This handbook is intended to serve two purposes -- to help committee members of pre-existing societies grow and impact their local community further; and to guide proactive students as they establish their own successful space societies. In this document you will find information about every aspect of starting and running a space society, written by committee members of existing UKSEDS branches from across the UK. While this document is structured in a logical and roughly chronological order, each section is self-contained, so feel free to jump around sections if you wish.
The quality of this handbook is being continuously improved through the collective feedback of the UKSEDS community itself. Feel free to reach out to the UKSEDS Membership team if you have suggestions to improve this guide via [email protected]
UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (UKSEDS) is the UK’s national student space society. For over 30 years we have been supporting students and young professionals across the country by running events, providing resources, and teaching them new skills relevant to the space industry. Our alumni network spans across the global space sector in government, industry, and academia.
We are an organisation run entirely by students for students. We have branches in universities throughout the UK. We volunteer our time and provide a unique insight into the UK space sector from a students’ perspective. This allows us to effect change by using our expertise and data to advocate for development of the space skills pipeline.
UKSEDS is the UK chapter of the global SEDS movement that includes sister organisations in the United States, Canada, India, Singapore, and many other countries.
If you have got this far, chances are that you are a fan of space exploration and development. Being a part of the UKSEDS branch network means you will meet other space enthusiasts and work on space projects together.
First and foremost, doing so will establish a local community of like-minded students, all with a passion for space. A branch not only provides these individuals with a place to meet and get to know each other, but can benefit them in a variety of other ways. By being a part of UKSEDS, members of a branch will gain access to a national community of students through a number of events and competitions that will serve to hone their skills beyond their university course. These activities, as well as contact with industry, will help branch members to make valuable connections and expand their network as they move towards a career in the space sector. As a branch of UKSEDS, your society will receive guidance from UKSEDS on how to make all of this possible, as well as how to be a fun, welcoming, and inclusive group!We need your help to support passionate students interested in space and spread the positive impact of space to the local student space community in your area. Each year during the UKSEDS National Student Space Conference (NSSC), leaders of each UKSEDS Branch will be invited to attend the Annual Branch Leaders Meeting. This meeting aims to address issues of collaboration and growth. A strong collaboration with local branches helps UKSEDS to reach a wider audience, and therefore better realise our vision and mission, to engage young people with the space sector.
Your Students’ Union (SU) will have a framework for how to register a new university society and affiliate it with them. This will vary between universities, so it is best to contact them for advice on what is specifically required of you.
Typically, you will have to start by completing a society proposal document and submitting it to the SU, who will then allow you to proceed with establishing the society and affiliating it.
To complete the affiliation process, you will most likely need to write a constitution, open a bank account, establish a committee, find a number of members, attend training, and complete a general risk assessment. The steps will vary with your university, as well as requirements for how they should be completed.
Once you have successfully created your society or have an already-established society and want to affiliate it with UKSEDS as a branch, you will need to fill in the branch registration form, which can be found on the Branches section of our UKSEDS website
Branch registration form
Please note that UKSEDS Branches must reaffiliate in March of every year after the annual UKSEDS AGM.
You will need to submit the following details:
Once the form has been submitted, our Membership team will review the application and get back to you once your affiliation has been confirmed. For any questions, please contact the Membership team at [email protected]
Affiliation with UKSEDS has many benefits for not just for the society as a whole but for individual members of the society as well. UKSEDS branches can apply for grants, participate in national and industry-relevant competitions, receive guidance on management and activities, as well as connecting to the national student space community. The leaders of a branch (a.k.a. the President/Chair and main committee members) will be put in contact with other branch leaders from all over the UK, forming a larger network of student space leaders through a private channel on the UKSEDS Discord Server.
Here are some of the benefits of affiliation:
We strongly recommend that the following key roles are included in your core committee:
The President is responsible for the overall integrity, growth, and performance of the society, hosting meetings, helping other members of the committee, and dealing with any unforeseen circumstances. It is not recommended to hold a second role alongside this.
The Secretary or Vice President is responsible for organising society documents, booking rooms, communicating with your members (via email or other social media channels), minuting meetings, and assisting both the president and other committee members. If your committee is large, it may be worthwhile to have the secretary and vice president as two separate roles.
The Treasurer is responsible for managing the society’s finance and budgeting. Whilst some Students’ Unions provide a way to track your funds, we recommend that you also track them through a spreadsheet separately as this will allow you to plan your funds in a more efficient manner throughout the year. It is not recommended to hold a second role alongside this.
Responsible for organising evening social events, such as nights out, board games night, and barbeques.
You can also create any other roles your core committee sees fit. One thing to watch out for is to avoid defining too many roles before deciding the activities and focus of the society. More often than not, student societies will have too many roles and too few activities, causing the responsibilities to be too widespread and hence the focus is lost. A role should only be created if there is a need for executing certain society activity; not the other way around.
In terms of management and leadership, a general rule is that a smaller team is always easier to manage than a large team. If you find that there are many passionate and outstanding individuals in your society, consider having a core committee with several departments reporting to them. A good example would be the organisational structure of UKSEDS, composed of a core committee of Executive members and several Team Leads each leading a department such as Careers, Outreach, Membership, Diversity, Events, etc.
Finance and budgeting can be a challenge, so most universities or SU will host training sessions for treasurers of the society.The following items are important to consider when managing a branch’s finances:
We also recommend that you keep your own records of finances in a spreadsheet. This will allow you to track money from multiple sources effectively, as well as simplifying the creation of new budgets through viewing expenses from previous years.
In order to fund projects, it can be useful to contact companies and ask for sponsorship. Your SU will usually have a set method for organising sponsorships that you should follow. Generally, it will be important to have a Sponsorship Package detailing what your society is and what you can offer the company. It is often helpful to include priced “packages” or “tiers” for your sponsor to select from, as this will allow you to write a template contract in advance and simply change the details to fit a particular company. That having been said, do not be afraid to negotiate a unique contract with sponsors, so that you can come to an agreement which benefits both the sponsor and your society.
Events and activities are the best tool you can use to bond with your members. We would recommend aiming for a good mix of academic / careers and socials. When planning socials, it is worth considering holding non-alcoholic socials (where no alcohol is served), to be inclusive of those who do not drink.
Under the section Appendix 1 is a list of potential activities to host within your branch, in case you need some ideas to inspire you or simply some fun ideas to work around!
UKSEDS also organises national events and competitions, please see our website for details.
Building a sense of community is important for the growth of a society. Here are a number of suggestions to interact and engage (online and offline) with your members:
A society isn’t just a formal organisation - having a group chat can help create a sense of community, as well as provide a more direct way to communicate with your most dedicated members. Be sure to choose a platform that a majority of your members can access easily e.g. if you have a popular Facebook Page, use a Facebook group chat. Some societies even have a dedicated Discord server for their members.
Most universities have an event where societies can meet first year students for the first time. First impressions are everything - try to have posters, banners, and plenty of friendly faces at your stand. Also having a fast way to sign members up to a newsletter (e.g. a Google form sign-up) is a great way to boost engagement.
Early on in the year, students of all years will be looking for new societies to join. Having events, such as a Freshers’ Fair, that allow students to meet new people is a great way to attract new members.
As part of UKSEDS Code of Conduct, it is important to ensure all interaction and engagement are accessible and inclusive (see the Diversity section).
Social media is one of the most popular ways to advertise your society and any upcoming events. Always ensure that your social media channels are active and engage with your members! An easy way to do this is have a rota or timeline of what to post (i.e. when a launch is happening, when the committee changes, etc.). Be careful to avoid spam though, as posting too often can result in posts not appearing in followers’ feeds.
It’s all about pictures, so make sure they are good quality and eye catching. Also, an easy, quick and effective way to continually engage with your followers is through the story capabilities on the app. The poll function is one good example of engaging with your followers.
Many large companies and organisations use Twitter actively, so it’s a great way to engage with these potential sponsors and job providers. Twitter is more formal than other platforms, so keep content informative and slightly more professional.
It is a good idea to have a Facebook group or page to share any events that may occur in the society as members can choose to have notifications when an event is happening. A group or page can be a good way to share other events outside of the society itself, like online talks, internship opportunities, interesting articles and more!
Not everybody has social media, but everyone at your university will be given a university email address. Sending out a frequent newsletter can help with both advertising events as well as any opportunities open to your members.
A general idea for the structure of a newsletter can be a summary of the past (what has happened), the present (what is happening), and the future (what will happen next). However, this does not mean a newsletter should be restricted to just the above structure.
Here is a helpful website to explore wild ideas
The branding of your society and the graphics you use to promote it are independent of UKSEDS; this does not change once you affiliate as a branch. Our branches use a variety of fonts, colours, logos, and themes in their branding, and are free to choose them as they see fit.
The only branding requirements from UKSEDS is when your society uses our logo or opts to advertise UKSEDS independently of the branch itself. The UKSEDS logo and other UKSEDS logos should never be modified by any branch, although in situations where the subtitle is not legible due to size constraints, it may also be omitted.
If you have any questions about what any of this means, feel free to contact the UKSEDS membership team at [email protected] or find us through our dedicated members-only UKSEDS community in Discord.
Engaging with companies is a great way to help your members start to build their careers in the space sector. You could invite speakers to talk to your society about their career journeys, ask for sponsorship, or even see if they would collaborate on a project. The best way to engage with companies is to reach out to them via LinkedIn. You are more than welcome to tell them that you are a UKSEDS branch, but please make sure that they understand any agreements you make are between your society and the company, not UKSEDS.
By nature, student societies tend to see a high turnover of committee positions. Eventually someone will succeed and lead the future of the society. Therefore, providing training and development to newer members of your society is crucial for them to understand how a society functions -- what is good to continue and what needs to be further improved.
Consider having a structure setup to gradually involve your members to contribute and learn more about your society. For example, you can pair up senior members with junior members in specific engineering projects or outreach events; or even consider a buddy system within your society. There are many ways to engage and involve newer members, and it is the responsibility of the core committee members to ensure this is done properly.
It is really important that, at the end of the year, your committee has a proper handover with the newly elected committee. This may include a detailed explanation of the responsibilities which come with each role, information about how to run core events, and any projects which may be ongoing. It should also include information for annual events and tasks, such as advice for Freshers’ Week events and how to reaffiliate with UKSEDS (you could even include this document!).
A good handover will mean that the new committee won’t have to spend too much time figuring out how to run the society, and can get straight to work on building it further. This should result in a seamless transition when the next academic year begins.Handovers could take the form of a written document, but they are often more effective in person, as the new committee will have the opportunity to ask any question which they may have.
Diversity and inclusion are core parts of the UKSEDS philosophy, and are important for many reasons. Certain groups may have greater difficulties getting into the space industry. It should be recognised that these individuals have unique and valuable perspectives, and that it is imperative to promote diversity and inclusion to take these into account. Those who are privileged, by virtue of not being discriminated against, are obligated to utilise this privilege to give others a platform to be heard. It is also the responsibility of a branch to make their activities as accessible as possible. Any modifications or actions that can be made to events to accommodate members should be taken. UKSEDS’ Diversity Guide provides in-depth details on how to make your branch diverse, inclusive, and accessible. Please see the full guide on our website.
Meet like-minded students from other branches, explore what other branches are doing to actively engage their local community, learn from alumni about navigating your own space career, and many more -- all happening in one platform.
The UKSEDS Discord Server is a text and voice chat server run by UKSEDS to give its members (from across the country) a place to chat about all things space!
The server offers channels to discuss a number of topics, including but not limited to space engineering, space sciences, space sustainability, space exploration, space policy, and corporate space. We also update members on career opportunities in the space sector, upcoming events, and webinars through the server, as well as offering community talks, and weekly polls.
A link to join the server will be provided when one registers as a UKSEDS Member, alternatively you may distribute this link. Each of your members must sign up as a UKSEDS member and follow the instructions provided by the Member Verification Bot in order to participate in discussions. A membership number and email address will be needed to verify each member. If you encounter any difficulties, you can post in the #tech-support channel and our team will walk you through the verification process!
As an affiliated branch, you will also be eligible for UKSEDS’ branch project grants. These grants aim to provide branches with the funds to start new projects and expand existing ones, so that they can more easily obtain alternative funding in the future.
The award is for a maximum of 50% of costs up to £250 as evidenced by receipts. There is no maximum total pot for each year. Funding is provided from UKSEDS’ general funds and has no specific source.
Preference will be given to applications which:
All successful applicants must agree to:
Applications are considered on a rolling basis. More information about the Branch Project Grants can be found in the branches section of our website.
SpaceCareers.uk is our careers website, dedicated to students and recent graduates looking for opportunities in the space sector. Our website offers a centralised location for young people to find out about jobs, internships and academic positions, and upcoming events. There is also a wide variety of resources available, such as interviews, job profiles, regularly updated articles, and our newly made webinar series, Careers Launch Online. These resources can help our (and your) members get a head start on their careers in the space sector, and help them find opportunities they would otherwise not have access to.
In 2017 SpaceCareers.uk was recognised by the Prime Minister as "a crucial service to thousands of people across the country that want to learn more about careers in the space industry", and continues to play a key role in the early careers space arena.
The National Student Space Conference (NSSC) is our flagship event of the year. First held in 1989 at London’s Science Museum, we now welcome over 500 students and recent graduates from across the country to an action-packed 2-day conference filled with talks from leading space professionals, panel sessions, a careers fair, and networking sessions. Every year, many UKSEDS branches arrange trips to send delegations to the conference. To further support this, UKSEDS is able to provide large groups with Travel Bursaries to help with transportation costs.
Each year we select one branch to host the conference; applications typically open in June. For NSSC 2021, for the first time ever we are hosting it online.
The BIS promotes the exploration and use of space worldwide. The Society hosts events including meetings, symposia, educational and outreach events, and more. It also publishes the JBIS, its monthly academic journal, as well as SpaceFlight magazine.
SGAC is a global network for students and young professionals with an interest in the space industry. The organisation hosts workshops, webinars, and more as well as offering project groups and other ways to get involved.
The IET is a global organisation representing the engineering profession in all sectors. They host a wide variety of events and can help with careers.
The RAeS is dedicated to supporting aerospace professionals. They host events including webinars and conferences, as well as offering help to students and young professionals through resources, guidance, and even scholarships. Students get free membership.
A website that hosts a calendar of space-related events around the globe. Everything from conferences to workshops, symposia, webinars, networking events, and training courses are included.
A society that encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science.
In light of the current global pandemic (as of the time of writing this guide), you may find that both your organisational structure and events have been forced to move online. We are unsure of how long this ‘new normal’ will last, so it is worth considering how you can utilise it to maximise your productivity.
Committee meetings are something which can be done very effectively in a virtual setting. At UKSEDS, we’ve been practicing this for over 30 years, however remote working has changed dramatically since we started. We tend to use Google Meet for regular meetings - it allows us to hear and see each other no matter where in the world we are (and has the best Closed Captions) - but it really doesn’t matter which platform you choose, there are so many out there! One thing we’ve found is that it’s great to keep your camera on, where possible, as it helps to foster better engagement, especially if your team doesn’t know each other very well at the start.
Other administrative tasks can be organised over Google Drive, which allows you to edit documents together in real time, and over group servers like Slack and Discord.
Keeping your members engaged virtually may seem slightly more daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Having a place for them to connect with other members in their own time, like a Discord server, can be a great substitute for bumping into people on campus.
Virtual events, however, need to be more structured. Quizzes, challenge nights, and academic talks, broken up by informal chat may need to substitute for bar crawls for the near future. Some ground rules might need to be set at the beginning of each event to avoid talking over each other, such as using Zoom’s hand raising function or keeping mics on mute until you have something to say. This keeps some order, to what can be a hectic evening. Be aware of posing call links to social media, as anyone could click on these, to stay safe, try to only post these on your society chats or mailing lists.