As Officers, we frequently ask you guys for your views and input on a range of different topics to help shape our work. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, this has become even more important and urgent as things change so quickly, and we want to be sure we’re representing you in the best way possible when we’re lobbying the University.
What we’re not so brilliant at, is telling you what we’ve done with your input. So I thought I’d write what will probably be my last ever officer blog, to quickly outline the engagement work we’ve carried out with you guys over the past few months, and how it’s informed our advocacy during a global pandemic…
After the immediate urgency of the no-detriment policy work for taught students, which saw our SU Officers secure measures to ensure Covid-19 wouldn’t disproportionately affect your academic achievement, we turned our attention to your experiences of online learning. In late April, we conducted an Online Learning Environment Survey so that those of you who are ‘taught’ students (UG and PGT) could tell us how you were finding online teaching after the University moved everything online quickly.
138 of you responded to us, and your answers helped us gather insight into what was working well, what wasn't and what you want to see moving forwards into what could be a more predominant virtual learning experience in the future. One of the key areas in the responses was the experiences of disabled students, and how provision wasn’t properly addressing their requirements.
As a result, we presented the findings of the survey to the University’s “learning and teaching quality committee” (ULTQC) where lots of high level decisions about the academic experience are made. The findings were also circulated to the Equality and Diversity network, emphasising the need for disabled students to be supported in online learning. Our President Eve, and Education Officer Ruqia, have also had important conversations about the findings with members of the University’s governing body whose job it is to make sure the VC and his team are doing their jobs properly!
Off the back of the survey, we wanted to delve a bit deeper into the experiences of our disabled students to gather some qualitative experiences and get a sense of their worries. These will be used to emphasise the need for the University to look beyond a ‘one size fits all’ approach for our disabled students, and we have since verbally updated ULTQC on the key themes from that. We’ve liaised with the University’s Disability Advice Team to compare notes, and hope to use all the evidence we have to improve provision for the supplementary assessment period and next year.
We’ve also done the same with students who are due to go on placement next year, highlighted the key concerns and stories at ULTQC, and hope to bring them up too at the Employability Forum to ensure that the University works to mitigate the impact of lost, delayed or cancelled placements for students. The feedback was received well by ULTQC and they were keen to hear more when we have the final report ready (which is being written currently!).
Our Postgraduate Officer Jiani has also been gathering views from Doctoral (PhD) students too as we know your experiences are significantly different to taught students. Questions were collated from doctoral students via the SU’s Doctoral Community on Microsoft Teams. We posed those questions to Jeremy Bradshaw, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for International & Doctoral and it has been agreed that he will respond to questions submitted via a new weekly email and the answers will also be used to update the Coronavirus advice for doctoral students webpage. An online form has been created to gather questions which students may not wish to ask in a public forum like Teams. We will continue to collect your questions for the foreseeable future.
In the student groups area of the SU, which Francesco (outgoing Activities Officer) and Tom (continuing Sport Officer) look after, we’ve been contacting our sports, societies and other SU groups to begin discussing what their group offers might look like next year in a socially-distanced and ‘blended’ world! As we begin to get a better and more detailed idea of what the next academic year will look like, we’ll be working closely with them to provide our students with the best extra-curricular offer we can that creates community and belonging for our new and continuing students.
In light of the murder of George Floyd, and the subsequent wave of Black Lives Matter protests across the globe, our Education Officer Ruqia and Community Officer Alisha led on the formation of an ‘Anti-Racist Campus’ forum for our students. The forum resulted in the creation of a report that recorded thoughts and actions from you as students about what can be done in the areas of support, community, learning & teaching, representation and communication when it comes to supporting our black members.
We shared this report with Peter Lambert the PVC for Learning and Teaching, and Cassie Wilson the Vice-President for Student Experience. This report will form the basis of a group that the University is convening, with student representation, to implement actions and recommendations from the forum. We will also circulate the report to the University’s governing body, and we circulated it to the Equality and Diversity Committee too. You can read out statement on the outcome of the forum here.
Looking forward, we’re currently in the process of creating more engagement opportunities which will help us understand your priorities for next year, which aspects of the student experience are most important to you and therefore what we need to work on over the summer when discussing with the University how next academic year will operate. As ever, the SU is you guys, its students. So we need to regularly be touching base, asking questions and listening to your feedback to make sure our work is the most effective it can be in representing our community. If you have any questions about any of our engagement work we’ve outlined here, do drop an Officer an email or message and they’d be happy to chat!
Eve, SU President xxx