Written by: Tonari Arikekpar, VP Education https://www.upsu.com/representation/representatives/vpeducation/
The year started with handover trainings and inductions over the summer. Following my training I have been fully immersed in my role since freshers and graduations where I was privileged to give the SU vote of thanks at four ceremonies including my own.
I have included brief summaries on some of what I have been working on since then.
Elected School Reps and I have been receiving feedback from students concerned about university plans to stop digital streaming of lectures to the wider student body and move all learning back to face-to -face.
We are currently running a survey to collect feedback from the larger student body to present to the relevant university staff and committees.
Effective Representation and mental health & wellbeing support:
Course Rep elections and training are now complete with academics and university support staff supporting the election of the Reps.
Working alongside student voice, information packs have been included in the e-learning module to train course reps to signpost effectively to mental health and we-being support services.
The first academic subcommittee held on the 15th of November with over 70 course reps and school reps in attendance. Supported by Emma from student voice, I chaired the committee meeting and collected very useful feedbacks and complaints from the reps present.
Increasing Postgraduate students’ engagements:
In the summer I and student voice team began working on a series of ideas and events to increase postgraduate students’ engagement with the student’s union and the university. We began with a treasure trail event, followed by the postgraduate welcome event which had over 60 postgraduate taught and research students in attendance.
We are working with the PGR & PGT part-time officers to support our students, as well as review the possibility of setting up a PGR & PGT society to ensure continuity.
Encouraging Research culture:
Supported by the student-voice team, I am launching a new initiative called ‘WHAT’S NEXT?’ with the PGT students and doctoral college.
It is an event slated for February that aims to encourage students thinking about research and provide that opportunity to interact with people who have already walked the path.
The sabbatical team has been working intently on issues concerning accommodations. I helped write a paper with the VP wellbeing and diversity and UPSU’s senior managers on accommodation for international students (highlighting postgraduate taught and students with families) and the impact of the current shortfall of accommodations in Plymouth.
Inclusivity in the curriculum and reading lists:
I have been looking into inclusivity in the curriculum by reviewing minutes of EDI committees and looking at course reading lists.
In addition to inclusivity, I am also looking at the availability and accessibility of course reading materials with regards to costs of living.
International student support:
Identifying the need for more focused support for our growing international student population, I launched a weekly event called International Student Meet-up in collaboration with Nicola from International Students Advice. The aim of which is to provide more specific/practical information about studying and living in Plymouth.
We meet in the SU lounge every Thursday from 4-5pm.
I regularly hold one to one catch-up meetings with assigned Part-Time Officers and school reps, as well as attend several university meetings and academic committees where I feedback students concerns.
Other updates include:
- featured in the black history month Instagram take-over alongside international students’ part-time officer and the VP wellbeing and Diversity
- planning to launch the Stress Less campaign with VP wellbeing and Diversity to tackle stress associated with exams and assessments.
- monitoring the online courses advice support
- regular follow up with Gavin regarding accommodation- guarantors, emergency accommodation, and suitability and standards of accommodation
- regular follow up with SU Advice and DVC Education and student experience
- lobbying the university to extend the amount/use of hardship funds to international students to support with the cost of living.
As we are preparing to go on christmas break, i would like to know how this first half of the school year has been for you? looking forward to hearing back from you!