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Democracy

Postgraduate Officer:
Andrew Thompson

Andrew Thompson is the SU's Postgraduate Officer.

Blog

  • Thu 05 Feb 2015 10:29

    Warwick SU is currently one of only six Students’ Unions that have a full-time Postgraduate Officer – and, now more than ever, it is so important that we have a full-time position for it. I am Warwick’s third Postgraduate Officer, with the position having been created by the 2011/12 Sabbatical Team in their Democracy Review.

    At Warwick, almost 50% of the student body are postgraduates. That is a huge number of students, representing a diverse group with specific needs. These needs, both within the Students’ Union and the University, were not being adequately addressed before the creation of the Postgraduate Officer position - before, postgraduates were served by a mismatch of different Sabbatical Officers looking after particular areas of concern, often failing to appreciate that some issues are postgraduate-specific.

    Since the position was created, a real difference has been made here at Warwick. A Pro-Vice Chancellor has been appointed with a portfolio specifically covering postgraduate students, ensuring that postgraduate issues are at the heart of the University’s strategic planning. A Welcome Week for incoming postgraduate students has also been established, while the PG Hub was opened following work by the Postgraduate SSLCs. We helped make sure that over 250 postgraduates were not left homeless when there was inadequate housing provision, and set up Saturday Sessions and REx Fest events designed to meet postgraduate needs. The Students’ Union created The Graduate as a space for postgraduates, and we have had more postgraduates involved in societies and sports year-on-year plus a 100% increase in the number of spaces for postgraduates on Student Council. We won the right for postgraduates who teach to have car parking spaces, helped set up application mentoring sessions for prospective PhD students, and have campaigned for national postgraduate loans (which will now be introduced in limited form from September 2016). This is in addition to supporting the work of the other Sabbatical Officers, ensuring that the issues most important to students are properly fought for. 

    At times it can feel like you are six Sabbatical Officers in one, going from helping postgraduates find housing and giving them welfare advice to trying to improve office and space provision for PGs throughout the University! I am still not even halfway through my year as your Postgraduate Officer, but I have already seen real results delivered for postgraduate students at Warwick. However, there is still so much more for us to do! There is so much that you can help improve for postgraduate students and those wanting to go onto postgraduate study here at Warwick – and that’s why I encourage anyone who is interested in fighting for students to consider running for a Sabbatical Officer position. If you are interested in standing to be our next Postgraduate Officer, please get in touch with us! Nominations close this Friday via www.warwicksu.com/elections

  • Wed 28 Jan 2015 12:43

    The seemingly never-ending roadworks and improvements moved into another stage this past Sunday, which means that they are closer to being finished (yay!) but this has also caused considerable problems with getting on and off campus (boo!)

     

    The University have published details of all the changes on their “Keep Campus Moving” webpages – however, judging by the questions and queries from many of you, it has not made it particularly clear! Despite being in my sixth year here, I must admit that it took me a few minutes to work out the maps that the University have produced, so I completely understand the confusion. We’ve attempted to simplify the maps slightly on the SU website HERE, but let me try and point out the changes as we understand them:

     

    1) The temporary bus stops that were located outside of SUHQ and next to Humanities are now gone and are not in use. The buses are now coming onto campus via the Scarman Road roundabout, with the first stop being at the Gatehouse, and the second stop the main Humanities stop. There seems to be some confusion around these two stops, with some students reporting that bus drivers are saying that they are for drop off only, whilst other students reporting that drivers are happily letting them on. Officially, however, Travel Coventry are apparently using them for both drop-off and pick-up, while Stagecoach are using them for drop-off only.

     

    2) After the Humanities stop, buses are going down the small road between the Sports Centre and Car Park 8a, round the back of Maths and Stats, and back out up onto University Road next to Car Park 15; this loop is being called the ‘Academic Loop’. There are three bus stops on this route – AL1, AL2, AL3 – and they are all helpfully labelled on the University maps for each of the buses on this page, giving the suggestion you can get each bus at any of the stops. Unfortunately, however, this is not actually the case. At bus stop AL1, closest to Claycroft, you can get the 360A and 360C buses. At AL2 you can get buses to Coventry, and at AL3 you can get buses to Leamington. We have produced a slightly more detailed map for you showing where the stops are, located here.

     

    3) These bus changes, as well as the general campus works, are causing considerable accessibility issues. There have been lots of large loose stones and very uneven surfaces at the new bus stops on the Academic Loop (which is unsuitable for those in wheelchairs, with visual impairments or mobility difficulties), while the bus shelters are only just far enough back for a wheelchair user to get on a bus with the ramp when there is no one else behind them at the bus stop. It disappoints me greatly that not only have the University been unclear with their communications to students on these changes, but they also appear to have not given due care to making sure that students with access needs are taken into consideration. If there are any students suffering with accessibility issues, please do not hesitate to get in touch with myself via postgrads@warwicksu.com or Jenny Wheeler, Disabled Students’ Officer, via j.s.wheeler@warwick.ac.uk.

     

    Hopefully that has cleared the situation up somewhat (though sadly it doesn’t lessen the ongoing inconvenience caused by these works!) – it is worth noting that we will shortly be launching a new campaign on Buses as a result of the overwhelming response to our recent Transport Survey here at the SU. In the meantime, if there are any other changes or information, we will update you via the SU website and SU Facebook page

  • Wed 21 Jan 2015 16:24

    In the Autumn Statement on 3rd December, Chancellor George Osborne made an announcement that has been sorely needed for many years: the government are introducing loans for postgraduate study.

    Lack of funding availability has meant that postgraduate study has simply not been accessible for many, and it was one of the issues in my elections manifesto which had the greatest resonance amongst students. Postgraduate students at Warwick have been paying the up-front costs of postgraduate courses through means such as credit cards, pay-day lenders, or studying part-time whilst working long hours - and those are just the students who are here. It does not include the many potential postgraduate students who never made it into PG study because of a lack of means to pay for their course being too big a barrier.

    As the PG Officer, it is constantly brought home to me what an issue this really is and has been for postgraduates. It is upsetting every time a student emails me asking about temporary withdrawal, or asking for help with alternative funding solutions (including charities and crowdfunding) because they simply cannot afford to fund their studies or living costs.

    It is also worth noting here that the HE consortium which the University itself belongs to has been publicly opposing such a scheme for quite some time now – their rationale being simply that “our Postgrads can afford to pay”. This means that not only is Warwick one of the most unequal universities in terms of access at undergraduate level, its refusal to distance itself from this stance suggests that they are keen to ensure this trend remains intact at postgraduate level, too.

    At this stage, we do not know all of the details of the loans, but we will update you as soon as more details are announced! This is what has currently been announced:

    - The loans will be income contingent.

    - They will only be available for those under 30 years old.

    - The loans will be available for postgraduate taught masters in any subject.

    - These loans will be up to the value of £10,000.

    - The loan scheme will be available from the Academic Year 2016-17.

    - The loans will be repaid alongside any undergraduate loans.

    - The scheme is designed so that, on average, individuals will fully repay the loans.

    - The Government’s preferred repayment method is to charge an interest rate of RPI+3%, and repayments of 9% of income above a threshold of £21,000, frozen for 5 years.

    - The Government will be consulting on the detail, including repayment, at the start of this year, and will confirm the delivery plan following that.

    - The scheme will be available to both part time and full time students.

    - The scheme is for England only – English domiciled and EU students at any English university.

    - For this coming Academic Year, 2015-16, as a bridge to the new policy, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) will allocate £50 million for universities to offer bursaries, on a match funded basis. These will be £10,000 each and will benefit 10,000 students.


    Along with other Postgraduate Officers and members of the student movement, I have been arguing for a more comprehensive national loan system for postgraduate education. The proposed Postgraduate Loans help remove some of that financial barrier, in turn making postgraduate study much more accessible than the current setup. I definitely believe that these measures are a step in the right direction, though we should still aspire to expand the proposals in the future to make them more accessible for all.

    In this General Election year, we have a very strong opportunity to lobby for further improvements in this area – so I’m interested to hear from PG students directly so that I can start building a file of case studies. How have you funded your studies? What sort of impact has financial hardship had on your studies, personal life or teaching? What would a Postgraduate Loan have meant to you? Please email your thoughts to postgrads@warwicksu.com – the more responses we get, the better our chances of lobbying for a more inclusive system!

  • Mon 24 Nov 2014 20:24

    Postgraduate Open Day

     

    This Wednesday there is a Postgraduate Open Day taking place at the University, offering current final year students, as well as prospective external students, the chance to see what postgraduate study is like, and what departments have to offer. If you are a current Warwick undergraduate pondering the prospect of postgraduate study, then do sign up and have a look and a listen - http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/visits/opendays.

     

    The Postgraduate Open Day gives us a chance to reflect on the extremely large PG population that we have here at Warwick – I shall continue to go on about how almost 50% of the student body are postgraduates! It is something that we do not celebrate enough – all of you postgraduate students bring so much to this University, and to this Union, and it is an absolute pleasure to work for you in improving postgrad life at Warwick. Therefore, Wednesday should also be about you!

     

    To that end, it would be great to see you in The Graduate on Wednesday, 12-3pm (up the stairs between SUHQ and the main SU building on central campus, opposite Warwick Arts Centre). We shall be making our drinks happy hour prices for the occasion, and we have our burger and a drink offer, as well as our Cheep Cheep menu for you all. There will also be some of our great societies performing and showcasing, and talking about how you can get involved with them.

     

    If you have any questions or comments about anything postgraduate related, I will be around both The Graduate and PG Hub on Wednesday, as always I am contactable by email at postgrads@warwicksu.com. I shall see you all on Wednesday!   

  • Wed 15 Oct 2014 12:32

    So it’s day number 45 for me as your Postgraduate Officer, and I’m now into my sixth year here at Warwick. In my time at the University, and in the Students’ Union, it has always amazed me how much effort and care so many of the staff here put into everything they do. As students we can often be very quick to criticise, and yet not always as forthcoming with praise despite all the positive and great things that go on – I therefore want to use this blog for praise and thanks!

    Firstly, thank you to all the University staff who care so deeply about students here at Warwick – the personal tutors who go above and beyond their duties, the departmental secretaries who respond tirelessly in a cheery manner to all requests and questions, the domestic staff who at times have to deal with some of our awful messes and yet are still there for us as almost parental figures away from home, and all the other great University staff members who make our lives here as enjoyable and as easy as possible. On a personal level, I would particularly like to thank all of the staff at Disability Services – what you do to help disabled students here at Warwick is unbelievable and life-changing; I know I would not be here in this position now without you.

    Secondly, to all you Postgraduates who teach and put in so many hours above and beyond what you are actually paid to do (which in turn helps your undergraduate students no end), I salute you. You are a massively integral part of this University which I am so proud of, and I shall continue to support you all, pushing for contracts where you do not have them and lobbying for transparent and fair pay.

    Next, to our Students’ Union staff – I really do not know how you manage to do it at times! You care so much about our students, and again show that in the many hours that you work above and beyond what you actually get paid for. Thank you for all that the support you have given me in this first month-and-a-half to help make postgraduates have the best time possible, find houses, get involved in Sports and Societies, secure greater representation, and everything else (including all my odd requests and ideas!)

    Finally, to all our student staff - a seriously massive thank you! The first three weeks of term are so hectic, with our venues constantly busy, loads of leaflets and flyers to deliver, and all sorts of logistical things to get involved with. From our bar staff in The Dirty Duck and Terrace Bar to our Street Team members, Copper Rooms stewards and Student Reception staff, your attitudes towards knuckling down with things – not to mention your politeness and courteousness towards your fellow students, even in times of great stress - consistently impresses me. You are a huge part of what makes this Union so great – from myself and my fellow Sabbatical Officers, thank you so much for all you do!

Contact Me

Andrew's office is on the 2nd floor of SUHQ.

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The election for Postgraduate Officer takes place during the Officer Elections in Term 2.

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