, and ensuring that both the nominations and campaigning stages are publicized as well as possible.

CSA presidents set up “work” Facebook accounts, similar in nature to YUSU Sabbatical accounts

Outside of major events, much of what a CSA does is a mystery to many students; important day to day accomplishments can be difficult to advertise. Besides blogs, the Student Union has established “work” Facebook accounts for Sabbatical Officers, which are passed on after each election. These accounts are primarily used to directly communicate with students, to ask for input or simply to update on the daily or weekly agenda.

The advantage of such accounts is that they allow for a personal approach which groups cannot provide, but also separate the professional from the private. Using a regular personal account, means officers post a mixture of personal and official statuses, pictures and events. “Work” accounts also mean other students do not have to add individuals they do not necessarily know, and newly elected officers can continue to communicate within an already established method of communication.

That facilities are made available for booking by societies to host events in

Societies form an essential part of the extracurricular opportunities offered at York. More than 150 societies organize a range of events, from small gatherings to large panel debates. Providing facilities for these societies serves two main purposes. Firstly, members of the college will be more inclined to spend their evenings at society events if they are close to home. Secondly, its gives members of other colleges and those that live off campus, a reason to return, and as such strengthens the perceived and actual position of the college.

Stressing the importance of paper publicity as part of a wider communication strategy

Based both on responses gathered in Halifax, and Think Tank’s experiences with promoting events, successfully promoting an event or informing students cannot be accomplished by ignoring some channels of communication. Not all students regularly use social media, some simply do not use it at all. To reach out to these students, as well as to increase information salience with other students, we highly recommend using posters, leaflets and noticeboards where appropriate.

written by Johannes Huber & Ellis Byrne