BU pioneers pre-paid card to help bursary students manage finances


Bournemouth University (BU) students who receive bursary payments can now get their money on a pre-paid card, helping them better manage their finances and get cash back on purchases.

BU is the first university in England to introduce the Spree Student Cashback Cards, which allows users to only spend the total value of bursary payment pre-loaded onto the card – helping students avoid slipping into debt or expensive overdrafts.

They can also get up to 2 per cent cash back on purchases at well-known retailers, making their budget stretch even further.

Andrew Wright, Finance Operations Manager at BU, said: “We wanted to introduce a pre-paid card solution as research has shown that students want as much financial support as possible upfront.

“If you pay money to students in a cheque, some of that will be used up in their overdraft and bank charges. This is an opportunity to give them a new account where that doesn’t happen. You can’t get into debt with it.”

The scheme was launched last September, to distribute money allocated from the National Scholarship Programme (NSP), which has also been match-funded by the university.

So far, nearly 800 cards have been issued, with more than £362,000 given to students.

The chip and pin cards will last for the three or four years that a student is registered with the university, with payments made termly.

Students also have access to a web portal where they can check their balance and find out about special offers being held by retailers.

“Students can choose whether they want to have the cards, but the response so far has been very, very favourable,” said Andrew.

“The money is put onto the account within a couple of hours, and they like the fact that it is simple, they can get the cash back, and they don’t have to queue up or wait each term for their payment.”

“This is cutting-edge, innovative stuff, but it is all about the student experience.”

The Student Cashback Cards, provided by P&MM, can be used anywhere that accepts Mastercard, but cannot be used for cash withdrawal, gambling or to pay for content on adult websites.

It is hoped that the cards will also be made available to scholarship students next year, and that payments will be made in nine monthly installments to further help students with budgeting.

The Students’ Union at Bournemouth University (SUBU) was involved in the process of procuring and introducing the cards.

SUBU President Murray Simpson said: “The pre-loaded cards not only mean students can access their bursaries quickly and easily, it also means next year they will be able to access their payments monthly rather than termly.

“With the majority of rent payments happening monthly this will hopefully make life easier for students in managing their budgets.”

Lock It or Lose It campaign launched


A new campaign launched by the students’ unions at Bournemouth University (BU) and Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) will encourage students to lock their homes and keep belongings secure.

The Lock It or Lose It campaign is supported by United Taxis and the Universities’ Safer Neighbourhood Team, and was launched by attaching 2,000 dye-cut padlocks on properties around Winton.

 Each padlock contained information on how to keep properties secure. United Taxis contributed to the event by sending out text messages, detailing similar information to students who ordered vehicles.

Murray Simpson, President of the Students’ Union at Bournemouth University (SUBU) said: “Although we have seen a reduction in burglaries over the past year in Bournemouth, we are seeing more burglaries happen during the day and we think that burglars are targeting specific properties at specific times of the day.”

Serving as visual reminders, it is hoped the padlocks will reinforce the campaign’s message that residents need to ensure properties are kept securely locked at all times.

Both SUBU and the Student’s Union at AUB (AUBSU) have also worked hard to promote security information internally.

Ben Musitano, AUBSU Student Union President, added: “We have been trying to promote information around AUB through poster boards as well as much as we can. Hopefully our student body will understand that burglaries in this area are actually quite a big problem.”

The Lock It Or Lose It campaign will also release a video focused around burglary prevention and safety in the local community. Murray Simpson summarized the overall purpose of the campaign as trying to “instill a new culture where people are safe and secure.”

PC Andy Scarratt, of The Universities’ Safer Neighbourhood Team, advised students in particular to work as a team to combat potential break-ins.

“If there are 5 of you in the house, get to know if you are the last one leaving and what time people going to be back”, he said.

“The danger is that students just forget about it.”

He also believes that the work conducted by SUBU and AUBSU to launch new initiatives such as Lock It Or Lose It is key to ensuring students’ possessions are kept safe, adding that it is important “to remind students that this is a time of year when you need to come back from Christmas with your new Christmas presents – and to look after them.”

By Alex Geraghty, Second Year BA (Hons) Media and Communications Student  

BU has therapy dog to help students in need


Students who need additional learning support at Bournemouth University are receiving a helping paw from a new canine colleague.

Jack the shih tzu is the first therapy dog to work in a UK university full-time, and has been helping out in BU’s Additional Learning Support (ALS) team.

The team support students with specific learning differences, physical or sensory impairments, mental health issues and medical conditions.

Jack, who is owned by ALS tutor Carolyn Atherton, has joined them as part of a pilot project, in conjunction with Dorset-based voluntary group Caring Canines.

He sits in on sessions that Carolyn has with students, helping them to relax and focus.

“Jack helps refocus students from their issues to the task in hand – enabling them to reach a place where they are ready to start learning,” said Carolyn.

“If someone in the office is upset – be it staff or students – Jack is very empathic and will go to them, providing a distraction from the difficulty they are experiencing.

She added: “He’s been such a good boy with the students and he’s providing a lot of people with smiles.”

Jack currently sits in on around 12 one-to-one sessions a week, and students say they have already noticed the difference he makes.

One student, who did not want to be named, said that Jack’s presence helped him through mental health issues to complete his course and gain full-time employment.

He said: “My problem was because I was having a lot of mood swings, I found it very difficult to study and to learn because sometimes I was very lethargic and sometimes I was hyper, and it was hard to concentrate and focus.

“Jack was very good at calming me down on really bad days. He was very intuitive and very relaxed and an amazing thing to look forward to.”

He added: “I went from completely crashing and not being able to do my studies, to getting a job and being about to graduate. I wouldn’t have been able to get out there and do it without Jack.”

Evidence suggests being in the presence of an animal such as Jack helps people focus better and more able to concentrate on learning.

The ALS team and Caring Canines are hoping to work with academics from the University to conduct further research into the benefits of animal-assisted therapy.

Toni Clarke from Caring Canines said: “It’s lovely to see people who struggle improve because of the dogs. Sometimes it is just about building up their confidence and self-esteem, which the dogs help with because they are non-judgmental.

“It’s also good for the dogs as it keeps them busy and active.”


The work of Jack and the ALS team was recognised at an event at BU’s Talbot Campus, attended by the Mayors of Bournemouth and Poole and representatives from the students’ union.

SUBU President Murray Simpson said: “Jack the dog is one example of the unique way in which the university supports its students.

“The positive impact animals have on people both physically and psychologically has been proven– especially for students suffering from anxiety – and it’s great to see BU using its research and applying it to the services it has.”

Find out more about the work of the ALS team at BU.

Hire a bike for a year for £25 with new BU scheme


Students and staff at BU will be able to hire a bike for an academic year for just £25 through a new scheme.

People who sign up to the BU by Bike scheme will also receive lights and a lock for the bike, cycle helmet and bike maintenance vouchers and access to free skills training and workshops.

The BU by Bike Scheme is just one of a number of new initiatives funded by Bournemouth Borough Council’s Getting About programme to encourage more people to travel by bike.

These include new bike storage facilities on campus, with an extra 152 bike spaces at Talbot Campus planned to be in place for early 2014.

Richard Wintrip, travel plan coordinator at BU, said: “It has all been designed to break down the barriers to cycling.

“If people want to cycle but aren’t sure if they want to spend all that money on a bike, this is an affordable way for them  to do that.”

The BU by Bike scheme will support up to 225 loan bikes, and there will also be an additional 10 loan bikes available for weekend use.

Working in partnership with Sport BU and SUBU, Bournemouth Borough Council is also providing support for four students to be trained in cycle maintenance to assist with the project.

Murray Simpson, SUBU President, said: “It’s fantastic to see Bournemouth University continuously encouraging greener ways to travel to University.

“The BU Bike scheme will not only allow students a cheaper and healthier alternative for travelling to University, but it will also help reduce the number of cars and traffic in the local area.”

Ian Kalra, Bournemouth Borough Council’s Transportation Services Manager, added: “The new and improved facilities will make cycling to and from the universities easier and safer for students studying in Bournemouth.”

Find out more and sign up to the BU by Bike scheme

The scheme was launched as part of a series of events taking place at BU for Green Week, which include a Fairtrade Cook Off, Bike Tagging and a Give and Take Day.