Here at The Brand Education, we love keeping up-to-date with the latest publications in our industry. Across all of our reading this week, we’ve spotted one theme pop up time and again – student activism.

The UK is experiencing something of a civil engagement renaissance. With Extinction Rebellion, Black Lives Matter and more movements inspiring mass protests across UK cities, it feels like the general public is more mobilised than ever before. And, at the very heart of the dissent, we can hear student voices making demands for justice and equality.

Student activism has a difficult and frequently adversarial relationship with institutional authority. However, the benefits of a rich campus culture of student activism are clear. Students that involve themselves in civil activism are more politically engaged later in life. Moreover, a strong student voice keeps your institution in touch with the needs and values of youth. Universities that work with – rather than against – student and staff activists are more progressive and politically active.

The way you deal with activism is yet another example of your institutional values playing out in the real world. These great tips can enhance your relationship with activists and, by working together, you may be able to achieve something truly amazing.

Engage early with activism

If you’re only just speaking to political actors in the middle of a protest, you’ve left it too late. Understanding is the first step towards co-operation, so make sure you’re building relationships with student leaders as soon as they make themselves known. That doesn’t just go for academic leadership either – your marketing team should be doing the same. After all, if they’re going to capture your campus culture in their comms, they’re going to need to understand it first.

Leverage social media to make different voices heard

Social media is the most powerful communications platform you have at your disposal. If you want to show your support for student activism – whatever form it takes – you can do so by offering your platform to those with less authority than you. And that doesn’t always mean you need to come down on one side of the debate. Use your power to show the divergent voices that are engaged in discourse at your institution. As long as people are talking proactively and sensibly about an issue, you can help them be heard. Show the world that your university is a supporter of frank discussion.

Let your leaders lead

Students look up to academics to model both their thinking and their behaviour. Politically engaged education leaders can be an incredible force for change. However, embracing activism on a leadership level can be scary for universities – you never know when you might be on the receiving end of the criticism. Instead of shying away from active leadership, embrace it. You could find yourself in some incredibly important discussions that will make your university a better place. Your comms channels are a great place to showcase the outcomes of these discussions.

Know your purpose

As a university branding agency, we understand just how tough it is to align your institutional vision. However, if you haven’t done the work to understand your purpose as a university, you’ll find it difficult to know when to engage with activism. Don’t forget that campus culture is a two-way street; it’s on you as much as it is your students to set the tone. With a powerful vision in place, you can seek out the discussions with students that align with your institutional values. And, perhaps more importantly, you can be clear about the types of dialogue that don’t. 

To learn more about how we help universities build a powerful vision for their institution and brand, get in touch with the team here at The Brand Education. We’re always interested to speak with engaged change-makers.