Students' Union Council Notes:
- The proposer has gathered testimonials from 5 commuting students on the difficulties they face, including current students and graduates (see Appendix 1 below). Specifically, issues raised relate to a lack of consideration by the University for certain issues such as, transport, inclusion, and making Newcastle feel like a space where commuting students belong.
- The proposer has raised particular issues facing local students who commute to campus with University and NUSU staff at the NUSU Student Summit, where there was a consensus that these issues were important and needed to be addressed.
- Newcastle University runs the PARTNERS Programme, which supports entry to University for Widening Participation (WP) students. PARTNERS, while making the University more accessible to local students, does not have a retention scheme for those who attend the University. While there is one email sent to these students, checking in on their progress, there is no pastoral or personal care given to them after arrival, there are few or very little statistics or anecdotal evidence of their experience.
- Public transport is costly for commuting students living at home, currently an ‘All-Zone’ Metro ticket costs £385 annually, while a Network One ticket for buses and metros costs £1100.
- In December 2018, the independent think tank, the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) released a report which recommended increased levels of support from commuting students.
- There are Student Union’s which already see the need for this group to be recognised, including:
- Winchester Student Union - Commuting Students Officer
- University of Chichester Students’ Union – Commuting Students Officer
- Hertfordshire Students’ Union - Commuters Officer
- University of Birmingham Guild of Students – Commuter Students’ Officer
- Leicester Students’ Union – Commuter Students’ Representative
- Under their Local Students Programme, The University of Manchester have launched a society “to support students that are living at home whilst studying”. The Students' Union now has an active Living at Home Society for students who live at home.
Students' Union Council Believes:
- That Commuting Students should be defined as: A student who has lived at home and commuted to University for some or all of their degree.
- Local students who live at home and commute to University often do this to save money or for other reasons such as mental health.
- Local students are an underrepresented group in NUSU and University marketing.
- Local students who commute to University have specific barriers to integrating with University life. They can also often face financial barriers due to coming from a low-income background.
- A Commuting Students’ Part time Officer (PTO) should be implemented to represent and tackle the challenges faced by local students who live at home, and to work with the University on issues addressed to NUSU including those raised at the NUSU Student Summit.
Students' Union Council Resolves:
- To introduce a Commuting Students’ PTO for the academic year 2019-2020, to be elected at May by a election.
- To be eligible to run for this position candidates should be a commuting student who has lived at home for some or all of their degree.
- To update Strategy and Guidance Document Annex I- Officer Job Descriptions based on Appendix 2 below.
Proposed by: Sian Dickie and Jonny Hall
Seconded by: The Part-time OfficerTeam
- Student 1 (Stage Three, Combined Honors) identified issues relating to finances and caring responsibilities: “I study from home for 2 main reasons, my caring responsibilities and coming from a working-class family who cannot offer me financial support to help with the cost of accommodation during my degree. As soon as I started studying this created a separation between myself and my peers who lived in student halls/housing as I didn’t take part in my Freshers week.”
- Student 2 (Stage Three, English Literature) identified issues with distance: “There definitely is a gap where the student experience just isn't as accessible to students living at home. Add that to living in an area with unreliable public transport, and the stress of getting to and from Uni was almost worse than the stress of being at uni.” English Literature, Stage Three.
- Student 3 (Stage One, Combined Honours) identified issues relating to feeling a part of the University community: “Though I’ve made friends in my course, I’m not part of a friendship ‘group’ and I’m not particularly close with the friends I have made because I’m not constantly around them in halls, like they are with their other friends.”
- Student 4 (Graduate 2018, Combined Honours) identified issues relating to communication: “The main problem I faced was from the administration not understanding how those different circumstances affected me in ways that it did not other students. For example, my course required for every essay both Turnitin online copies, and hard copies to be handed in on the morning of the deadline date. In most cases this was fine, but for deadlines that occurred on particularly snowy days the buses that I relied on would often come to a complete stop. Another issue I sometimes faced was a lack of communication from the department when lectures were cancelled.”
- Student 5 Identified issues with particular events: “when I want to participate in night time socials and events, particularly during Freshers Week I was often restricted as to when I could go out due to living an hour away and not having accommodation in Newcastle. This has been a particular concern for me in terms of making friends as a first-year student, as a lot of focus is around evening social events.”
Commuting Students’ Officer Job Description
The Commuting Students’ Officer shall:
- Have lived at home and commuted to University for some or all of their degree.
- Be a member of Students’ Union Council, the Officers’ Forum and Welfare & Campaigns Executive Committee and Community Executive Committee.
- Represent the interests of Commuting students within the Students’ Union, the University, and other appropriate organisations.
- Work closely with the other liberation Part Time Officers and Welfare & Equality Officer to provide representation, signposting and awareness to those affected by issues mentioned in this motion such as isolation, inclusion and integration.
- Liaise with relevant societies to ensure societies are accessible to commuting students.
- Be a member of the University’s Diversity Consultative Group.
- Attend all meetings of the committees which they are a member of.
- Attend all General Meetings.
- Attend all Students’ Union Council meetings.
- Send their apologies if they cannot attend a meeting.
- Be in regular contact with the Administration Office and check their correspondence frequently.
- Attend all relevant training events.
- Ensure that funds are spent appropriately if they are a budget holder.
- Where appropriate, work with external bodies.
- Help at Union events when required e.g. Freshers’ Week, campaigns etc.
- Represent students, including any groups they are specifically there to represent.
- Review the Equal Opportunities Policy at least once a year and report to Council with their findings.
- Produce a handover for their successor.