SU President Blog

Postgraduate Officer Candidate Questions

Scott Nielsen

Hi Scott, every year we don’t quite get it right for Postgraduates both Taught and Doctoral students with their induction and Freshers’ Week. We have specific PG events and volunteers but the engagement is still not great. What is it that you think needs to be done to help improve the induction experience for new PGTs and Doctoral students?

Also on your manifesto you say you want to “allocate some space in the library specifically for PG students.” Do you not think undergraduates will strongly oppose this considering more specific space is being built/allocated for PGs all the time, 10W, Polden, Carpenter House, 4W Grad commons etc.? With an ever expanding student population do you believe this is fair?

Hi Ben, thank you for the questions.
In regards to Postgrad-SU disconnect, the issue is most postgrads are new to Bath and even the UK so might not understand the concept of a SU. I propose more representation of the SU officers in specific MSc courses explaining exactly what the SU has to offer and promote specific events from different societies and clubs. The ideal scenario would be to have a separate postgrad only freshers fair for clubs and societies, I think this will be effective. Small things are important as well, my friends and I turned up for the postgrad intro events in the SU last year and we did not know anyone, so if I was elected I would welcome the PG students at each event and introduce them all to fellow postgrads to make that connection and build that community.
I would also propose to increase the exposure of the PG officer more throughout the year in the different courses increasing the engagement of the officer with the postgrad community.
As for PhD students, it is important to integrate them specifically into the PG community. Making the PG officer the main focal point for this would be great for engagement and make them feel included straight away. Several PhD students told me they want more varied social activities and more specific department networking events.


I am glad you mentioned the specific allocated postgrad spaces, as I am also keen to make incoming postgraduate students more aware of where of all the available study spaces are on/off campus, as many students are not aware of all of them so I propose a making a map (possible virtual) which can help.
I also propose to work with departments to try to resolve the lack of study space and office space and work with the rest of the officers to ensure space in the library for all.
The goal is not to take spaces from undergraduate students, but to better organise space allocation around campus and make everyone aware of the available space.

 

Francisco Virissimo

Hi Francisco, as part of your role you will have responsibility for a lot of the work that happens with taught postgraduate students. The nature of that master’s year changes so much especially with the curriculum transformation currently happening for new master’s courses. How are you sure that you’re not out of touch with the issues PGT students face as things have changed since you were a PGT student? What will you do to ensure you know and understand the issues PGT students face?

Also in your manifesto you want to “make sure bench fees are available to students until they graduate.” You talk about the cost of printing, training courses and binding a thesis. How will you go about ensuring that these costs aren’t continued to be passed onto students when so many former Officer’s haven’t managed to get the University to budge on having credit available for students? Where is this money going to come from if not from the students themselves?


These questions are very pertinent and I want to thank you for the opportunity to comment on these. 

The issues the PGT students face are many and varies from department to department and it’s crucial to observe that since global improvements will be only achieved by understanding the particularities each group face.

At the end of my first year, we started in my department a tutor/co-factor scheme for new PGT and PGR students, in which I’ve been involved since them. This experience had at least two outcomes that helps answer to your question: first, I could stay in touch with the issues and changes the PGT’s and PGR’s faces and how has it changed over these past three years; second, this tutor/co-factor scheme has proved to be extremely successful and it is something I would like to see implemented in all departments for all PG students. I should highlight that such a program has ZERO cost involved, depends only on the energy and effort of the people involved and mostly important, can be implemented ASAP.

As I said, even though I still have been up to date about PGT in Sciences, there is a lot for me to get to know - as certainly there is for all of the Officers. And in order to assure that, I will organise PGT drop-in sessions (coffee and cake informal sessions) in all departments, to be held on a regular basis (my initial idea is to organise it monthly, in addition to a more general drop in session I’d like to organise fortnightly in the Graduate Centre). These meetings will definitively give me the rare opportunity to meet many of the PGT students face-to-face and will expand my views and my understand of the PGT life. Finally, I’d like to say that PGR drop-in sessions will be also held with the same periodicity, in which I expect to meet most of my fellows PhDs.

This is a very interesting topic as it touches something in which my experience as a research student plays a big role. As a PhD, I have been a research visiting student in a few universities in the UK and abroad. And I was shocked to see that, among all of these universities, Bath is the only one with such a restrict regulation toward bench (sometimes called ‘training’) fees. I have been discussing this issue within the Faculty of Sciences and it is almost consensual that the last year of PhD is the most important for the use of bench fees: this is the year were research students have enough results to present in major conferences worldwide so they need the money to travel; when they’ve got enough network to go to short visits and strength ties with future long-term collaborators; and of course is when they need to print SEVERAL draft copies of their thesis and papers to be reviewed. These points by themselves call for the necessity of a REVIEW of the university policies for research students, which is another of my top priorities. ??I am very confident that significant changes (for better) are coming for the next years for the PGR’s. I have to say that the university main plan is to increase its research, with a focus on the so-called CDT’s (centre for doctoral trainings) and a first step on that was the creation of the Doctoral College, which has been doing a fantastic job so far. There is still a lot to be done and that’s one of the main reasons we need a Postgraduate Officer with PGR experience to help and push for these improvements to happen.

To conclude, I have to say that I am very excited with the possibility of serving as a Postgraduate Officer and use this role to make the university experience the best possible for all of us.

Jiani Zhou

Hi Jiani, you’ve spoken a fair bit about your plans to “allow students to top up library cards with money to spend on food and drink and receive a 10% discount when you pay with your library cards” however, why would the University agree to do this? It doesn’t make it any easier for them than using a debit card and why would they willing give out a 10% discount? What is the incentive for the University to give students this deal?

Also on your manifesto you say you want to get PhD students “more support and suitable supervision” what would this look like and what are you hoping to change with the current systems already in place?

I believe there are many incentives for university to give this deal to students. Firstly, it is a more convenient and quicker way to pay - just swipe - so the turnover is likely to increase! During peak hours, you will normally expect long queues in the eateries and at that time it will be very time consuming when people pop in their pins, accidentally get them wrong and start again. Contactless payment can also be slow sometimes. Secondly, it is a safer way to pay because library cards are photo IDs and the staff will know that the payer is the cardholder. The university can also set up a daily cap for students. Thirdly, if the university can get students' permission, they can do some statistics research into students' shopping habits to better the services and to attract more students eat on campus. So I think in the long run it is very beneficial to the University, meanwhile students will be benefited - it will be a win-win situation.
And I also want to mention that currently undergraduates living in four particular halls on campus can pay with their library cards as part of their accommodation fees have been topped up as food and drink credits. So it is feasible for all students to top up their library cards with money to spend in eateries.


By support for doctoral students, I mean equal opportunity, preparation, feedback and work space. I would like the teaching jobs for PhD students to be advertised so that all PhD students have equal access to the information. Currently many supervisors might just ask students that they supervise for help with tutorials. In terms of preparation, many PhD students don't get the materials for tutorials beforehand or have the material at the last minute. I would encourage supervisors to send materials beforehand so the PhD students can be prepared. Additionally, PhD students who teach rarely get feedback and I think there should be a feedback system for them. Sometimes supervisors will pass on the feedback they get from Moodle to PhD students who teach, but it is very limited. PhD students also need more work space. Although this is very hard to improve, I will try my best. Doctoral students are meant to have enough space on campus to work but it is becoming more common for them to have to 'hot desk', which is not ideal.
I think the level of supervision for PhDs should be standardized. PhDs normally have at least two supervisors who are meant to support their work but the amount of contact they get from supervisors is variable and the level of support supervisors give can cause problems - for example, if you get sick, some supervisors will help and advise you about suspending your studies if you need to whilst others do not care. I think the treatment should be the same for all doctoral students.

 

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