student.union@newcastle.ac.uk

End Of Term - PG Officer November 2021

A summary of the work I have done across term 1!

A summary of term 1

What have I done this term?

  • COVID-19 Impact Funding – Within PGR sub-committee meetings we discussed the continuation of the COVID-19 Impact Funding Scheme created last year to provide funded extensions to research students whose research had been negatively impacted by COVID. I gathered student feedback on this issue and then presented it to the committee. I explained how many students were still facing delays in their research due to the pandemic and how students were still struggling with their mental health as a result and needed continued support even though COVID restrictions had been lifted. After presenting student views, the committee suggested that the funding will be available until at least the end of next academic year with hopes that I will be able to lobby for it be extended further to help support PGRs into the next academic year. [updated following a meeting on 08/12/2021, I will provide further updates on this after future meetings of PGR sub-committee]
  • Postgraduate (PG) activities – As part of my manifesto aims and plans for the year as a whole, I have helped run and take part in many activities specifically for PG students through our Give It A Go (GIAG) department. These have been a highlight of my term and have been a great way to meet PG students and engage with them. So far, these activities have included food socials with Meat Stack, coffee mornings, bath bomb making, festive crafts and a trip to the Dog and Scone café. They have also been a good way for students to find fellow postgraduates and connect with new people, which has been especially important after how isolating the past 18 months have been.
  • PGR employment – This term I have begun conversations around PGR employment and improving their conditions which often leave them somewhere between a staff member and a student. The university has been very receptive to these conversations and currently I am aiming to run a discussion with PGR school reps in the new year to gather student opinion, discuss next steps and use this to inform the universities plan for PGR students going forward, to create positive change.
  • Industrial action planning – Some of my time across this term surrounded the potential industrial action from UCU and creating a plan that was ready to go to best support students should industrial action be announced alongside other sabbatical officers. Industrial action is not currently taking place at Newcastle however we still have a plan on how we would gather student opinion and how we would mitigate the impact of any industrial action on students, should it take place.
  • University Education Committee (UEC) – Myself and EO have regularly attended meetings of UEC alongside some of the school reps. Key topics of discussion have included term dates for next year and continuation of captioning for recorded lectures.
  • Education Exec – Myself and EO have run several meetings of Education Exec with the school reps this term. These have been really useful to share our ideas and get feedback as well as hearing their concerns or issues arising in their schools and take these to the relevant university staff. Some of the issues raised include PECs, PGR supervision and employment, exam bunching and access to facilities for online learning.
  • Senate – Myself, EO, Pres and WEO have attended regular meetings of Senate. The key discussion had in this meeting surrounded the term dates for next year and attempting to shift them to account for re-sit bunching in the summer, this issue was unable to be resolved and we are currently awaiting an update on this. Within Senate I was also able to give a presentation on PGRs alongside Brian Walker who is the PVC Research, which was well received and contributes to the university's plans for PGRs going forward.
  • PG Campaign – Towards the end of this term I have begun planning a postgraduate specific campaign to take place in the first week of February next year. So far, I have begun work with the communications team, started organising events and working with our GIAG and sport departments to provide a wide range of activities to PG students. The week will focus on bringing the PG community together and aiding PG wellbeing.

 

What has been your biggest achievement?

  • PG activities – after the isolating last 18 months that we have had and with myself being a postgrad student during that time and throughout several lockdowns, I was really excited and passionate about running PG activities/events in my role. Working with the GIAG department, it has been fantastic to be a part of these activities, meeting postgrads, providing spaces for them to meet one another and continuing to ensure they feel welcome and are aware of the activities for them within NUSU. I am really looking forward to continuing these over the next term and have had some good feedback on these.

 

What could you have improved on?

  • Social media – at the start of the term I was using my sabbatical officer social media very regularly to communicate with students, share events and show insights into my work. Unfortunately, as my diary got busier, this became harder to do and I have struggled to be as engaged with social media as I was. I think this is a really good avenue to share news and communicate with students so I will be aiming to utilise this more over the next term.

 

What do you plan to do next term?

  • PGR employment – I will be planning to run the proposed discussion groups around PGR employment early in next term. These will then feed into the work the university is doing around PGRs as a whole, which will also be a focus of mine for next term to ensure the plan is student-centric and provides an improved and positive experience for PGR students.
  • PG Campaign – At the start of February my postgraduate campaign will take place. I will be attending as many of the activities as possible myself and I am really looking forward to running the week.
  • Challenge Uni in meetings – I will continue to regularly attend significant university meetings, speaking up for what is best for students and representing postgraduate students, listening to the student feedback I get to inform this.
  • Continue to work on issues from student feedback – Over the next term, I will continue to be informed by Ed Exec and other students to listen to the issues students are raising and take them to the relevant university meetings or provide support through NUSU to solve these issues wherever possible.
  • Decolonising the uni – A significant focus for myself over the next term will be working with the EO and other sabbatical officers to continue the decolonising work started by the sabbatical team last year. We will be seeking more pledges from schools and establishing what we want the campaign to look like going forward, to ensure it’s longevity and legacy.