Happening on Campus

SU Hustings 2019: Postgraduate Officer

On the evening of Monday 4th March, the candidates running for the position of Postgraduate Officer participated in a hustings. There are four candidates running for the position: Abdi Ahmed, Tom Leach, Jin Jing and Ali Jourabchi. 

Opening with a speech by Abdi Ahmed, he addressed the need for more students to vote for a Postgraduate Officer, stating that currently the proportion of voters for the position stands at only 2%. He believes this need to improve and he urged both undergraduate and postgraduate students to vote.

Abdi explained his manifesto points, including his plans to increase representation of postgraduates in sport teams and societies. He thinks there is currently a lack of engagement between undergraduates and postgraduates, which he would like to change. As well as this, Abdi would like to enable more careers and employability opportunities for postgraduate students, providing workshops that specifically cater for their needs.

Jin Jing was unable to attend the hustings, so her speech was read out by Zoe Mackenzie, the current SU Equal Opportunities and Welfare Officer. Jin believes that since postgraduate courses are often so short, she would like to make postgraduate life “more worthwhile and memorable”. One of the ways she would like to improve the student experience of postgraduates is to collect questionnaires with questions that postgraduates may have.

“Tom started by describing how he has tried to implement a “good sense of community” in the Mature Students’ Network, which he wants to apply to the Postgraduate Network.”

Ali expressed in his speech that change is the “only thing we currently need”. He argued that wellbeing, welfare and resources for students are basic necessities and “things that we should be doing anyway”. He placed stress on gaining more feedback from postgraduate students in order to improve the voice of students and representation of their concerns. He finished by encouraging the audience to “vote for your future”.

Moreover, Tom started by describing how he has tried to implement a “good sense of community” in the Mature Students’ Network, which he wants to apply to the Postgraduate Network. He expressed that he would like to prioritise the wellbeing of all students by working with trade unions and looking into the working and learning conditions of postgraduate students. Alongside this, Tom mentioned that he would like to tackle the issue of high fees for international students.

When asked about how Ali would implement his plans for a digital platform for student feedback in line with GDPR data protection laws, he stated that if the SU “has a law restricting the efficiency of feedback then that law should be changed”.

Part of the Postgraduate role involves co-chairing the SU Education Network. Whilst Tom admitted that he doesn’t have much experience in the Education Network, he pointed out that he has experience in other networks like Mature Network, and has collaborated with the LGBT+ and Postgraduate Network in the past.

“Ali explained that he was worked with Cassie O’Boyle, the current SU Education Officer, on issues such as lecture capture, student wellbeing and welfare.”

Abdi also agreed with Tom, but expressed that it is important to work with course reps and faculty reps as part of the Education Network. He stated that he would like to work closer with the Education Officer to create a stronger infrastructure of student representatives.

Ali explained that he was worked with Cassie O’Boyle, the current SU Education Officer, on issues such as lecture capture, student wellbeing and welfare. He stated “I think I’ve got it down”. Ali pointed out that he has worked as a faculty rep in the Engineering faculty.

When asked how he would help postgraduate students to feel more included in SU events, Tom said that he would aim to plan a wide variety of events to suit everyone’s needs. He provided the example of non-alcoholic events on campus. He acknowledged that we have a diverse student community with a wide variety of people, so we need more inclusive events.

“Abdi stated that he believes there is a large gap in the interactions between undergraduate and postgraduate students”

Abdi stated that he believes there is a large gap in the interactions between undergraduate and postgraduate students, which he would attempt to close in this role. He believes that campaigns and events in the Postgraduate Network should be implemented early on in the academic year to achieve the best results.

Ali stated that we need to find the “sweet spot” between fun and academic events for postgraduate students. Therefore, he believes using trial and error will help to find the balance between the two mindsets. He thinks that postgraduate students want to focus on their studies, but also have a good time.

Finally, the candidates discussed how they would encourage postgraduate students to take on leadership positions within the SU. Ali believes that “inspiration” is the key to urge people to “go out and do more”. Tom commented that postgraduates need “encouragement” to do so, but believes there are often timetabling issues for such students. He also noted that “funding isn’t there for Masters students, so lots of students have to work”. Thus, he would like to address these issues to enable postgraduates to get more involved with the SU.

Abdi pointed out that this idea feeds into two of his manifesto points: inclusivity and engagement. He also explained there is a need to put on regular events and provide information for people who are part-time or distance learners, therefore there are different needs to consider.

Sophie Hunt 

Featured image courtesy of Ella Taylor. 

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