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Officer Updates & Blogs

Postgraduate Officer

Blog: Charlotte Boulton, Postgraduate Officer 

End Of Year Report - PG Officer

 

What have you done this term?

 

  • COVID-19 Impact Funding Scheme – After months of lobbying, working with some incredible PGRs and pushing the University for changes to the funding extension scheme for PGRs, I’m very pleased that the scheme has been updated to be more flexible and accessible! I wrote a blog post on the changes so you can see more details, but in short, the need for evidence has gone, students can make multiple applications and more flex and empathy has been built into the process. There were 100 applications in two weeks for the first funding round, a record number which proves students do need this financial support. The financial support is continuing so I urge any PGR who needs this due to their studies being affected by COVID-19 to apply. This couldn’t have happened without the efforts of all the PGRs involved, with particular thanks to Sunil, Caitlin, Kieran, Angus, Ashley, Ben, Alex, Rebecca and Chris for pushing for the support you deserve and working with me this year.
     
  • Access and Participation Plan Student Submission – I wrote the APP Student Submission for the Office for Students, commenting on how the University have met/not met their targets around access, participation and success for students from widening participation backgrounds. This submission gave the student perspective on the University’s progress and made suggestions for improvements, some of which are being worked on in the background. This was a great opportunity to highlight areas of improvement to the University and fulfil some of my passions for EDI and WP in higher education!
     
  • TEAs - I helped shortlist categories for The Education Awards (TEAs) and loved reading about how staff have supported students this year. I also presented the awards alongside Sian, in an incredible studio set up and livestream by NUTV (thank you Haaris and Carson!) to present a hybrid live show. The staff were really appreciative and it was an amazing show so do check it out if you missed it.
     
  • Graduate Support – I contributed on behalf of sabbatical officers to the University’s plans to pull together a Graduate Support Offer to ensure their plans appeal to students. They are offering careers support, alumni network support and more to ensure graduates feel the University is preparing them for the graduate world.
     
  • Dean of Education Recruitment – I chaired a student-staff discussion with candidates for HaSS Dean of Education, talking about inclusive assessment and feedback. This was a really interesting discussion and Sarah Graham has been appointed to this role – she is committed to students and will be an excellent Dean.
     
  • Education Executive Committee – I co-chaired two meetings of Education Executive this year with Sian, discussing updates to PGR funding, feedback on the Rep Forum with VC, and other educational issues. Our School Reps this year have been so engaged and had so many excellent ideas and have raised issues constructively – they’ve been invaluable in supporting feedback to the university.
     
  • Decolonising NCL – Work with the campaign has continued, now with some Decolonising NCL Evaluation Interns Avneet and Sandra, who have led on the Decolonising Medical Sciences event which had over 80 attendees! I supported the event with advice and tech support on the night and now we’re hoping for academic schools to start making their decolonising pledges.
     
  • PGR Employment & Teaching Contracts – I am supporting the University’s work into assessing the possibility of implementing changes to PGR employment, particularly for PGRs who teach. There will be various discussion groups and a paper written to inform the University of the general PGR perspective. The work will continue with a Task & Finish Group next academic year and there will be a report made in January or February, so hopefully something will be implemented then. Thanks to the PGRs who have been vocal about the issues with the current employment practices and contracts, and who will be continuing to work on this.
     
  • Careers Webinar – I was invited by Director of Careers Service to speak as a student representative at a webinar entitled ‘Diversity and Inclusion: Supporting all students and graduates to be successful post-pandemic’. This was to a global audience of universities and employers and was a great opportunity to talk about my own experiences as a working-class student and speak about the need for organisations to move beyond performative diversity and towards inclusion as integral to supporting students entering their careers.
     
  • Meetings with Glasgow and Queen Mary’s sabbs/PGRs – I had a couple of meetings with the PhD Society at Glasgow and some sabbatical officers from Queen Mary’s London, both to discuss the Postgraduate Officer role as they both have interests in implementing a similar role in their SUs. It was lovely to chat to them about the feasibility of improving postgrad representation and share the experiences of NUSU.
     
  • University Education Committee – I attended UEC in April, discussing learning analytics, planning assumptions for next academic year, recommendations for personal tutoring and the graduate support programme.
     
  • Working on SFSF changes – Following my motion at last Council, I met with Sally Ingram (Director of Health and Wellbeing Service) and Dorothy to talk about our concerns about the Student Financial Support Fund and changes we’d like to see. I’ve been going through the documentation to pick out issues and send back to Sally. This has been delayed due to time off, but I’m hoping to get it to a good stage and hopefully set up a good position for next years sabbs to continue the work.
     
  • Senate – I attended my final Senate, where topics of the roadmap back to on-campus activity, research development and the University’s commitment to decolonising and race equality were discussed.
     
  • Student Rep Awards – I was involved in shortlisting the nominees for the Student Rep Awards and presented the awards alongside Sian, again livestreamed by NUTV. It was a great evening and lovely to celebrate the hard work our students have done this year.
     
  • Education Development Fund – I was part of a panel deliberating various research project proposals within the University to decide where to allocate funding. I was particularly glad to see some projects building on the Decolonising NCL campaign and the principles of declonising!
     
  • Induction Operational Working Group – A new group has been formed to shape induction for next academic year, which I’m attending alongside other sabbatical officers to represent students and ensure the induction works for their needs.

 

What has been your biggest achievement?

Definitely finally (!!) having the changes to the COVID-19 Impact Funding Scheme be approved and shared by the University. It took a long time and I had a couple of full blown crying sessions after meetings hadn’t gone the way I wanted, so I’m relieved that the consistent pressure on the university and not giving up has paid off. I saw how desperately some of our students needed this financial support and I did all I could to make it happen, so more PGRs could apply and access the funding they need to continue their research and get through this difficult year. I’m very proud to have been part of this change.

 

What could you have improved on?

As always, time has been a luxury this year. With taking some time off for personal issues, did lose some time to make progress on some plans, but it’s not really anything I could have prevented so it is what it is.

 

What piece of advice would you pass on to your successor?

I hope Eleanor has a calmer year than I did and that she can really invest the time in the projects and manifesto points she wants to focus on. I’ve definitely spent a lot of time fighting fires and adapting to the many crises we’ve been faced this year and I would have loved to spend more time on the ideas I wanted to see come to fruition from my manifesto. So really, my advice is to make the most of it. Get everything you can out of the experience, you have access to some amazing unique opportunities, and you only get one chance to be a NUSU sabb.

 

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