Vice President Academic Blog – Term 1 Review

There are a few words that I’ve been using a lot this term. Hectic, challenging and a huge learning curve are the ones that I usually say when I’m asked how my first term has gone. The learning curve has been steep; I’ve spent a significant proportion of my days running from meeting to meeting, but the one thing that has been obvious throughout is that student representation is important at every level of the University.

In most academic matters our Course Reps are the student voice. We have over 150 postgraduate course reps all of whom are duly elected by their fellow students at the beginning of each year. If you don’t know who your Course Rep is check the GSA website and drop them an email to let them know how your Autumn term has gone. Student voice in departments raises immediate issues at Boards of Studies and Staff-Student Forums to improve the student experience. I’m not usually a part of these changes as an Officer, but they’re a vital part of departmental change.

The changes I’m a part of are at the University level. The main part of my job is to bring a postgraduate student perspective into every room I’m in. I’ve found that I repeat the words ‘But what about the postgrads?’ frequently. That leads the conversation into considering the different types of students, but no student experience can be drilled down to one snappy sentence. Whenever I’m in committees I always have to remember that I’m one person and my experience of a postgraduate degree isn’t universal.

Each meeting is different but whether we’re discussing a university project or a change in policy every decision made will have an impact on students. Sometimes the impact is rather invisible, sometimes only a small group of students are affected but every decision matters. I’m there to shape those decisions and ensure that postgraduates are included.

I’m obviously not the only person who represents students. My fellow Sabbatical Officers, at the GSA and YUSU, all bring their individual flare to the role and each have areas that we’re passionate about. It’s not just the University where the student experience is impacted though. The GSA is here to ensure that postgraduate students have a good experience, whether that’s through our events, campaigns or our Advice Service.

As a Sabbatical Officer the disconnect between me and the students can feel vast when I’ve spent the day in meetings. Next term I’ll be doing departmental drop-ins for Course Reps and any student that wants to have a chat about their academic experience. When our events start in January, come along to chat to any of the Officers or send us an email. The GSA is here to represent you and make sure that you have an enjoyable postgrad so if there’s anything you’d like us to be working on please do get in touch.

I hope you all have an enjoyable winter break. See you in the New Year!


24th December 2019