Following its annual Student Money Survey, the Student Financial Support Service at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) found that students wanted more proactive support in terms of managing their money.
In fact, 80% of the students surveyed said they wanted guidance on managing finances to be part of the university experience and their studies.
The team also knew that financial issues are a motivator for many of the students who look to take a year of absence or withdraw from their course. So finding a way to teach more students core financial skills and confidence would hopefully reduce the likelihood of money issues affecting their studies and impacting their ability to remain on their course.
Proactively supporting student attainment, progression and financial wellbeing also contributes to the department’s ‘Success for All’ initiative, which looks to address disparities in student engagement and outcomes.
“We wanted a way to help more students manage their money. Our hope was that this would reduce the number of students experiencing financial hardship because we know that at this point, financial difficulties can have a real negative impact on the student, their wellbeing and their ability to remain on course.”
- To trial integrating financial education into degree courses after 80% of students surveyed said they want more guidance on money management
- Take a proactive approach to provide financial capability training and increase the numbers of students engaging with the service
- Help to provide students with the skills to enable them to prioritise and develop their financial wellbeing and in turn, have a positive impact on student progression
NTU had already been using Blackbullion for some time to provide students with financial education, by requiring those applying for hardship funding to complete some learning relevant to their personal circumstances, and by promoting Blackbullion at open days to encourage prospective students to think about managing their money before they start university.
So the team was aware of the impact that the learning and resources in the Blackbullion platform can have, and recognised that it could be a powerful tool in helping them achieve its objectives – if only more NTU students knew about it.
The team was lucky to secure a Financial Capability and Student Success Project Officer, which meant having a dedicated resource to develop a proactive approach to students’ financial wellbeing. One of the aims of the role was to make financial education a blended and cohesive part of the student experience at NTU.
The current post-holder is Jacqui. Jacqui’s remit is to provide financial wellbeing support and raise awareness of Blackbullion to all students at every stage in their journey; from open day visitors, offer holders and clearing applicants to enrolled students throughout the duration of their course.
She also helps students by providing optional workshops on a range of topics related to money, keeping money firmly on the agenda with social media and communication campaigns, and working with students who are finishing their studies feel prepared for their financial life post-university, whether they’re transitioning into the working world or need to finance postgraduate study.
Blending financial education into degree courses
Recognising that blending financial education into course timetables could be an effective way to reach more students, the first two degree courses that Jacqui chose to trial the project with were:
- Health & Social Care, due to the nature of the course (students are required to manage their finances while on placements), along with the fact that students come from a real mix of backgrounds (many have never had access to financial education before)
- Fashion Design, as students are required to make extra purchases needed for the course (e.g, fabrics, sketch books, stationery and other equipment)
Financial education through on-campus workshops that utilize the Blackbullion platform is now part of these degree courses as a non-credit bearing option, available on the course timetable for students to opt into.
“The learning pathways in Blackbullion are invaluable and bring so much to our goals and objectives for financial education and capability. The flexibility is great too – a student can learn independently, dipping in and out when they want to.”
Solutions in use
increase in the number of students signing up to Blackbullion in 2021/22 compared to 2020/21
students in total have attended the optional and timetabled workshops
Providing financial wellbeing support to more students
Integrating financial education workshops into degree course timetables has been crucial in helping more students achieve financial wellbeing. Using Blackbullion within the workshops is a great way to encourage students to explore the platform and select learning pathways most relevant to them.
In fact, NTU has seen a 58% increase in the number of students signing up to the Blackbullion platform in the academic year 2021/22 compared to 2020/21.
Based on the attendance at workshops, and the increases in Blackbullion sign-ups, the team has proof that it is now providing financial education to much greater numbers of students through its new, proactive approach.
The impact of the workshops continues outside of the session; more students are speaking to their peers, course-mates and housemates about money too.
We’re getting financial education and information to more students than in previous years. Using Blackbullion in our workshops and as part of our hardship fund application process has been really valuable. It’s been extremely useful in terms of our hardship administration – it would have been difficult to cope with the administration without it.
Reducing stress and improving student wellbeing
Students have reported that they feel less stressed after attending one of the workshops (of which Blackbullion’s financial education is a part) and that the workshops have also led to them reducing spending on unnecessary purchases; thinking more about the future and their next steps instead.
“Students have provided feedback that their stress has been reduced, they’ve stopped spending on pointless things, and think more about the future and their next steps now.”
Providing students with accurate, impartial financial education
The project has also helped the team feel reassured that the financial education students are getting either in the workshops or through the Blackbullion platform is accurate and impartial.
“We know that students are getting their financial education from an impartial and trustworthy source by using Blackbullion. It helps us make sure they’re not potentially vulnerable to incorrect information from social media or an influencer. I even go into the platform myself to refresh my own knowledge and make sure I’m saying the right things to students.”
Developing a whole-institution approach to student financial wellbeing
Key to the success of the project is getting buy-in from course leaders. Gaining enthusiasm from course leaders has enabled NTU to move towards a more cohesive approach to student financial wellbeing. Everyone is working together towards a shared goal and the wider impact on student experience and wellbeing is clear.
“What helps to get course leaders onboard is that we all share the same goal. We’re not giving students financial education for the sake of it – we want to make a real difference to students by helping them develop essential life skills, as well as making sure they can stay on their course.”
Saving staff time and resource
In addition to the introduction of financial education as part of NTU’s course timetables, another way that the team has started to reach more students is by getting involved in Blackbullion’s campaigns, like Money Confessions.
Those that take place on social media are particularly useful for the team to raise awareness of financial education and take a preventative approach with those who may not yet be signed up for the Blackbullion platform or had contact with Student Services (as they have not struggled with money issues to date).
“The Blackbullion campaigns like Money Confessions are really helpful to give students something else to get involved with that’s outside of university and the workshops. They really help us reach more of our students who maybe aren’t using the Blackbullion platform yet. The best part is that they’re ready-made and we can use them without having to create anything ourselves – freeing up our time.”
Better connection between university and students
Blackbullion has given the team a way to connect the dots between a student’s feedback and delivering on what they have asked for.
Using the staff Analytics dashboard in the platform, the team is able to better understand the financial topics that students are interested in, struggling with or would like to learn more about.
“It was quick and easy for us to implement Blackbullion and be able to see the data on what our students are interested in, the learning pathways they’re completing. From a resource perspective, it’s great.”
Plans for the future
NTU’s focus going forward is on rolling the project out to more Schools and courses across the University’s campuses. The Blackbullion platform will continue to be a part of this.
To continue measuring the impact for students, Jacqui and the rest of the team at NTU aim to set up some focus groups to track the attainment and progress of the students to see what tangible difference the financial education makes.
“We’re going to keep promoting the Blackbullion platform to as many students as possible so they know they can go to it for information and consolidating their understanding, in addition to seeking advice and guidance from the University.”