student.union@newcastle.ac.uk

End of Term Updates!

Check out what your Education Officer has been up to during Semester 1! Strap in, there's lots as it's been a busy Semester...

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Hi everyone! It’s been an absolutely hectic term for us all here at NUSU, as I’m sure it has been for all of our students too. I hope you’re all doing well, resting when you need to and looking after yourselves and each other.

Decolonising the Curriculum

Much of the work last year was focused on setting up Decolonising as a key agenda point for the Union and the University, but now we’re reaching a point that needs to go beyond stressing its importance and actually creating a plan to implement this change.

Ensuring our Decolonising NCL Project continues this year has been of an utmost priority for the whole team. This is something Eleanor (your Postgraduate Officer) and I have raised to all Heads of School in meetings with them from the very beginning of our term in Officer. Recently, as a Sabb Team we have realised that to ensure the Decolonising NCL project not only continues in future but is embedded across the Institution we need to re-evaluate the direction the campaign will take, particularly; how can we feasibly ensure this work is researched and implemented. I, the PGO, WEO and President are currently working with the rest of the NUSU team to look at how this project will take shape, what are we asking beyond pledges and what specifically do we want to see change within the University. We are currently in the process of refreshing the Decolonising NCL page and updating the pledges to ensure we have a strategy of the direction this project will take. We want this project to go beyond us and is a long-term commitment from NUSU so there needs to be a clear-cut action plan to pass onto the next Sabb team. To this end we are also writing in into NUSU’s 3 Year Strategic Plan so there is constant pressure and direction on this. As part of this next phase, we are also looking to gain more consistent University support and resources to ensure this plan has longevity. We feel that to ensure significant headway is made in this effort (as many schools have already done) there must be greater physical support from University leaders to ensure this plan has longevity, and the workload of decolonizing – which is emotionally and physically intensive, is not laid upon over-burdened Equality Diversity and Inclusion staff leaders. Firstly, as decolonising is a separate initiative to EDI goals that requires specialist attention and expertise to dismantle ongoing systems of white supremacy which permeate Western society, but also decolonizing is huge, but essential, undertaking that cannot effectively be implemented if staff and resources are stretched.

These points were touched on in our incredible Decolonising NCL Panel which I took part in as part of Our Black History Month campaign. This was a real honour to take part in as m fellow panelists were simply a wealth of knowledge, energy and passion which I found so inspiring. I recommend you give it a watch on NUTV’s Youtube page if you didn’t get the chance to attend. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gzymu46isMY&t=2389s 

University Education Committee:

This is one of the most important meetings that I attend every month. Many of the other committees that I sit on feed into UEC. It is the highest level ‘education’ specific meeting at the university, often papers or ideas from other committees or working groups that feed into UEC come here for final approval/discussion. Some highlights/snippets:

  • We have now ensured that Student Reps from each Faculty will attend UEC meetings.
  • Attended workshop at the UEC away day on Student Voice / Student Union issues alongside the Postgraduate Officer.
  • Raised points about the wording of student feedback surveys, had follow up meeting with Allison Shaw and Sally Ingram to ensure the wording was accessible to students.
  • Alongside the School Reps (who spoke incredibly) raised the importance of Enrichment week for student wellbeing and a chance to have a breath or make headway on their (many) assignments.

PECs

I’m honestly not even sure where to begin explaining my ongoing work on the Personal Extenuating Circumstances system – it is a BIG project to say the least, but I do feel that there is being some headway being made which the University has been pretty receptive of (yay!). This has been an ongoing project for me throughout the term. The effectiveness (or in-effectiveness) of the Personal Extenuating Circumstances system is something I found frustrating during my time at both UG and PG level, so when a few students fed back to me their poor experiences of PECs I felt inspired to go into bat on the issue. Initially I raised my ideas and concerns at an Education Executive meeting of all our School Reps, I asked for their feedback on the system – good and bad, and asked them whether they felt this was a change students’ wanted, they all agreed it was important.  which I have I launched a ‘PEC Experience’ survey back in October, which has had a good amount of responses. The School Reps also collected evidence from students in their schools. I believe that empirical evidence will be the catalyst to change that we need.

#BigNightIn, Incidents of Spiking and Sexual Violence

  • The issue of spiking, by injection or in drinks, is one that has gained traction nationwide. It is of serious concern for our students and their safety is our top priority. As Officers we were as scared, saddened and angry at the fact this was happening as our students.
  • Looking at what actions we needed to take, supporting our students and raising their concerns to the Uni took up a lot of mine and the other Sabbs’ weeks throughout October and November.
  • We joined the #BigNightInNCL boycott in October, alongside 100s of our Clubs and Societies. From here we pledged to students that we would send a letter to all clubs in the city listing how many of our students took part and demand safer spaces to go out.
  • It was important to us as a team that we did not ‘victim blame’ or suggest that people should change how they lived their lives because of the despicable actions of others.
  • From here myself, WEO and AU Officer have sat on weekly meetings addressing the Spiking Incidents with the Uni Health and Wellbeing Team, Northumbria SU, local council, police and licensing team. We urged the local authorities that this must be a city-wide approach, that they had to take the lead on ensuring students were safe. We asked for student-centric communications to reassure students that the authorities were looking out for them. We also urged them to take an intersectional approach to the measures, and ensure they did not target, isolate or make members of marginalsied groups feel unsafe.

 

Personal Tutoring: This has been a BIG thing for me as it was part of my original Manifesto, in terms of holding Personal Tutors accountable - i.e. ensuring everyone's tutor actually offers them meetings etc. But also in making this support route more effective and useful to students.

  • Attending meetings with Marc Lintern and the Deans of Education from all 3 Faculties discussing the direction of Personal Tutoring.
  • Arranging a set of ‘best practice’ questions and EDI training for staff to ensure that meetings have a set objective.
  • Presented the paper outlining the new Personal Tutoring framework at Professional Forum, which is a group of teaching staff from across the University.
  • Emphasising the importance of consistency and academic support that tutoring can bring, how it can help encourage a student’s sense of belonging.
  • We are now going to be presenting it to the Heads of Schools/Unit next week, before bringing it to University Education Committee in the new year. It has been a long process, I joined much of the ongoing work led by the team and Inclusive Newcastle, but I feel that the time spent looking at the detail and ensuring it works for all will make it more effective. Fingers crossed!

TEAs

  • Started initial planning work for TEA awards.
  • Decided on having a more informal ceremony. Excited to start planning how the event will look.
  • We had a record number of nominees last year so are hoping to see similar, if not better numbers, this year.
  • We have a new category this year too called Outstanding Contribution to Student Community as we recognise that educational experience is about more than just learning and attainment, but the importance of feeling valued and as though you belong at university.

Apologies for the long update, I could have gone on and on. I hope you have all had a lovely Semester 1. As ever, if you need any support, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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