Officer Updates & Blogs

Athletic Union Officer

Blog: Benthe Tanghe, Athletic Union Officer 

AU End of Term Report - March 2021

What have I done this term?

Even though we entered our third lockdown, term 2 wasn’t any less busy than term 1. 

First of all a quick overview of what I’ve done in sport: 

  • Chaired 3 more AU Exec meetings 
  • Have come to an agreement with the Sports Services and the University that students deserve a full refund for their Sports and Fitness membership. The gym and other facilities will be free of charge for the rest of the academic year (Courier article).  
  • In term one I restructured the club grants which was necessary to make it more fair for all our clubs given the current situation. We had hoped to give out the second part of the grant in January. However, due to lockdown 3 were not able to do so. With approval of my AU Exec committee, I have changed the NUSU Extra grant into the 2021 Fund. The fund is there to support clubs with a one-off investment in either specific equipment or initiatives that would help the club forward in the following year. We are currently going through the applications. 
  • Representatives from Canterbury will come to the Students’ Union in the following weeks to showcase the new kit range for women. We had hoped to organise a day for clubs to try it on, however, with the restrictions this will most likely have to take place at the beginning of next academic year.  
  • Took part in The Courier Sport - Women in Sport series (article here)
  • Arranged Sexual Violence Training for all Welfare Officers together with Hannah, the Activities Officer 
  • Set a date for the club photos, fingers crossed it can go ahead 
  • Prepared the This Girl Can campaign which takes place the 22nd till 28th of March 
  • Many, many meetings with clubs to discuss their wellbeing and future 
  • Made a proposal for the Return to Play and am delighted this is approved meaning we will be getting in-person activity back soon  

Just like term 1, there were other areas in which I have done a lot of work and it is safe to say I have lost count of the amount of meetings and groups I have been part off. Here are the most important ones: 

Community - I sit in multiple meetings discussing Newcastle and its relation with students. These meetings are not only with the University but often include Northumbria University and their SU, the police and Newcastle Council representatives. The most important subject at the beginning of this term in those meetings was the problems around the Covid Marshalls. I am glad that eventually after lobbying Newcastle Council agreed to completely remove them (more info here). I also took part in the BeatCovidNE campaign which is aimed to thank the people of the North East for all they are doing to slow down the spread of coronavirus and urge them to keep going. The campaign is backed by the seven North East local authorities and the Local Resilience Forums (full interview here). 

Global - I have continued to work closely with the International Office to make sure that we have the interests of international students covered. I was the representative during the International Student Listening Sessions which has been followed up by a new webpage which goes over key issues and concerns raised by international students.  

A significant subject for EU students, and British students that are aspiring to go abroad, are the issues around Brexit. The end of December I published an open letter to EU students which can be found here. A big topic is student mobility at the moment. A new working group will start in the following weeks which I am part of. With the UK stepping out of the Erasmus+ programme, the Turing scheme is going to be crucial. Together with Professor Richard Davies, Pro-Vice Chancellor, we published a response after the latest government announcement on Turing which can be found here. Turing has it flaws as it is only for outbound students. It will be essential in the following months and year for the University to come up with new ways to offer opportunities for EU students. Lastly I sit in the University Global Committee in which we’ve published a new strategy plan which has a specific focus on international student experience.  


What has been your biggest achievement?

I find it difficult to pick out one big achievement as the small steps we take in our daily meetings often result in the more sustainable wins. However, I am really happy that students have been refunded their Sports and Fitness memberships and more so that all students will be able to make use of the facilities for free the rest of the academic year. Exercise is crucial for our physical and mental health and should always be as accisible as possible. I really hope that many students will be able to make use of the new gym when this opens in April. 

Another achievement is certainly having been able to come up with the right plan to utilise the grant money we have to really invest in the future of Team Newcastle. This is beneficial not only for the big clubs but espeically for the smalller clubs that normally have less resources. 

Non-sport wise I have to say that getting the Covid Marshalls removed has been a highlight and was the only right decision.  


What could you have improved on?

This year has demanded all Sabbatical Officers to widen their remits due to a high demand for student representation. This meant juggling time between subjects. Getting in conversation with more clubs has been really good and I wish I had created more time to do so.  


What do you plan to do next term?

Return to play – I hope we get to run as much (safe) in-person activity as possible! I hope to get out of the office more, to actually see Team Newcastle in action, even if it is just training. We hope to be able to take club pictures and hopefully end the year by celebrate the AU awards in some shape or form.