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Step by step: How to set up your own student society

You'll need a dedicated team around you and a whole lot of passion. Source: Shutterstock

Societies are a great way to meet like-minded people, develop new skills and expand your horizons while studying abroad – but what happens when the society you want to join doesn’t yet exist?

Most universities allow students to set up their own societies  – and considering you come from a different culture, you’re bound to have tied your hands at plenty of interesting things other students are yet to experience.

There’s usually a process you must follow before you can share your enthusiasm with other students, but bringing a new society to your university can be incredibly rewarding both for you and the students who join.

While each university will have a unique twist to the application process, there are essential steps that are required everywhere.

So, if you’re passionate about a hobby, cause or even a place and the society does not yet exist, follow these steps to get your new organisation up and running…

Step 1 – Contact your SU

First thing’s first, get in touch with your Student’s Union to find out whether they would consider opening up your suggestion.

First thing’s first, you need to find out whether the SU will consider your society. Source: Giphy

Some SU’s have strict guidelines on what topics can be held as societies, and this may differ based on the country you’re studying in. If you’re in an Islamic state, they may not open societies based on alcohol like cocktail making groups, for example, and political groups may not be welcomed within communist cultures.  

There could already be plans to open a society similar to your proposition, so it’s a good idea to contact the SU before procedeing planning.

Once you’ve contacted the SU and receive the green light, there are still numerous steps you’ll need to take before your society can get up and running. Which leads us to step 2…

Step 2 – Gauge student demand

There’s no point setting up a society that only you and your close friends will join. You need to make sure other students will be interested in participating.

If you have a reaction like this, you know you’re onto a winner. Source: Giphy

Some universities require a list of students who’ve said they would be keen to join if the society existed – but even if your SU doesn’t need this, it’s important step to ensure your society will be a success.

Social media is your friend here. You can put out a Facebook status, post into your group chats and write in existing society groups asking who would be interested in your new organisation. This way, you can get the word out there to those who have similar interests and begin to grow your society while it’s still in the incubator mode.

Try to collect the email addresses and phone numbers of the students who say they’re interested so you can contact them when the society is up and running.

And if you find your new group is too much of a niche and there isn’t really any demand, at least you’ve found out now rather than a few months down the line!

Step 3 – Build your committee

If you’re going to start a society, you’ll need a good group of people to help you. There are many roles required to make a society successful, so you’ll need to allocate these accordingly.

You’re going to need a good committee around you to make the society a success. Source: Shutterstock

The roles you’ll need to assign are:

  • President and Vice President – it’s likely you’ll be president since it’s your society, but in case you want to give both roles to someone else, you’ll need to find someone organised and dedicated to the cause.
  • Secretary – this person will be responsible for managing communications between the committee; the SU and other members, so good person skills are a must.
  • Treasurer – you’ll want to choose someone good at finance or accounting for this role as they will be managing the society’s budget.

Additional roles you may consider are:

  • Social secretaries
  • Academic secretaries
  • Undergraduate/postgraduate officer
  • Diversity officer

A committee is usually a prerequisite to submitting your society application as they are vital components to making your society a success – after all, a society with no president or treasurer is hardly a society at all!

Step 4 – Submit your society application

So now you have a bulky list of students who want to join your society and have built a dedicated committee to make it happen – it’s time to submit your society for the SU to review.


Now it’s time to get the application written up. Source: Giphy

Your SU will require specific details from you, but you can begin preparing in advance by considering the following:

  • What’s the aim of your society? To connect people from different cultures? To help students learn a new skill? To provide a platform for discussion? Your society should have a student-orientated aim.
  • What makes your society unique? Does it offer an alternative to other student societies? Why would students choose your society over those already in existence? Sell your idea as much as possible.
  • What plans do you have for the group? Social events? Competitions? Collaboration? The SU will want to understand the value of your group so go into lots of detail here to show you’ve thought it through.

Check your SU’s website or drop them an email asking what other information they need. They might need pledges from the other committee members, a certain amount of students registered as interested or a year-long financial plan for the group.

Once you’ve collected everything you need, you can submit the application to the SU for review.

Step 5 – Begin building your society’s calendar

If you’ve followed the steps above, chances are your society will be approved. Rather than wasting time waiting to hear, its best to get stuck right in and start planning.

Get ahead of the game by planning society events early on. Source: Giphy

You want to build a society other students are passionate about, so get your committee together to discuss what events you can run within your budget that will interest your student market.

By planning early, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running when you’re society is (hopefully) approved and impress all those students who showed interest in your society.

This guide is just the beginning steps to running a successful society – after it’s established, it will be up to you to build the group into a thriving community that benefits every member.

Although this will be challenging at times, remember the passion that inspired you to start the society in the first place. This will keep you motivated and committed.

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