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Postgraduate Officer

Blog: Charlotte Boulton, Postgraduate Officer 

End of Term Report - PG Officer November 2020

END OF TERM REPORT FOR  

STUDENTS’ UNION COUNCIL MEETING  

 

 

What have I done this term? 

This term has been incredibly busy and more emotional than anticipated, as Newcastle has been faced with more challenges and tragedies than any other start to the academic year. As such, my work has been varied but focused on working with the University to start the term as best as possible.  

  • PGR concerns about return to campus and accommodation – Was contacted by concerned PGRs about safety of accommodation, return to campus and capacity of wellbeing support. Arranged meeting with Academic Registrar, Director of Academic Affairs and other senior staff to meet with the students and discuss concerns. 

  • UEC Presentation – Created and presented for the UEC Away Day alongside EO and George Watkins, covering Student Voice and challenging staff views. The presentation was met with high engagement and interest from staff, leading to a student communications meeting with Lucy and Naomi to address concerns and improve comms. 

  • PG Welcome Activities – Planned various welcome activities, fitting around existing timetables of events. Adapted plans to be largely online, creating a range of virtual events at different times and days to engage postgraduates. These were successful and well received by the attendees. 

  • PG Discussion Group – Had a Facebook discussion group set up by Marketing, moderated by me, intended as a place for postgraduates to interact, socialise and help each other with queries. As of 24th November there are 661 members! 

  • Decolonising NCL – Working with Dorothy, Nadia and Sian on the launch of our Decolonising NCL campaign, including taking lead on pulling together website content and definitions. We presented to over 40 staff in our staff briefing introducing them to our goals and encouraging them to think about how they could decolonise their teaching and work. We also delivered a Decolonising NCL Panel (organised by Sian and facilitated by Dorothy and Nadia) which reached over 80 staff and students! We’ve also been putting together our Decolonising NCL Pledge which will be going live in the coming weeks for staff and student groups to sign up to. 

  • Education Executive Committee – I have chaired three meetings of Education Executive Committee, working with Sian to listen to student rep feedback and take these issues to the relevant university staff. This has included raising concerns about online attendance monitoring, module change deadlines, marking and assessment policy, and access to resources. 

  • University Education Committee – Attended regular UEC meetings with EO, responding to various papers relating to the educational and student experience. Big wins include changes to the timetable for semester 2, with the University listening to our feedback and adding additional teaching weeks, following feedback from students worried about the condensed term dates.  

  • Master Your Mental Health – Planning a mental health campaign aimed at postgraduate students in January, with a series of events, resources and support targeted at postgrad’s mental health. This is going to be my big campaign of the year so really looking forward to delivering this next semester! 

  • PGR Concerns – I’m currently working on various concerns raised by PhD students. I have already met with PVC Education, PG Deans and Academic Registrar regarding the COVID-19 Impact Scholarships and have had e-comms sent out explaining the various support packages on offer for funding and time extensions. I am continuing to investigate these options and further issues relating to PGR wellbeing, teaching, UKRI funding and more. I’m currently meeting with PhD students to discuss their experiences with teaching and encourage any PhD students to get in touch if they wish to contribute, to inform an open letter and demands to the University. 

  • Newcastle University COVID-19 Community – I have been leading the sabbs return to the COVID-19 Community group on Facebook, organising a timetable for posts to encourage students to get involved and reach out during lockdown. We’ve seen some engagement and hopefully we’ve shared some useful or fun info to keep boredom at bay in lockdown. 

  • Responses to COVID-19 impact on education – Working with Sian to plan for potential mitigations for students impacted by COVID-19, to inform a new ‘near miss policy’; this is more complex than the baseline average agreements of last academic year, and we will be ensuring that postgraduate research students are included in the policy too. This work will continue over the coming weeks with more information coming from a joint statement. 

 

What has been your biggest achievement? 

  • Running the PG Welcome Activities programme to help students get to know each other, which has been in a really difficult time due to lockdown and restrictions on meeting others. I had to change a lot of in-person plans to pivot to online, such as my virtual coffee mornings, and did some long days running quizzes and evening socials too, so I’m glad it paid off. I got some lovely feedback from students who enjoyed the events which means a lot. 

 

What could you have improved on? 

  • I had planned to put on some virtual events during lockdown for postgraduates, but my workload has been intense and I haven’t been able to find the time. There have been some projects I’ve been working on that I’ve wanted to launch earlier but time has been a precious, almost non-existent resource this term, so some things have had to be pushed back unfortunately. 

 

What do you plan to do next term? 

  • Master Your Mental Health – Running my postgraduate mental health campaign in January. 

  • Lobby the University to implement the demands of the ‘near miss policy’ proposed by Sian and I. 

  • Continue to challenge the University during UEC and other meetings, using student feedback to lobby for changes when necessary. 

  • Continue to work on the issues raised by PGRs, conducting listening groups alongside the University to hear student feedback. 

 

  

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