“What do you actually do?” is a question that’s been thrown at me quite a lot this semester and that’s totally fine. The first six months have been a massive learning experience and I’m still actually coming to grips with my role; in essence what I actually do is literally a bit of everything! It’s not easy by any means and I was genuinely scared for what was coming ahead. I’ve had to learn about things I’d never heard of before like; TEF, HE Governance Bill (really important!), being a Trustee, learning how to lead, learning how to make critical decisions, learning about the university, learning about other universities, learning how to prioritise, learning how to be a governor… Lots of learning! Nevertheless it’s what you elected me to do so here is my 6-month round up of summer and this term!
Setting the Foundations
First of all we hired and now have a full complement of staff – the first time in six years. AUSA believe it or not isn’t just 4 officers and a President in a building, but it’s actually also the staff here through every Sabbatical changeover keeping the organisation and the sports and societies going.
- We have a proper graphic designer, a communications and media coordinator, a charities and fundraising coordinator, and a properly staffed and managed student advice centre.
- In addition to this I instigated and facilitated a move of building from Johnston to the Students’ Union Building or as some have colloquially named it ‘InfoPub’ (formerly the Hub) and I now chair the Union Board of Management (UBM); a group set up to oversee the commercial ventures in the Building i.e. the newly installed bar Union Brew.
The bar is a continual work in progress and a quick solution to what is a longstanding problem; but there’s still so much work I’m doing on your behalf to create an improved social space for students. On top of that, we’ve been evaluating the relevance of the AUSA brand and working on rebranding the image entirely for next semester so hopefully now AUSA should be in a better place moving forward as a functional association.
Safety, Welfare, Health & Wellbeing
Safety is paramount and I’ve been working closely with the university to make sure that where possible there is an adequate presence of security on campus. I also sit on the Advisory Group for Business Continuity and Resilience and have been pushing student safety to the forefront of the agenda. I have worked intensively with Margaret Ross the Vice-Principal for People and Naveed Qamar Director of Health, Safety and Wellbeing towards ensuring that robust mechanisms of welfare support are available for students and staff.
On November 9th I gave a presentation at the launch of the Mental Health & Wellbeing Strategy to the University and external members about the services that AUSA provides such as our award winning Nightline service and highlighted areas where both organisations could collaborate effectively. I also include Nightline statistics in my reports University Court and updates on student wellbeing. The outcomes so far:
- The university has now teamed up with SafeZone and have launched the Critical Arc Safezone app for students and staff; when triggered it will connect you to the university security member team, sending an emergency responder or security personnel to your location. It’s free to download and is easily accessible!
- AUSA and the University are continuing to highlight the importance of mental health and welfare support and working together to shape policies to promote wellbeing.
- The university are now training staff volunteers to be wellbeing coordinators to support staff members.
- Campaigns will be run by the university with support from AUSA to promote a healthy and active lifestyle.
Campus, Community, and Capital Projects
The University has a plan to for some major and necessary capital redevelopments of the campus and it’s been exciting to be involved to the extent that I have been. I sit on Capital Project Management Committee and we evaluated the priority developments to submit as a proposal to University Court.
- The new Science Teaching Hub project and the Law School project came out as the two priority developments
- Science Teaching Hub – Project Management Group (STPMG) was formed
Since its inception I’ve sat on STPMG alongside senior academics, architects, university Estates department inputting to the design and technical aspects of the proposed teaching hub; on your behalf I’ve been highlighting where there is potential to maximise the teaching and learning experience, not only for students but its use for the wider community as an education centre.
I’ve been working this entire semester with Student Recruitment and Admissions Services (SRAS) to design a series of widening access events for schools with low progression rates to University. The aim of these are to:
- Highlight the benefits of continuing into further and higher education
- Remove stigma attached to ancient universities
- Aim to raise application rates
- Create mentoring links between current undergraduate students and potential applicants in S4-S6
- Create networking opportunities for school students involved in sport
On the topic of teaching, I’ve been doing a lot of work towards getting expanded teaching materials i.e. lecture recordings online and available for students. I’ve met with Vice-Principal for Teaching & Learning Professor Peter McGeorge and discussed the logistics around trialling a streaming-lining of lecture materials in some schools. In that time:
- Many academics including the Principal are on board for the idea
- I’ve contributed to a paper proposal to submit to the University Committee on Teaching and Learning for discussion and potential approval before it reaches Senatus Academicus (Senate) for further debate and discussion.
Leading the Way
Being President is more than just a title; you’re a representative figure and also a leader. Making decisions that affect almost 14,000 students is surprisingly no easy feat. As part of my role I sit ex officio on University Court, one of the highest governing bodies of the University which meets four times a year. Having access to such a senior body is important in ensuring that the University is aware of the critical student issues and also successes. Operating Board, a sub-committee of Court does the day-day grind.
- I’m continually highlighting the importance and necessity to support our welfare services.
- I have been involved with the recruitment and appointment of a new Senior Governor to Court, who supports and Principal and ensures that Court runs with effective governance. (If Court can’t function then we have a real issue downstream for the university).
I’ll make my reports to University Court available for you to read in the new term.
Friday 21st October saw the official launch of the Aurora Network take place at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. As part of the network launch a student delegation comprising of two students from each partner university were tasked to prepare a presentation expressing their expectations and ambitions from the Aurora collaboration. The student delegates engaged in intensive workshops discussing in depth the issues students and universities face in the current climate of Higher Education, placing this in a global context.
- Took student issues to an international platform
- Sit on the Aurora Student Council – discussing how we can create opportunities to implement in the coming years for students within the network
- Presented a case analysis to international senior executives and Principals from a student perspective of the current issues students and future graduates will face i.e. critical impact of Brexit, rising tuition fees, saturated job markets etc.
Having regular 1-2-1 meetings with individuals such as the Principal, the University Secretary, Alumni Relations, and Development Trust allow me to continually drive student matters to the necessary avenues and also to maintain strong connections. Meetings with the Principal have been critical this year given the many issues that have been presented to students and the university. We discuss:
- Student welfare and wellbeing
- Investment into developing the union building
- The recent job cuts and impact on teaching and learning
- AUSA and the university
I chair the Student Executive Committee and hold regular meetings with the Sabbatical Officers to monitor progress of campaigns and so that we can all catch-up on each other’s work. I chair AUSA’s Trustee Board and also sit ex officio as a trustee of the Rocking Horse Nursery.
Then amidst the meetings and madness I’m helping you all with day to day problems whether it’s a room booking or an academic issue, you need to rant or you can’t find the registry office. My email inbox is never empty! But that’s part and parcel of the job and what I’m here for. It’s definitely been a whirlwind six months and there’s so much work still to take forward for next semester so keep an eye out.
- More work to be done on the Union Building and Bar
- Increased visibility of officers and more transparent communications
- Rebranded AUSA
- Campaigns on welfare and wellbeing
I’m always at the end of the phone or an email away so literally fire all your issues my way (or in the direction of AUSA) and we’ll do what we can to help and support you. Hope you’ve found this succinct-ish but if you want to know any more about the work I’m doing or the role of President contact me any time during term time.
Make sure you rest up over the holidays, have some peace and quiet. Best of luck with all your exam results as well. Merry Christmas, happy New Year and see you all in the new term!