New students throughout the UK are being drawn to Facebook groups they believe are run by their universities and students' unions.
They are not -these groups are often run by external event promoters seeking to gain ticket sales to club events they have organised. Along with the name, some are also using the university's official branding to deceive students.
I work as the President of City University London Students' Union and we put a significant amount of resources and time in to making new students feel welcome and facilitating activities so they can meet others and have a great time. It's not easy moving to a new place particularly for international students so we do our best to ensure this transition runs as smoothly as possible right down to our presence on social media. This is something we recognize as becoming increasingly prominent.
You may be thinking what's the problem? Students are just being invited to club events. Well, the problem is when these groups are titled "City University London Freshers 2014-2015" for example, new students naturally believe they are run by representatives of the university. Under this pretence, students end up buying tickets for events that fall during the times of official events facilitated by universities and unions. This means they may miss out on meeting university friends at the beginning of term when it is easiest to do so.
Admittedly it's incredibly difficult to differentiate between official channels and non-official channels. As a student myself, I didn't know this was an issue and believed all the groups and accounts were run by representatives - they use official looking marketing and act in this way. Some false accounts mention at the bottom of the description that they are not affiliated in which case - this does not make it ok. Students rarely read this and quite frankly, the pretence exists in the use of the name.
This is a persistent problem year upon year and now club event promoters have now started creating hall groups. At most universities, the students' union or the accommodation suppliers set up groups so that if students have issues, they be guided to those who can help. Replicating these hall groups not only confuses students but may be preventing them from being guided in the right directions. The admins objectives are to sell tickets rather than support student welfare.
And finally, the most concerning part - student unions and universities have no oversight over any events these deceiving groups host using their name. This means unions and universities cannot guarantee these events have risk assessed and safe for students to go to. Asides from the welfare risk, there is also a reputational risk - if students don't enjoy the events, it is their university's union reputation that takes the hit.
A note to club promoters, we do not mind that you are create events and networks for students to meet one another. That is not the issue and in fact we want students to have as many opportunities to explore the places around them. But do not present yourself in way that manipulates them into believing you are an official representative for the university.
Unions and the universities are spending time to tackle these groups in various ways but the sad fact is - the more time and resources we spend trying to do this, the less focus we have on making the experience one they will remember and one that students truly deserve.
Universities across the country have been affected by this and we believe it's right to let students know which groups are the OFFICIAL ones run by their Students' Unions, so here they are:
City University London :
University of the Arts London:
Bath Spa University:
Birmingham City University:
University of Chester:
Edge Hill University:
Goldsmiths, University of London:
Newman University College:
University of Central Lancaster:
Leeds Trinity University
University of Lincoln:
Southampton Solent University
University of Westminster