I have just spent an hour writing an update for the past two weeks, however all my hard work disappeared so I will now be breaking these two weeks into one, in case the website messes up again, and I also apologise if I forget anything in this update.
On Monday 27th January, I had a bit of a sleep in before I attended a University Management Group (UMG) agenda setting meeting. UMG is made up of heads of school, University Senior Management, and heads of the directorates, and the AUSA President (me). In the future, the new Deans will also be invited to attend. In this agenda setting group, a few of us meets up with Senior Vice-Principal Karl Leydecker to decide what should be discussed at the upcoming UMG meeting, which will usually 3-4 topics that are a priority to us at the moment, or projects we wish to have feedback or a buy-in. At some point, I presented the SPA to the UMG to ensure we could have their buy-in and feedback on the agreement. The next UMG meeting will be on the 17th February, and the new Deans will be invited to join starting the one after that.
After the UMG agenda setting meeting, I had my first Mandarin lesson. I learnt about tones, initials and finals, and how to count from one to ten. Once I could count, we learnt the days of the week and the months of the year. Then after this, I hosted an AGM drop-in session, however no one attended to I made use of the time to go over the papers I had submitted to the upcoming Student Council meeting and did some readings ahead of meetings later on this week.
On Tuesday 28th, I started the day with a discussion and update on Student Council being live stream, and the NUS Referendum. Then we had a Student Experience Committee Meeting. This group is made up of the Sabbatical Officers and the AUSA CEO, Margaret, the Student Experience Team, Student Support, Directorate of Academic Services & Online Learning, Directorate of People, the Directorate of Estates and Facilities (although no one was present for her), and Directorate of Digital and Information Services (in which no one was in attendance either). I had submitted a report on AUSA beforehand and now gave a verbal update. I learnt that there is a ‘Doctoral Society’ (‘doc soc’) set up and was able to advice that they were, in fact, not affiliated with AUSA and that they’ll need to send in an application (the report previously states that they were affiliated with AUSA), so hopefully the Academic Services will pass this along and we’ll learn more about the doc soc shortly. Estates reported that there had been a 53% reduction in paper cup usage since the 35p cup charge was introduced, which I think is fantastic. I also found out that there will be new en-suite student accommodation built on campus (I think around Crombie). There have been some concerns from students and staff from China about the coronavirus, however everyone who had been tested had received negative results. There is also a significant increase in students using the Careers Service (top floor of the Students’ Union Building), which is great because they helped me a lot last year so I am happy more students know about them and use their services.
On Wednesday 29th, I had an SPA meeting regarding Priority Area 1, Communications and Engagement. I am a lead on this area, together with Scott Carle (AUSA Representative Services Manager) and Duncan Stuart (Student Experience Team, University). You can read about this priority here:
Priority 1 - Communication and Engagement
We will continue to streamline and improve our communication with students. Last year we agreed joint communication principals and adopted some new working practises to improve how we deliver messages and information to students. Through InForm and Pulse Survey the University and AUSA will continues to develop mechanisms for proactively obtaining and responding to student feedback.
To meet the needs of our diverse and disparate student community we will continue to tailor the approaches use to communicate. Through the University and AUSA communication policies, we will provide clear guidance to all internal stakeholders to ensure the right messages are being communicated at the right time and in the right way to students.
We are aware that the engagement of minority ethnic groups in activities and events is generally poor and will work to address this, particularly in sport and will continue to support and promote a range of non-academic engagement opportunities for students.
Students tell us that they have had the right opportunities to provide feedback on their course (Q23 of the NSS, 90%). What is working less effectively is the closing of feedback loops (Q25: It is clear how students’ feedback on the course has been acted on (58%). There is also a need to raise the profile of AUSA, strengthening the understanding of the vital role that AUSA plays in representing students’ academic interests through the course rep system, the Student Conveners for each School and the AUSA team of sabbatical officers and staff (Q26: The students’ union (association or guild) effectively represents students’ academic interests (47%).
We believe that addressing these issues will require a collective effort by staff and students working together to ensure effective closing of feedback loops. We will also work together to raise the profile – amongst both staff and students - of the vital work of AUSA in driving improvements to the academic as well as wider experience of students.
Number of students engaging with the Pulse Survey
Increased student and staff awareness of AUSA
Increase in the number of students from minority groups participating in sports clubs
Increased engagement from students with Course Evaluation system
Improvement in NSS results under Student Voice (especially Q25 and Q26)
You can read the full SPA (Student Partnership Agreement) here.
After this, we had a Sabbatical Team meeting. We have these meetings weekly. Before each meeting, I post an agenda with some discussion points, and once I have uploaded, the rest of the team can also add things for us to discuss. We usually talk about what we have been up to, what we are planning and challenges we have been facing. This time, we spoke about the Campaigns Fund, and the potential for a yearly budget for Forums, and the upcoming UCU strikes.
I had a meeting with AUSA’s Events coordinator to discuss an upcoming Offer Holders’ day and what I will be talking about during the presentation, and then later a Kings Quarter Project Management Group in which we received an update from the consultants and discussed feedback on the plans.
On Thursday 30th, I attended a Social Interaction Spaces meeting in the Zoology building. There, we received a tour of the re-vamped foyer, we saw the museum (I had never been to it before!) and a small nook they re-vamped to make it as an informal social space for student to eat and meet up. The actual meeting was about social spaces on campus and how to make them fit for purpose for students, and discussing existing places. Before the meeting, I had submitted an audit of the social space in the Students’ Union Building, so we spent some time talking about the Union Brew, and I pointed out that the Union Brew closes at 10PM, not 7PM as most attendees thought. For the meeting, I had brought with me a student and they gave some feedback on the library. For the next Social Interaction Spaces meeting, I am looking to bring some more students, especially a PG student and a non-UK/EU student. They haven’t set the next meeting date, but if you are interested, please get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org! Between 2PM and 5PM, I had an AGM info session, however no students attended this meeting – although some people came by to ask about Roombookings and Societies.
Friday 31st started with a Planning and Issues meeting with the other Sabbatical Officers and the AUSA Senior Managers, we discuss updates on what we are doing and challenges we are facing during these meetings, and set plans for what we are doing going forward. Directly after this meeting, I had a SPA priority 4 (student living) meeting as I am a lead for that priority together with Karen Scaife (University Student Experience Team) and Danielle (AUSA Activities Development Manager). You can see what priority 4 looks like below:
Priority 4 - Student Living
Student life is much more than getting an academic education. We are committed to providing facilities and infrastructure conducive to supporting our students in all they do. The campus development programme is ongoing. Last year saw the redevelopment of the ground floor of the Union building to provide AUSA with a home, the upgrading of induction loop system and introduction of new bookable study pods for students.
We will continue to provide a broad range of opportunities for students to engage with social and co-curricular activities by working to understand and meet the needs of students on all our campuses, including specific segments such as PG’s, commuting students, carers etc.
Development of timely engagement programme and services to support postgraduate and commuting students
Increased availability of and engagement with services offered at Foresterhill
Increased awareness of bookable study and social spaces
Increased usage of bookable study and social spaces
Increased availability of safe student social spaces
Increased awareness of available study space
The number of student members of Groups, societies, sports clubs
I caught up on a lot of readings I have to do before meetings next week, and then I met with some students from the Chinese Student Scholar society as they wished to host a fundraiser for Wuhan in the Union Brew. Unfortunately, we were so fully booked for the next couple of weeks that they decided to have their fundraiser outside of Fraser Nobel instead.