There’s been so much going on behind the scenes since the current Sabbatical Officer team took up our positions that it’s often difficult to grab a moment to pause and take stock of some of the things we’ve all been working on. This is therefore an update on my key achievements so far this year!
Given that a blog post from me is a bit like that old joke about waiting ages for a bus to turn up before two come along at once, we’ll start with everyone’s “favourite” subject…
Following the passing of the Stagecoach – Stop Taking Us For a Ride! policy last year, we hit the ground running at the start of Term 1 with the SU’s follow-up campaign. I’m pleased to say that, due to a combination of Sabbatical Officer lobbying and public pressure on the company through sheer people-power, we managed to get Stagecoach to backtrack on most of our key demands:
* Offering replacement bus passes in the event of loss or theft (saving students hundreds of pounds);
* More Unirider buses during vacation times;
* Up-to-date payment methods are, we’re assured, coming soon! In the meantime, we also won concessions on the loss of the Sydenham route as a result of quick action when this was announced.
With regard to National Express, the SU helped with establishing the Campus Hopper service on their buses, as well as facilitating student engagement around the testing of their new app. You may also have noticed contactless payments recently being trialled on National Express buses (a longstanding source of lobbying from us!), while we’ve recently been working with NX to improve the bus service offer in student-heavy areas such as Canley and Tile Hill.
Of course, there’s always more than can be done to improve the local bus services, but I’m really pleased with the progress made in such a short time this year – it just shows what students can achieve when we work together on these issues!
In collaboration with the Student Voice team here at the SU and our Postgraduate Officer, Emily Dunford, so far I’ve helped train over 400 student Course Reps, enabling them to make changes to your degree course at a departmental level and beyond. These individuals really are the backbone of students’ academic experience at Warwick, so I’m looking forward to helping dish out the honours at our annual Rep Awards in Term 3!
I also created the first-ever Faculty Forums here at Warwick, and am leading the SU’s Academic Representation Transformation Project which aims to widen student engagement and allow Reps greater opportunities to create the changes you want to your course.
ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE IMPROVEMENTS
We’re all here to study and get our degrees, so it’s important that students have a strong voice in the way their course unfolds. Working with the Academic Representation team and our network of incredible Course Reps, there have been ongoing improvements and standardisation to the evaluation of modules, as well as the process for general student feedback. To improve your options when things don’t go quite to plan, I’ve also taken part in a review of the Mitigating Circumstances processes to ensure that these are improved and standardised across all departments.
The University’s Institutional Teaching and Learning Review (ITLR) is an ongoing project which I’ve also been heavily involved with, while I’ve also been successful in getting a working group set up to look at the impact of hidden course costs – many thanks to everyone who responded to our previous call for evidence on this issue during Term 1!
In terms of broader Higher Education policy, I’ve helped shape the University’s response to the government’s Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) and Office for Students (OfS) consultations, as well as feeding into the SU’s own written responses. Following last year’s General Election, I’m pleased that we’ve (finally!) been able to forge both strong links and a good working relationship with all our local MPs, and managed to secure their backing against fees, cuts and the National Demo back in November. It is absolutely crucial that we have allies in Parliament who are on the side of students – sadly, that wasn’t the case until recently!
This year, I created Discover My Module, which is a peer-to-peer tool designed to give advice on different academic modules – you can view the responses we’ve had in so far HERE. We also had a great response to last year’s Liberate My Module survey (the headline findings of which are online HERE), so we’ve now reopened the survey so that you can continue to tell us how well you think your curriculum embeds issues of diversity and liberation. Speaking of which…
LIBERATING THE CURRICULUM
In collaboration with the SU President, Hope Worsdale, I’ve helped created and run an alternative lecture series, Hidden Histories. These aim to open up important histories and discourses which are often erased and omitted from mainstream curricula to help create a more inclusive, liberated education. In addition to compiling the Liberate My Module findings for this year, I’ve also been working behind-the-scenes on removing some of the gendered terminology from University regulations.
Preparations for Welcome Week 2018 are now firmly underway, and I’ve been the lead SU representative in a workstream focused on Academic Induction. In particular, I’ve been making sure that the role of SSLCs and students as partners (rather than passive consumers!) of education is embedded right from the start, while raising awareness of the issue of module choice and pushing the University to instigate Module Fairs where appropriate.
One of the key points on my manifesto was the establishment of a wellbeing centre right in the heart of campus, so I’m really pleased that by inputting into the proposed redesign of Senate House there are now plans to create a Central Student Services Hub.
Another key manifesto point was to push for nap pods or nap rooms on campus, so thanks once again to everyone who filled out our Sleep Deprivation survey last term – we had some great feedback which I’ve compiled into a report to the University on the urgent need to address the situation!
See my previous blog post HERE for an update! [link]
Of course, all this is in addition to constantly making sure that the University aren’t doing daft things behind the scenes – a particularly exasperating recent example was when I had to step in to prevent them instigating Draconian rules on mobile phone usage outside of exams and toilet breaks within them. We’re always here fighting students’ corner, and I look forward to seeing what else we can accomplish before the end of the year!