Semester 2 Updates from your Education Officer.
What have I done this term?
- My focus this term has been focused on supporting students, especially our Student Reps, who often feel ignored and unheard by the University, particularly when it come to changes in their academic schools. I brought this up at our Partnership meeting to Senior University staff, and consequently had a meeting with the Academic Registrar, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Education and the 3 Academic Deans of Education about ensuring students feel heard, particularly in their Student Voice Committees. I have also been raising this issue at various University meetings and ensuring that this genuine commitment to hearing student voice is implemented at all levels of the University Experience. There is some work in the pipelines at the moment and some technology which will hopefully enable our student reps to communicate with their cohorts more easily and regularly and with Sabbs themselves, so it is a less time-consuming process for them.
- It has been of utmost importance to myself and the Team, following feedback we received in Semester 1, that students felt able to have their say on NUSU’s stance and approach to industrial action – regardless of their opinions. As a result, we launched the ‘Take Your Stance’ poll, as voted through Council back in November, so students could voice their opinions and ensure we were representing the student voice as effectively as possible. Over 1600 students voted and the result was that NUSU’s official stance would be one of solidarity. We have done weekly updates for each week that the industrial action has taken place at Newcastle, including information on how students can get more support during this time, shared information on how students can support UCU, spoke up for UCU and NUSU’s stance at our highest-level meetings with the University. Additionally, we ensured the SU was a welcoming space for all students to study/research in without crossing the picket lines if they did not wish to, we have provided free refreshments and snacks, as well as chill music with the help of NSR to foster a welcoming environment during what can be a stressful time for many students.
- TEAs: planning for The Education Awards are well and truly underway, myself and some of the fabulous staff at NUSU have started planning this years TEAs – our first in person ceremony in 2 years! Nominations have now closed and shortlisting is well underway. It is shaping up to a wonderful celebration of the hard work that has made a positive impact to students’ experiences at Newcastle across the University this year.
- Decolonising NCL- We have had further pledges from computing and psychology, as well as currently developing a pledge with the sustainability team. We have also re-written our website with updates which is now being processed by IT. Following our Partnership meeting last week, myself and the other ‘Your Voice’ Sabbs will be creating a report of where our work has gotten to. From there we are looking for updates from the University on their progress, including how they have responded to recommendations in last year’s report. From here we want to work together to assess how resources can ensure sure this campaign becomes embedded, cross-departmental and that progress is monitored.
- Mental Health Charter – involved in the Learn stream of the Mental Health Charter with the University. This is looking at embedding wellbeing support throughout students’ University experience.
- Provided feedback on the PEC review and student facing documents.
- Involved in a second ‘Sprint’ with key University staff and other students on Assessment and Feedback.
What has been your biggest achievement?
- Speaking in multiple University meetings about how the current assessment model is out of date and does not work. For example, I spoke up in Senate to defend the large increase in PECs over the past few years. I argued that not only are students currently suffering through a mental health crisis, which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, but perhaps the number of PECs submitted are a cry for help and evidence that the way we currently assess students is not fit for purpose. Since then I have chatted to Senior members of University staff asking questions surrounding equity in examinations and how we can improve assessment long-term. I look forward to working together with the University and academic staff on this and recognising that post-pandemic is a new normal, in which we should act on lessons to improve the academic experience for all, and this is something I hope the new Education Officer will continue to look into.
- From regular updates on the website, sitting upstairs regularly with free refreshments and chatting to any concerned students, to helping ensure University Senate voted in favour of emergency guidance to mitigate the impact of industrial action on students’ assessments. I feel that as a team we have been dynamic in our response to student opinion and done everything we can to ensure students feel as though we have heard and represented their concerns to the University.
What could you have improved on?
Managing my time: the past semester has been a whirlwind, with industrial action, various members of the team having Covid (including myself), preparing for elections and generally trying to go to all of my usual committee meetings, as well as the extra ones that have cropped up this semester, I have sometimes struggled to manage my time efficiently. This is something I hope to work on so I can prioritise larger pieces of work in the final Semester. However, I will also am going to try and put less pressure on myself as feeling unwell, stressed or exhausted are things which cannot always be helped – you can’t pour from an empty cup!
Additionally, I have struggled to get members of sports clubs to engage in my upcoming ‘It’s not just a joke’ campaign. Upon reflection, I am considering shifting my focus to discussing why many men may feel uncomfortable and reluctant to publicly talk about everyday sexism and misogyny towards women. Through this I hope to open the conversation and include men in the discussions about tackling misogyny and ensuring the onus is not always upon womxn to defend and protect themselves, particularly within patriarchal systems which aren’t always designed for them.
What do you plan to do next term?
- Finalise the TEAs nominations, continue to plan and host the TEAs.
- Update the Decol NCL website, complete a report for the University on where the Union is at and request a report from the University to ensure this work is continuously progressing and embedded across the institution.
- Host the CSA Student Rep Awards.
- Potentially present a White Paper to the next Senate meeting focusing on the need for alternative assessment.
- Continue to push the University to ensure they are supporting students efficiently during industrial action.
- Continue to speak up on behalf of final year students who are concerned about having to do in-person exams for, for some, the first time in nearly 2 years.