‘On the Campaign Trail’ – Is it Time for More Educational Reform?

The SU Hub was nearly deserted at 1pm , despite the fact that all members of the Education Network, as well as any interested students, should have been there. It was unsurprising, then, that non-attendance and a lack of structure were two of the main issues discussed during the Candidate Question Time.

It quickly became evident that all candidates agreed that the Network needed to be reformed to bring in a much more reinforced hierarchy, including Michael De Vletter, the sole candidate for Education Officer, who clearly stated his wish to have a “reupholstered Education Network” based on his own experience as a faculty coordinator – experience which, it was pointed out,the previous Education Officer had lacked upon taking on the role.

“The system of electing students to positions used by societies doesn’t seem to work in education” Michael added, “We need to make sure that we recruit the best students possible for the roles and, through their training, really get them passionate about what they are doing”

Another indicator of the Network’s disconnection from student lives came from the two first year candidates’ account of their own experience as newcomers to the Education Network system. Both expressed their desire for more information about the Education Network, and one commenting that she hadn’t fully know what she was signing up for at the time she signed up for her current role as School Representative, or what the role entailed.

Hopefully, whoever is elected to the Education Network can expect to be part of a new, more organised and experienced team, ready to take a much bigger role in students’ education than before.

Becky Wilson & Ben McCabe

9 Comments on this post.
  • Will Bickford Smith
    1 March 2011 at 10:42
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    Hi guys

    I just wanted to make a couple of points as this piece is hardly flattering for the Education Network and it’s only right that I stand up for it and explain where we are with things.

    Whilst I admit the CQT was dreadfully attended, we did emailed all 800+ course reps letting them know when and where this event was taking place. We also used all the other standard publicity which is being used for all the CQTs.

    With regards to how the Education Network functions – it has become very apparent to me in the 8 months I have been Education Officer that the Education Network does not function anywhere near the capacity I would like it to/expect it to in the funding climate we are in . That’s why I am embarking on a fundamental reform to the Network which, if it is given the attention and resources it needs, will completely revolutionize the effectiveness of the Education Network within the SU and within academic schools. These reforms have not been based on my own opinion – they are the result of research of other students’ unions, one-to-one discussions with nearly all of the School Reps, and several meetings with the Faculty Coordinators. I have also been working closely with the Democracy & Communications Officer on his project on democratic reform to ensure that the Education Network plays a fundamental role in the Union in the future. Details of these proposals will be laid before Union Council on 12th May (C11 Portland Building, 7pm). Please come along and let me know what you think. I am also free to chat to any student at any point about my ideas ([email protected])

    More generally, I’m certain that the other members of Exec will testify how loudly I have beaten the Education drum this year, and any idea that the Network is an afterthought is simply wrong. Indeed, despite not functioning at a level I feel is good enough, the Network has achieved some great things for students this year, notably: reducing the maximum coursework turnaround time from 28 days to 21 days; standardising student representation on school teaching committees from September 2011; getting signs put up in the libraries about book availability; launching the ‘Proud to be Nottingham’ campaign; ensuring black & white printing in the library as standard (rather than colour); feeding into the review on internationalising the curriculum, personal tutoring, and online assessment; and helping promote the NSS. Furthermore lots of problems have been sorted out for students on a school level through School and Course Reps sitting on their school’s Learning Community Forum. Plans for the next few months include a ‘Feedback Amnesty’, an academic-related trip to China/Malaysia campuses, and a ‘Personal Tutor Oscars’.

    Again, I am free to chat to anyone at any point about what the Education Network is up to, and what plans we have for the future ([email protected]).

    Best wishes

    Will Bickford Smith
    Education Officer

  • David
    1 March 2011 at 18:27
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    As one of the current Postgrad Faculty Coordinators, I’d also highlight the fact that some of the members of the Education Network were in those pesky lecture things at the time, and would have otherwise loved to attend. I know that I was, so it’s fairly realistic to expect that of the 800+ people that were emailed a number of them would have been to.

    That said, as a postgrad the only position being questioned at that event that I could vote for in the upcoming elections would be Education Officer, and with only one candidate standing choice is somewhat limited, whatever questions are asked! Perhaps a better question to raise in the article would have been why only one candidate is standing in what is one of the most important positions in the SU, especially given concern over fees and the like, however a good a job MdV will certainly do (unless RON pulls off the biggest shock in election history!)

  • Dave Jackson
    1 March 2011 at 19:28
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    Hey David, I’ve mentioned on another article somewhere, I believe an article covering that exact topic is coming up soon.

  • David
    1 March 2011 at 20:03
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    Thanks Dave, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for it. Personally, I find that the most interesting issue around the elections, so far at least, and why of the wide variety of ‘engaged’ students, from other people involved with the SU elsewhere through to some of the more protest-oriented students (not that the two are mutually exclusive necessarily), seem to have such a disinterest in/refusal to engage with SU politics.

    • Will Bickford Smith
      2 March 2011 at 10:12
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      @David – Exactly my thoughts too

      @Dave – That’s a very worrying appraisal of the state of the Union from somebody who is right at the heart of it!

  • Dave Jackson
    1 March 2011 at 23:53
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    When I see the morass of agendas, rudeness and general unpleasantness that occurs over issues that – when it comes down to it – really don’t matter that much, my only surprise is that any people engage at all.

  • MDV
    2 March 2011 at 19:31
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    It is worth pointing out that questions were asked constantly for the full hour allotted for the CQT. Although it is true that many people asked multiple questions, all were relevant and all were worth asking.

  • David
    3 March 2011 at 12:09
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    @MDV, I think pointing that out is quite an important thing really. An hour of questions, however small the audience, is still a valuable one, especially if things said there are covered to some extent elsewhere, bringing them to a wider audience.

    On the wider topic, it’s also worth keeping in mind that Hustings, now Candidate Question Times, always seem to have been poorly attended, at least during my time here. Although the Education Network one likely should have had a higher audience than it sounds like it did have, and hopefully the upcoming events at AU Council/Societies Council/etc actually will be well attended, it’s not atypical compared to how these things usually go.

    The idea to hold more CQT events, and make them position-focussed, is one that certainly has merit, although was never going to be without teething troubles – from my perspective the Education Network one could have been more effective running in one of the Education Network Committee meetings (instead we had one cancelled, with the CQT on Monday running an hour afterwards), so it would be similar to how a number of the other events appear to be running.

    I can imagine it’s a hard balance to strike between allowing people to question candidates and giving them opportunities to do so, and risking diluting the attendence of what are already traditionally poorly attended events: To continue the Education example, as a postgrad I can’t vote for the Undergrad FCs (to my knowledge at least), and at the time of writing I have 2 other opportunities to attend events at which MdV will be answering questions. While I’m aiming to be at both of these, the second of which being the UP question time for all candidates, I can imagine that I’ll be a rarity in doing so. Going by previous years again, I’ll be a rarity in turning up at all given I’m not a candidate or on a campaign team!

  • David
    3 March 2011 at 12:16
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    @Dave, perhaps it may be down to my being on the fringes of things, but I can honestly say I’ve not noticed things to the extent that I’d wonder why people get involved at all. That said, I can’t deny at all that those things do go on within the SU to some extent.

    But I do fully appreciate that as the head of one of the big SRS’s you are likely better positioned to hear about a lot more of what might go on, let alone the fact that because of the nature of it Impact in particular seems likely to be on the receiving end of such things itself!

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