People keep mentioning that my year in office is nearing its end (well, I've still got some time) so I thought I'd give you a quick update on those good old policies:
Together with the VPEA I used all channels to make this a University priority. We have come a long way since last year, through persistent lobbying and various committee meetings the working group on exam feedback was set up and after a number of meetings it has made recommendations for minimum standards for exam feedback for the coming academic year. The proposals are now waiting for the final sign off which would ensure that we finally have exam feedback next year! In order to not tempt fate we will wait for the final sign off before we start shouting about the details.
After discussions the VPEA and I had with Library Services the opening hours for this year’s Easter vacation period were extended. We are currently reviewing the proposals for next year but as it stands there will be extended opening hours for 2010/2011. This will include a general increase in the time the library is open and staffed (both earlier in the morning and later at night) as well as increased provision at weekends and during vacation periods (full details to be announced later).
This year has also seen the library increase awareness of self service machines and the possibility of using these for short loan renews. In addition a second shortloan machine has been ordered which should arrive soon. Further we will be supporting the library in making sure that course leads know about the importance of providing the library with a copy of their reading list so that any additional books can be bought in. On that note, if you ever do feel that a book you need is not in the library then email email@example.com to make them chase up which texts aren’t available and then buying them in.
Haven’t personally done much on this but this year the Personal Skills Award has been enriched by the activities pathway option and the PSA has been recognised nationally for enhancing employability. The Guild is continuing to strongly support the initiative to increase awareness of the need for accreditation.
Improved interaction and student communication:
In welcome week we spoke to more students than ever before and have since carried on with a variety of communication techniques. We have used social media, email newsletters and the GoS in Print to reach beyond the traditional groups of students involved in the Guild.
I feel we have started working better with media groups and the recent addition of Sabbs discussing their work on Burn.fm has been enjoyable and has hopefully yet again reached a new audience. In addition we used open days to talk to hundreds of potential students about student unions and activities and participation thereby raising awareness of the Guild and creating a rapport before they even arrive in Birmingham.
Importantly, through the democratic structures review pioneered by the VPDR and the subsequent referendum we have laid the foundation for a more interactive and less bureaucratic Guild that facilitates discussion rather than patronises through inflexible 'standing order democracy'.
Interfaith and intercultural dialogue:
The VPSAD has been leading on this and I’m very excited that we’ll be electing our first ever Interfaith committee next week. This is the culmination of efforts to increase interfaith dialogue including partaking in the NUS interfaith forum, facilitating interfaith events last November and engaging the University on this issue through the good campus relations group where I have looked into ensuring that both campus community and freedom of speech are taken seriously at all levels in the University.
Moreover, together with the VPW I have been planning a multicultural festival to take place in November to coincide with national interfaith week which will facilitate and support students and student groups to put on a range of high profile events, workshops and discussions on the topic.
Halls fees & Halls security:
Together with the VPHC ensured that 15% of the portfolio of University owned halls remain frozen at the lowest price point. Received a commitment to add more rooms at the lower end of the price range and to bridge the gap between the lowest prices and the next category up. Reached an agreement on the extension of security provision in Pritchatts park for 24/7 security. All in all the Guild have this year gained access to vital discussions surrounding hall fees which will make the student voice a lot more influential. We are now also in conversations about maintenance schedules, out of term arrangements and future provision planning.
Wi-fi is coming as part of phase 3 of the building redevelopment project. Moreover we are currently looking into a more holistic Guild IT strategy and how to improve various aspects of our IT provision.
Edit: We have now finally joined the University's Wi-fi network so you access wi-fi in Joe's and in meeting rooms across the Guild.
The tuition fees campaign has taken many guises this year: 24 hour notice flashmob with 400 students to raise awareness of student opinion on the Browne review; vote for students campaign to lobby MPs to vote against higher fees, Aldwych Group lobbying, town takeover campaigns and regional cooperation, condemnation of plans to break vote for students pledge, media campaigning and awareness raising both locally and nationally.
Most recently I went to
Student focused campaigns:
Besides the tuition fees campaigning and the vote for students campaigning we have sought to reform structures to enable easier bottom-up campaign building through a less bureaucratic and procedural democratic participation structure in the Guild. We have worked tirelessly to engage with Redbrick and support student campaigns where possible. Our campaigns and events where mapped against the findings from student surveys and focus groups to ensure that we are genuinely working on issues that students care about and that students want us to be active on.
This has been a theme throughout the year. Both on a strategic and on a front facing level this was a priority. This year we’ve seen evidence based decision-making and campaigns. Through student surveys, focus groups and discussions we have sought to understand needs of students and act upon those rather than just pursuing what we felt was right. We have engaged in strategic discussions and have been externally assessed by the Student Union Evaluation Initiative to ensure that we are being relevant to our members. Further through engaging proactively and constructively with the University we have ensured that student concerns are heard at every level of decision-making thus making us more effective in delivering on the issues that really matter to all students (feedback on exams, halls fees and halls security, better library provision etc.). Research from both ourselves, the University and external organisations (International Students Barometer, SUEI) shows that this approach is working and that the Guild is having a clear positive impact on the student experience and is delivering on relevant issues.
During my campaign I further made promises (i.e. about the autonomy of Redbrick, reforming Guild democratic structures, strengthening links with the University, getting a book exchange [was done before I took office] and providing better events in the Guild) which I feel I have upheld. Unfortunately I’ve not been able to spend a lot of time increasing bursary awareness, however, I have had some discussions around a national bursary scheme and will be planning around this for the year to come.
Apart from this I’ve been working on a range of other issues as well. I’ll be outlining some of my other work (i.e. University Strategic Framework, University IT Strategy, Aldwych Group stuff, VC Question time etc.) and specific activities at a later date.