Posted on Mon 30 May 2022 at 08:54 by Annie Willingham
Over the last couple of months I have had the opportunity to engage with national bodies making sure that the experiences and voices of students here at the University of Bath are heard.
This update will cover the following:
- Speaking to the Department for Education about the Turing Scheme
- What is happening with NUS?
Speaking to Department for Education about the Turing Scheme
During my election in 2020 for Education Officer one of my key manifesto points was to lobby for the continuation of Erasmus funding despite Brexit. This funding supports a lot of our students on their study or work years abroad in Europe. Sadly following Brexit this funding was stopped and this year we have seen the impact that this has had. The Government introduced the Turing Scheme, an alternative that supports outward mobility across all countries. This, alongside how they distribute the funding, is problematic. It creates a barrier for students from Europe who would previously have studied at the University of Bath, enriching our campus, from attending as there is now a high fee involved in them studying here whereas previously the partnerships created allowed for free mobility.
Don’t get me wrong, the partnerships and fee waivers can still be achieved and the fantastic International Relations Office and Student Mobility team have been incredible at ensuring the impact on where you choose to study is minimal. Another issue with the new Turing Scheme is the distribution of funding, Universities have to bid for money trying to forecast where students will be studying a year in advance, this money is then ring fenced in these forecasted countries. The Turing Scheme allows for more opportunities around shorter term placements ranging from 6 weeks long, however, predicting who will go where is challenging at the best of times but add in a global pandemic and it means that allowing for flexibility was even harder. A scheme that is supposed to support students and encourage study / work abroad globally actually presents us with more global opportunities with a caveat of financial barriers, placement insecurities and no inward mobility.
Last year I submitted a policy alongside the Bath NUS National Conference Delegates highlighting how NUS should lobby the government to make the Turing Scheme more accessible and work with students to make sure that it is as close to smooth running as the Erasmus+ scheme. This year I have spoken at the Westminster Higher Education Forum raising the concerns we have with the scheme as well as working closely with the International Relations Office at the University of Bath, engaging with the Bath MP, Wera Hobhouse, and speaking to Department for Education directly.
In April 2022, I met alongside the International Relations Office at the University of Bath and Hillary, National Union of Students Vice President Higher Education, Department for Education, to discuss some of the challenges students are directly facing with the Turing Scheme. We met Lya Noon who is the Deputy Director at Department for Education, working on the Turing Scheme. It was apparent that there had been minimal student engagement with the planning, delivery, and evaluation of the scheme so far. Working with DfE and NUS we are hoping to set up regular calls with the Bath IRO office and other staff who work on the implementation of the Turing Scheme, check the stakeholder engagement, and how we can get more students involved in shaping the scheme and continue working with us on how the scheme is communicated.
This is one of my proudest achievements this year. International student mobility is a huge part of our placement (work and study) offer here at the University of Bath and whilst there may be some challenges ahead, the IRO team are so passionate in supporting you with these opportunities that I know you’ll be able to continue to enjoy placements abroad.
What is happening with NUS?
You may have seen in the news recently that on the May 13 Department for Education announced they would be suspending all engagement with NUS over antisemitism and replacing this with alternative student representation ensuring that the student voice is still heard at these meetings.
This has happened as there have been legitimate concerns from several bodies asking whether NUS is inclusive and a genuinerepresentation of the student body. Currently the Students’ Union at Bath remains affiliated after the referendum in 2021. As an SU we are led by the voice of you, our members. Whilst Department for Education continue to suspend activity with NUS, your SU Officer Team will continue to engage with a variety of organisations ensuring that you are represented at a National Level.
In the last couple of weeks as an SU Officer Team we have written to Michelle Donelan, Universities Minsiter, highlighting how there is an urgent need for clear communication around how the Government is going to be engaging with students. We shared our views on the importance of ensuring that students voices were represented nationally as well as the importance for students to be able to shape and direct the priorities of the governement. We know that over the next few months there will be extensive discussions around the mental health crisis and how Univerisities need to tighten the support they offer, the cost of living crisis, and how students will be financially supported at times of hardship, but also issues around increasing tuition fees, freedom of speech on campus, and online exams. In the last few weeks the government have snuck in changes to the way future cohorts can access student loans, intrest rates and freedom of speech. We have asked to meet with the University Minister to see exactly how the government are making these decisions if they aren’t talking to students.
This work will be ongoing over the next few months and if you would like to read up more about what DfE disengaging from NUS means you can check out this Wonkhe article here