The University of Exeter Q-Step Centre integrates the use of cutting-edge quantitative methods with the study of substantive issues. Students learn by observing and engaging in real data-analysis with an innovative and hands-on approach.

Student collaborates with Q-step Centre in Change Agents project, ExeQtive

Second-year Politics and Sociology student, James Winterbotham, became widely involved in College life when he took up the role of College Officer and Subject Chair for Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology. He began to piece together the workings of different areas of the University and Students’ Guild as a vast conglomerate of information relationships, leading him to imagine a student-driven research tool to bind together these various interests. This tool would consist of a randomly selected panel of Exeter students, incentivised to complete a series of anonymous surveys made up of questions of interest to a variety of stakeholders. These outcomes could then be used to reveal information about the student experience and student preferences to the Students’ Guild, SSLCs, professional services teams and academic staff.

The name “ExeQtive” was born out of the traditional definition of the word, relating to managing the affairs of an organisation. The ‘exe’ stands for University of Exeter and the capitalised ‘Q’ refers to the new Q-step centre, which aims to promote a step-change in quantitative social science training. With the help of Q-step colleagues, for his pilot study James planned a survey consisting of voting intention and political compass questions in the run up to the 2015 General Election, alongside a set of questions testing psychological disposition. If the pilot was successful, the project could be the basis of an ongoing ‘Research Panel’ of Exeter students.

The survey was sent to just over 1000 students, and from his sample, James received a response rate of 20.4%. Regardless of the relatively low response rate, the survey produced a wealth of information, including indications of political preferences across genders and ranking on the political spectrum. This project highlights the importance of collaboration between stakeholders within a large institution such as the University of Exeter. Professor Susan Banducci, from the Q-step Centre, said: “Given the debate over the pre-election polls in this last election, it seems even more important that students understand how to appropriately measure public opinion and the trade-offs between different techniques. James’s project is an excellent example of grappling with these issues and Q-Step is pleased to be able to support his project.” Following the successful pilot, James would like to continue his project next year, perhaps introducing token incentives to participants in order to encourage greater levels of feedback. He said, "University is all about building bridges of understanding, and ExeQtive is designed to build these bridges between students, the Guild, and the Colleges, resulting in something better for everyone." You can read a full report of James’ projects and findings here.

Interested in running your own project? If you are interested in becoming a Change Agent, you can find out more here.

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