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Chief Executive | University of Plymouth Students’ Union

University of Plymouth Students' Union

We're excited to be working with the University of Plymouth Students' Union to recruit a creative, highly communicative and empowering Chief Executive. Help them ensure that their students have a successful, fulfilling and rewarding time at the University!

  • Location: Plymouth, Devon
  • Salary: c£67,000

About the role

The University of Plymouth Students’ Union is an inclusive charity that exists to support the wellbeing of students studying with the University of Plymouth. We represent the voice of students in University decisions, as well as campaigning on issues our students care about. We also operate a broad portfolio of services that help students to learn and grow and be empowered, socially fulfilled and financially secure. Most importantly, we work to help them know that they are supported and cared for and that they matter.

We are part way through our 2021 plan, which has seen us build a strong purpose and define a set of values that we are striving to embed in everything we do. We are a £5.8m organisation, with services that operate to a high standard and commercial income of over £3m. We are proud to have Investors in People Gold and Investors in Volunteers accreditations. However, we also know that the Higher Education landscape is becoming increasingly challenging – with more limited funding – and that the nature of the student body is changing, so we have to constantly evolve to continue to meet the needs of all our students.

As our next Chief Executive, you will help us deliver the remaining goals in our current plan before embarking on the creation, implementation and delivery of our new strategy. We are keen to have innovation at the heart of our culture so that we can empower more students to create change and respond effectively to the challenges facing the education sector and the University’s own strategic plan to 2030.

Who we're looking for

Our next Chief Executive will be visionary, creative, highly communicative and empowering. It is likely that our successful candidate will have experience leading multi-disciplinary teams, have a track record of operating effectively and strategically with complex budgets, and have some experience leading an organisation with a strong social purpose. It is essential that you can embody and serve as a role model and ambassador for our values which are: Student Led, Caring, Progressive, Empowering, Democratic, Sustainable and Fun!

We have an inclusive workplace with a proud history of investing in people from diverse communities and enabling them to develop, thrive and lead others. We want to continue to exemplify diversity and encourage a range of candidates to apply for this fantastic opportunity.

If you are interested in learning more about us, our context and what we are looking for, please contact our recruitment consultant at Peridot Partners:

Bill Yuksel | 07801 897063 | bill@peridotpartners.co.uk

Closing date: 9am, Monday 6th January

If you would like to know more about this role please contact Bill Yuksel

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Dear Candidate,

As President of the University of Plymouth Students’ Union, I would like to thank you for your interest and introduce you to our SU.

I’ll start by familiarising you with what is most important to us – students. We have 18,000 students who are automatically members of our SU when they come to the University of Plymouth to study. We have 62 sports clubs and 126 societies, all of which are student led. There are lots of reasons why our students are special, including their passion for the environment, equality and diversity. Our students volunteer over 20,000 hours a year, campaign across campus for issues important to them and run epic events to share their art, culture, sport or passion with others. All of which we support in our multi-use building, right in the heart of campus.

Our core purpose as an SU is to represent the diverse needs of our student members, with the strategic aim that: ‘Every member believes the Union helps students like them have a positive and successful academic experience‘. We achieve this with three key goals. Firstly, by influencing academic delivery to ensure students have a high-quality academic experience. Secondly, we work to create a sense of belonging through inclusivity, democracy, and supporting student communities. Finally, we ensure that students are ready to learn by supporting their physical, mental and financial health.

Our ambitions are supported by our 65 permanent staff, five elected sabbatical officers and our student-staff members. Not to mention our student part-time officers, school and course representatives who volunteer their time to making the student experience better.

We offer important services to students including an independent Advice centre, Student Voice, Elected representation, Skills development and Volunteering. I believe that these services are what an SU is truly about.

Alongside this, we run a gym, a shop, a café, a bar and some of the biggest nights out in Plymouth. Our commercial outlets help us provide value for money to students, allowing us to give student clubs and societies funding and to help us develop our crucial representative services. Keeping our finances healthy keeps the heart of campus beating.

We have a great relationship with the University, but we do challenge them and act as a critical friend to ensure that students’ needs and expectations are being considered.

With all that to consider, you are probably wondering what the “right person” to lead our SU might look like. We are looking for someone who can take our strategy forward and help us meet the needs of all our students. A leader who can inspire our various teams to deliver excellent services despite any challenges we face. Someone who can consider the needs of a changing student demographic, including postgraduate and international students. We are looking for someone who will embed sustainability, equality and diversity in their work and leadership. We might just be looking for you.

For further information about the role and our organisation please contact Peridot.

Tilda Fraser
Students’ Union President and Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Our purpose

The University of Plymouth Students’ Union (UPSU) exists to support the wellbeing of all the students that are studying at the University of Plymouth. We help students have a successful, fulfilling and rewarding life when they are here and help them prepare for the future.

In preparation for our 2021 plan, we conducted research to define our purpose and identify our unique Why’s. We do this by providing opportunities where they can learn the skills which will allow them to: be empowered, learn and grow; be socially fulfilled; feel more financially secure and to know they are supported and cared for.

Why we do what we do

Learning, growing and being empowered. We support all student representatives, empower students to make a change, and help them to connect and contribute to their local community. Our Membership Services teams facilitate much of this work, as do many other teams within UPSU. Students grow and develop as people through engagement with UPSU.

Being socially fulfilled. We support students with their activities, provide them with great spaces and organise and host events. This is supported across UPSU, including the Societies team, Sports teams, Volunteering and Events. We continue to maintain and develop our building to offer suitable spaces for this.

Feeling financially secure. We get the best value for students, give them financial advice and help them to get rewarding jobs. Our Student Development team has focused on helping students to understand how their new skills have developed their employability prospects and our Advice Team support hundreds of students with financial advice every year. Our sports, societies and finance teams also help students to develop the financial acumen needed to run their clubs and societies, and these skills transfer over to their everyday lives.

Knowing you are supported and cared for. We provide advice where students need it, help them to be independent and are a community that cares. Across UPSU, we develop students and prepare them for life, whether it’s through supportive employment with us, student communities, or our Advice Centre, we are a huge part of their support network.

The values within our purpose define us and we recognise the contribution of Union staff, officers and volunteers across all departments make in their delivery.

Our Plan

In our strategy to 2021, we identified one key priority for change which is, to ensure that every member believes the Union helps students like them have a positive and successful academic experience.

We will deliver this outcome through an integrated approach:

How we do this – our portfolio of services, activities and functions:

Advice Centre

We support students at University by providing advice on a range of issues. The team have experience dealing with all types of enquiries and the advice is free, independent and confidential. This is crucial for students when dealing with fitness to practice hearings, disciplinary hearings, welfare benefits, complaints, appeals and a wide range of academic issues.

This year, the team supported over 2,600 students with over 3,600 queries.

Student Voice

We have a number of student representative roles, each with a specific remit, and their collective aim is to champion the student voice and create positive changes to students’ university experience. Union elections are led by the Student Voice Team, ensuring that they are run in a fair and democratic way. The Union Council is the pinnacle of student decision making and campaign planning and is made up of the 15 elected Forum Chairs, five elected Sabbatical Officers and 15 School Representatives. This year, turnout in the annual Sabbatical Officer elections was 27%, with 28 candidates participating and receiving over 4,900 unique votes, giving the winners a significant mandate to deliver their manifestos.

In November 2018, a ballot of the whole student body was held to decide whether UPSU should remain affiliated to NUS, our students voted to disaffiliate. The process of disaffiliating has begun and will be concluded in December 2019.


Our societies give students an opportunity to pursue their interests. All our societies are student-led and help students to meet people with the same interests, develop skills and expand their friendship groups and networks. We have a wide range of academic societies, and many other categories, covering culture, arts, politics, welfare, music, fundraising and many special interest societies. This year, over 4,000 students got involved in UPSU societies.


We facilitate student-led and community volunteering where students can lead volunteering projects and volunteer for an array of volunteering adventures to complement their study programme and social life. We also support students with Fundraising including Plymouth Raise and Give (RAG) who raise money through a variety of events and challenges.

Over 750 students logged over 24,000 volunteering hours in 2018/19, including five student-led projects. Additionally, over £141k was raised via RAG student fundraisers and six RAG adventure challenges.


There are 62 different student-led Sports Clubs to choose from at UPSU comprising of over 3,200 members. The clubs allow students to represent the University on a regional and national level. Over 500 took part in BUCS Nationals competitions and 350 BUCS league fixtures were played along with a range of non-BUCS competitions.

We have an on-campus Sports Centre which offers a variety of membership packages to students which include the use of the sports hall, gym, squash courts and a range of exercise classes. Over 700 students are full members of the Sports Centre. Our Give-it-a-go programme engaged over 700 participants in 10 different sports.

Our annual Varsity competition with Marjon University generated over £14k for Campaign Against Living Miserably and Plymouth Mind – along with a successful defence of the trophy.

Student Development

We offer students guidance to understand how they are developing and growing through their engagement in activities at UPSU. We also facilitate both externally delivered and peer-to-peer training sessions, where students from a range of year groups, disciplines and backgrounds bring their own experiences to provide skills based training sessions.

This year, we arranged 47 Core Skills Workshops, ranging from First Aid to Public Speaking, and five students became qualified peer-to-peer trainers. We ran a Build Your Future event and developed a Reflection.


The full-time sabbatical officer team ran a number of successful campaigns and events this year, with the help and support of University and UPSU staff.

Black History Month: We organised a series of events, all free and open to all the students.

Keep Wednesday Afternoons Free: Wednesday afternoons are an ever-increasing pivotal part of the student experience.

Hidden Course Costs: Committed to ensuring that students get value for money and are aware of all of the costs of University at the earliest opportunity.

Stress Less: Reminding students to take ten minutes to an hour out of their busy schedules to take care of themselves.

Communications and Digital

Our Communication and Digital department facilitates communication to our membership, to ensure that they feel connected with, and informed by, UPSU. We have developed a new Communication Strategy this year, which will be reshape our messaging to ensure that our members understand the value of UPSU, our purpose and the work we do. We have built our messaging architecture around the four quadrants of our purpose to ensure we are driving towards a purpose driven organisation through all our communication channels.

Business Development

We have continued to develop our business-to-business relationships to increase income generation, which can then be reinvested into student activities. These income-generating events are student-focussed, and so also bring value to the students, whether that is through market stalls, linking them up with accommodation suppliers or by putting then in contact with businesses regarding opportunities available for them. Over the year we achieved £144k in revenue through media sales, agreements and Totum Card sales.

Commercial Services

Our Commercial Services provide a range of services where students can eat, drink, study and relax. In addition to these services adding huge value for all students, we directly employ over 210 students, providing over 43,000 hours of employment, paying over £330k in student staff wages while providing work experience and transferable skills.

Our Bar: Our bar is located in the UPSU Building and is open in the day and during our nightclubs and events. We offer a safe environment for students to socialise, along with good value drinks.

We are proud to be a part of Best Bar None accreditation scheme, which is supported by the Home Office and the drinks industry, and is aimed primarily at promoting responsible management and operation of alcohol licensed premises. We are rated NUS Best Bar None Gold (with a 100% score for our latest on-site visit) and our staff members sit on the Best Bar None Plymouth steering group, which has won the best overall scheme nationally for the second year in a row.

We have generated net sales in excess of £1.2m in the bar this year and have generated an operating surplus in excess of £488k – our best financial performance in over eight years – all of which gets reinvested back into student services.

Events: We operate the 2nd largest nightclub in Plymouth, including regular nightclubs twice a week during the term, and many other events. In 2018/19, we had over 63,000 visits to our nightclub, over 4,000 students attended our Beer, Cider, Gin, Rum and Reggae festivals and we sold out all 4,300 tickets to our Annual Summer Ball: a huge 6-stage, £170k event each June. Through all our events, we have generated sales of around £336k and an operating surplus of around £17k to be reinvested.

Food and coffee: We offer a wide range of hot and cold food and drink, at good prices, in a safe comfortable environment. Coffee and hot beverages are a mainstay of students’ time at University, so we provide a space to enjoy it in, while also giving the best value for money. Through food and our Costa Lounge, have generated sales of around £269k and an operating surplus of around £5k to be reinvested. We are currently undertaking a significant investment into the kitchen infrastructure, which is part funded by the University.

Our Shop: Our shop continues to be successful as we sell good value, student-focused products. Located in the heart of the campus, we provide grab-and-go meal deals, stationery and official University merchandise such as the Graduate Hoodies. Through the shop, we have generated sales of around £530k and an operating surplus of around £54k to be reinvested.


UPSU continued to operate as an Investors in People Gold Standard employer, and our people play a huge role in our success. This award sets UPSU apart as one of the top five employers in Plymouth, helping define what it takes to lead, support and manage people well for sustainable results.

We continue to experience moderately high turnover, in line with the expectations of a young workforce, so recruitment continues to be relatively busy for our size. We are able to continue to attract highly capable staff, at a time when many organisations are struggling to do so, partly due to our IiP status, employer branding, sector leading recruitment processes, and recommendations from current staff.


As a company and a charity, we operate according to good governance principles, including following the Charity Governance Code for Students’ Unions. The Code encourages unions to make a statement in their annual trustees’ report about how they have used the framework to improve governance.

In December 2018, we commissioned a governance review by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), in line with best practice as outlined in the code. Feedback from this report was excellent, including: “The organisation has good reason to be proud of the professional support which the board receives and the quality of its systems and processes”; “Records of decisions are clear, and actions are reviewed” and “UPSU results are high, with an average score across all areas of 8.2, representing competence against the standards established in the Code”.

We continue to review and develop our subcommittees, board practices, governing documents, and all aspects of our governance, to continually ensure we are operating to excellent governance standards.

SU Building

UPSU leases the UPSU Building from the University for an Annual Charge of £581k. This year, negotiations were finally concluded with the University for a new lease, outlining the terms of our tenancy. We also updated the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between UPSU and the University of Plymouth, as well as the Health and Safety MoU.

To access a full job description and application details,
please fill out the form below.


If you would like an informal conversation around the role, please contact our advising consultants at Peridot Partners:

Bill Yuksel, Business Manager, on 07801 897063 or bill@peridotpartners.co.uk.

To apply, please submit a CV and supporting statement (the supporting statement should be a maximum of two sides of A4) that clearly outlines your suitability for the role against the criteria provided in the person specification. It would also be helpful to provide an explanation of your interest and motivation in applying for this position within your supporting statement.

Please ensure that your application is emailed to response@peridotpartners.co.uk inserting “Chief Executive, UPSU” into the subject field.

We wish to encourage applications regardless of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marital or civil partner status, pregnancy or maternity, age or religion or belief. All applications will be considered solely on merit.

Disabled applicants are invited to contact us in confidence at any point during the recruitment process to discuss steps that could be taken to overcome operational difficulties presented by the job, or if any adjustments or support are required regarding the recruitment process.


Closing date: 9am, Monday 6th January 2020
Preliminary interviews: Monday 20th and Tuesday 21st January 2020
Final interviews: Thursday 30th and Friday 31st January 2020

Equal Opportunities Monitoring

Peridot and UPSU are committed to promoting equality and diversity. To help us raise awareness and support a culture that is diverse and recognises and develops the potential of all, we need to appreciate the profile of candidates who apply for positions. We would therefore be most grateful if you would complete this equality monitoring form.

The information will be treated confidentially and anonymously and will help us to support our commitment to fair recruitment practice. All information provided will be held in the strictest confidence and will not be shared with anyone, in line with the new Data Protection Act 2018 launched on 25 May 2018. The information provided does not form part of the decision-making process and will not affect your application.

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